Sunday, January 22, 2017

One Year Ago

I can tell you exactly where I was -- working from home on an ice day. And sitting at the dining room table in yoga pants, a tee-shirt and my well-worn black hoodie, headphones on and blasting "Say Hello 2 Heaven" while I cried buckets.

There were two primary reasons: foremost, January 22 is the anniversary of the passing of two good friends, eight years apart. Last year was the tenth anniversary for one, and coupled with the slew of celebrity deaths that had just happened (David Bowie, Alan Rickman, and Glenn Frey), I was a hot mess.

But just as important, the day before, a good friend sat me down to let me know she and other people were worried about me -- seriously worried. I had been snippy and snarly, more so than my usual self. They were worried that all the tumult of 2015 had caught up to me at last -- my own surgery and unexpected delays in full recovery, my brother's emergency surgery and subsequent hospitalizations, my mom's continuing decline, job changes and stresses. She suggested I speak with my doctor and I made plans to do so on the next appointment (the following week).

And I spent time trying to figure out where it all went so crazy wrong.........

I still don't know exactly. I knew then and still know where one key turning point was, but it was already long past those expected trigger places and events. Instead, it was years and years in the making. Years of making do and years of putting off. Years of being strong and going on an empty tank. Years of saving others before I put an oxygen mask on myself.

But the time had come. No more running on empty. I spoke to my doctor and she absolutely agreed that I needed chemical intervention. We started a medical regimen for assistance. And after a year I can honestly say that I do not care at all if I have to take this pill for the rest of my life, as long as I never have to feel the way I did from October 2015 through January 2016.

I planned to not say much about my story. I'm not one to provide ammo to my enemies either. But then I learned that my mom had generalized anxiety disorder -- as did I. My mother absolutely refused to acknowledge any shortcomings, especially mental health issues. That happened to others, not her and certainly not her children (ahem, both of us).

And after she passed, I became more determined not to be silent. I no longer cared what anyone thought. Silence kills. Silence creates shame. My mother truly suffered in silence because she was too concerned with what others would think. I no longer cared. I would not allow others' opinions to have one iota of effect on my healthcare. I would not live in shame and embarrassment over a chemical imbalance.

I do not have a character flaw.
I do not have a weakness in my positivity.
I most certainly do not have a defect in my spirituality.
I have an imbalance in my brain chemistry. It is an illness, just as hypertension or diabetes or gout are illnesses.

My illness affects my brain and my thought processes. My illness sometimes affects my ability to relate well.

My introverted nature and my disease are not mutual by-products of each other.

Yes, my anxiety disorder feeds my depressive episodes at times. At times, the depression feeds the anxieties. It's a horrible cycle and I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy.

But I have help. I have medication. I have good friends. I have awesome music. I have creative outlets (music, jewelry making, writing, photography and others).

And I have hope. When all else has become uncertain, I still have hope.