When my children were ages two and four, I demanded they clean their room. They did not meet my expectations, and I flew into a rage, dumped every item of clothing, toys, and anything else I could lay my hands on into a heap in the middle of the room, and SCREAMED at these precious babies to “clean this shit up.” They were BABIES. Even if they were teenagers, no one ever deserves this type of treatment. I will never forget the looks of fear and pain on their faces. Typing this 20 years later makes me physically ill. My stomach hurts right now. Tears are flowing. Anyone who knows me, knows my core, root, base identity is as a creator, mother and teacher. This incident was not who I am. But it is what I did.
I had always struggled with “depression”, which often manifested in rage. Unreasonable rage. I had seen therapists, had done some journaling and other methods that were supposed to help me feel “happier”. I prayed, read my scriptures, was active in my church, and did all of the right things. If ONLY I was more righteous, surely I would be “healed”.
I had spent days in bed without showering or leaving the house, I had flown into rages at Jake (my husband) even once putting a hole into our apartment wall, but I had never gone off on the kids. The next day, I swallowed my pride, went to my doctor, and got some pills. I had resisted pharmacological help for years, especially when I was pregnant and nursing, but the time had come. I had recently seen a news hour show chronicling Mike Wallace, and his struggle with depression. His openness and honesty about his struggles and subsequent antidepressant use somehow made me feel a bit less shame over my own issues. He was successful, intelligent, and a MAN. Not just some crazy PMS female, making this sh*t up.
20 years on pills. And they probably saved my life. I was definitely more stable with the kids, but I still struggled. Struggled mightily. About 14 years ago, (I think Dane was 10?) I was teaching aerobics, active in my church, in a stable marriage, and doing all of the things that should make a person happy. I was not happy. I was f*cking miserable. I was so completely UNhappy and full of self-loathing, I thought suicide was a reasonable choice. My children would be better off with a different, more-present mother, Jake would be better off with a happy wife who showered daily, and the world would just be better without me in it. I had a plan, I would take an overdose of pills (Tylenol PM) at one of the health clubs I was teaching in, so that my children would not find me. I would leave a note asking that my children be told I had a heart attack and died instantly.They would never know.
I made the mistake of telling my therapist my plan. She did not approve. As a result, I was admitted to the psychiatric ward of a Presbyterian hospital in Dallas. I was given more drugs, and subjected to “group” therapy with other residents of the facility. After 4 days, I checked out AMA (against medical advice) The black man running naked down the halls pretty much convinced me that I needed a change of scenery. I remember asking the little med student who did one of my daily “check ins” HOW DO I GET OUT OF HERE? She told me that I needed to stop telling people about my “plan”. I had no freaking idea that a suicide plan was not normal. Without going into details…I knew the plans of THREE of my immediate family members. I was not alone in my mental issues.
When I returned home, I started seeing a psychiatrist, who was very gifted, and really worked with me to get my “meds” right. My general practitioner was also amazing, and really listened and responded to my medical needs. I took a six-week hiatus from teaching aerobics, as a large part of my issues were body/food related. I HATED the mirrors at the gym, hated the comparison attitudes, and hated having people comment on my body, good, bad, neutral. For whatever reason, people feel especially ok commenting on an instructor’s body. These comments are based solely upon appearance, which is such a tiny part of a person. I am so much more than my body. So very much more.
I have spent the last 20 years on various meds, with various therapists, and trying various means to heal, be happy, and live a somewhat normal and productive existence. There were good times, bad times, but all of the time, my depression was right beneath the surface.
June 6, 2016 was the last day of school. I was officially on summer break. So, what is a girl to do? Head to the library. OF COURSE. If life has taught me anything, it is this:
When in doubt, head to the library.
I checked out a stack of books, including Dr. Mark Hyman’s book, The Ultramind Solution. I wanted to have an ULTRAMIND…and what did I have to lose. I had already been doing some reading on the gut, and the serotonin produced there. This serotonin actually crosses the blood/brain barrier, and can make or break mood disorders. I had been working on doing a lot of healing of my microbiome, taking a probiotic, cutting out sugar (OUCH) and eating more dark leafy greens (pre-biotic). I started fermenting and consuming my own kefir, and came to realize that antibiotics, while necessary in SOME instances, can really f*ck with the healthy bacteria in your gut. Which can result in some MAJOR brain/mental issues.
So I thought back, back, WAAY back. When I was in first grade, I had to have a surgery for a “kinked ureter.” Prior to this surgery, I had chronic urinary tract infections and took a low dose antibiotic, DAILY FOR TWO YEARS. Many of my childhood memories are spotty at best, but I vividly remember not feeling well a lot of the time, being unable to control my bladder (yes, wetting your pants at school REPEATEDLY will make you a real hit with your teachers and classmates) and taking my little blue pill every morning with my orange juice. I have no proof, as my microbiome was not cultured or tested at that time, but current evidence and research find strong correlation between depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders with antibiotic use and a bacterial imbalance in the gut.
So, I read Ultramind, worked the free workbook, made MORE major nutrition and environmental changes, and started cutting back on my prescription meds. Meds I had been using and INCREASING for over 20 years. Meds I was convinced that I would be taking for the rest of my life. I worked very closely with my doctor while doing this, and had no expectations. If I felt horrible, I would go back on the meds, if I felt better, I would move on and keep on keeping on. I went from taking anti-anxiety pills, sleeping pills, and two antidepressants, to taking just one antidepressant, then half dose of that, then half of that. Now, I’m on the smallest dose every other day. Still listening closely to my mind, spirit, and body. If I continue to feel well, I will discontinue all usage by New Year’s of 2017.
Why do I share this? Why today? Why ever?
We are hurting. We are suffering. and we feel alone. whenever I share my experience, I have people reach out privately, people who are in so much pain, I ache for them and with them.
I had a discussion with a man recently. He said, “depression is selfish.” I understood his thoughts, depression is complete and total focus on self. Ergo, selfish. People who are depressed are hurting so much, that hurt is so big, that ache and pain is all there is. There is no hope, no light, no love, no joy. none. only pain. guilt. shame. so much shame. If one person reads this and has a glimmer of hope, a sliver of a shadow of a thought that life can and does get better, than my story is worth sharing.
Why today? In a beautiful yoga class, facilitated by my lovely friend Ashley, the class was put into a hip-opening pose (mine was the ever-loved FROG), and as we settled into the posture, Ashley shared a bit of her week. She had attended two funerals on Monday. One of a grandmother around age 90, and one of a young man who was around 30. She mentioned that she wondered if these individuals knew how loved they were. LOVED. By both the divine, and by all of the people in attendance at the funeral services and beyond.. She said she thought the grandma knew she was loved, but wasn’t so sure about the young man. This made me think and wonder, “do I know I’m loved?”
I wept. I wept tears of absolute gratitude. Gratitude for the joy and love that are part of my daily existence. Joy and love that I never thought I would feel. I had resigned myself to a half-life. A life that was mediocre and sad. Thankfully, God, the Universe, or whatever Big Thing you identify with had other plans. Plans that include living big. living love.
We are seen. We are held closer than we can ever imagine. There is hope and healing on the horizon. We are not merely loved, we are adored and cherished and our needs are known beyond what we can conceive. It gets better. Promise.
Love and Light,