Personal Story: Withdrawal
Yesterday, I was tired, which is nothing new. I am always tired. Tired to the depths of soul. Exhausted, always, but I can never sleep. I told my mom recently that I’ve been tired since 1995, and I definitely believe that is #accurate. But back to yesterday, in which I was tired, I was also on day three of not taking my previous medication for my anxiety and depression. I have tried to explain why I stopped taking it without tapering off, but it’s hard to explain it and I now know it was the wrong move; but I did it with complete honesty and told my therapist, physician, and psychiatrist before I stopped and got new medication to start almost immediately.
The medication, which had increased from 20mgs-90mgs during the months I was using it, made me feel like I was crawling out of my skin. It made my depression worsen, but I also, confusingly, had good days once in a while so I thought it was helping. It made my anxiety worsen and I felt on high alert. It made my muscle pains and aches worsen and I felt like they were in their own state of anxiety. So, the thought of putting one more pill in my mouth felt like torture, felt like pure venom. I just wanted it to stop quickly and get out of my body. But I now know what they mean by withdrawal, and I am in the thick of it.
So, yesterday I was tired; tired emotionally, tired physically, tired guiltily. I tried to get out of bed to feel less ashamed about being tired. I walked to the living room—a whole five steps away—put my phone on the charger and plunged to the floor with my legs under me and my head buried into the carpet in “child’s pose” and I broke. The walking from my bed to my living room was too much and I couldn’t handle anymore. I cried; I couldn’t stop. My five-year-old, sweet as can be, put her hand on my back and said, “It’s going to be okay, Mommy,” and I cried harder because she was playing my role.
My husband sat on my other side saying, “Don’t cry. Can you sit up?” to which I tried but cried harder; my body couldn’t handle the physical change of facing down to sitting up. My daughter came over with her blankie and laid it over my curled body and gave me her favorite bear; she then went and got me an orange and milk (I don’t quite know the reason why this was the snack she chose, but I’m pretty sure it was the only thing she could find. Grocery shopping, a favorite of mine, I’m not even kidding, has been something I can’t even handle well lately).
At one point I said to my husband, “I’m the worst mother.” So, there I was crying, but it was so much more intense than that. I broke, I shattered, but it felt so much less cliché than that; uniquely mine, lonely, as if I am the only one who has ever felt so completely…destroyed. Every tear solidified the worthlessness that was me, the burden I was to my family who had to watch me completely die (this isn’t the right word, but I can literally think of no other word to describe it. Literally, nothing else fits) in front of them. And my mom, oh, that poor woman had to listen as I fell apart through a phone line two hours away. I could feel her frantic worry as she tried to stay calm:
- “You need sleep; take something so you can finally go to sleep.”
- “I can come to you right now if you need me to. I can bring you and [my daughter] home with me.”
- “This may have to do with the effects of no longer taking the medication. You need sleep.”
She made so much sense. I needed to hear those simple, realistic phrases from my mom that I literally refused to hear from anyone else, including my own brain. It was helpful. It helped, and I got through it, and here I am writing this (and crying yet again just thinking about it. It hurts, and I feel like I’m holding my breath as I’m typing this, waiting for it to happen again).
I am unwell. I was unwell yesterday, and I’m unwell today.
It feels like a cold (or maybe the flu?) that I’m waiting out. In a few days, I’ll be fine and think, “Why did that even happen? You are so dramatic. Are you really depressed or are you making it up? Why are you such a burden? Try not to let that happen again.” But it will happen again, because this particular type of “cold” is common and my immune system isn’t quite up for the fighting task.
This isn’t me all the time. This isn’t close to who I feel I am most of the time, but I’m unwell right this moment. If we look at my mental health condition as a body ache, you could say I’m having a “flare up,” like the weather has changed suddenly and the body is letting me know. Surprisingly (or not? I don’t know), this is me in recovery.
I wouldn’t have had the wherewithal to get through this without my support system, which I have because of my openness and willingness to talk about my mental health condition. Because of NAMI, because I refuse to live in a world that talks about me the same way I talk about me. Because I want more for you and more for her and more for him. I live by the old adage, “Treat others how you want to be treated,” yet I have yet to learn how to treat myself. But now I know the problem and I will find the tools to treat it.
Recovery is not perfect when it comes to something like this—it’s having the tools at your disposal when you really need them. It’s knowing that, although you may not always be your own biggest supporter, you deserve to love yourself and be your biggest supporter. Is there a lesson to be learned from this? I don’t know. Did you get anything out of it? Because if you did, I’d at least find purpose in living through these moments.
And as a side note to all of this: Since being a part of my NAMI affiliate family and getting to hear and share stories regularly, especially through NAMI Ending the Silence, I often ask myself, “Why do I share my story?” And for me, part of it comes down to this: I don’t want anyone to feel as alone and hopeless as I have, especially with the rise in mental health awareness and more people being open about being affected by a mental health condition.
Frankly, I want to make other people’s lives better and help push past the stigma so that everyone, especially those having challenging days, can learn that it’s no one’s fault and it’s most definitely not defining—your mental health conditions don’t define you—and in absolutely no way should you ever be ashamed of your medical condition.