Posted in Being Human, Discernment

Why I’m Choosing Prozac

 

Trauma

A creeping sensation crawling up the length of my spine,

Arriving at the base of my skull,

Gripping my head like a vice,

Wrapping its tentacles around my ears and jaw,

Pain creeping over the top of my head.

Eyes darting,

following the anxious thoughts in my mind

My consciousness on hyper-alert

Attentive to

Every

Subtle

Tiny

Thought

Movement

Change

Shift

Sensation

Emotion

Awareness

Breath.

Did I remember to breathe?

A flood of chemicals pouring through my entire being

Paralyzing my mind.

Gripping my sight

Fretfully seeking out the next possible threat.

Image: Pixabay.com
Image: Pixabay.com

Anxiety and panic attacks accompanied by migraine headaches and depression. It hasn’t always been like this, but for the past 12 years, since I had my first (known) panic attack in 2004, this has been the preoccupation of my waking (and sleeping) mind and the lived experience of anxiety as it floods my body.  And when anxiety isn’t flooding my body, all my energy has been directed toward trying to prevent its onslaught.

It didn’t used to be this way. In fact, I remember a time when I simply enjoyed life.  Yes, I put a lot of pressure on myself to achieve and succeed, but I used to remember how to have fun…and how to play.  And driving used to be one of my most enjoyable tasks, relaxing even.  But when panic attacks happen while driving, driving becomes something you dread, equating driving with death, because when you are having a panic attack, it feels like you just might die.  And when you are driving a vehicle at 70mph as your vision is closing in and your heart is pounding, it just doesn’t feel very safe.

It didn’t used to be this way. But, couple the genetic predisposition to the Irish curse (depression and anxiety) with 25 years of on-going and relentless trauma, and panic is bound to happen….and anxiety….and migraine headaches…and depression.

At first I was in denial. “Oh, it’s just low blood sugar, an endocrine imbalance, the wine I had last night, the lack of sleep, blah blah blah.

Then I bargained. Yoga helps.  Meditation helps.  If I eat the right foods, get the right amount of sleep, learn to be present with my emotions, let my Soul’s purpose come forward, allow 30+ years of suppressed emotions to find their expression, engage my creativity, dance, move, run, drum, scream, chant, etc. etc. etc.

While all of this has helped, and given me relief from time to time, mostly I have spent the past 12 years trying not to have anxiety or a panic attack – scrutinizing every thought, feeling emotion, social situation as potential triggers, forcing myself to BE MY TRUE SELF….watching all the while as my world gets smaller and smaller and smaller. Avoiding social situations because I might feel anxious.  Choosing not to drive….or making excuses, so I won’t have a panic attack.  Then feeling guilty as hell for depriving myself and my children of a life that should be about enjoyment….not imprisonment.

It isn’t even the panic attacks that are the problem – because in truth, I’ve only had a few. It is the on-going fear and protective measures taken in the hopes of preventing a panic attack, measures which ironically are most likely an enormous part of the problem.

So what does one do? A few years back when panic attacks were waking me out of a dead sleep, I tried Lexapro.  Yes, it silenced the other voice in my head, the panic attacks stopped and I even began to feel some measure of joy.  But the entire time I was on it, I felt like shit.  I felt hung over and nauseous every day.  I was tired and I gained weight.  This was not how I wanted to live my life.  Then the Lexapro stopped working and I forgot to take it.  For a time I managed on my own, but was I really? I’m no longer sure.

Because now I see it plainly. This past weekend I took my son to the mall, which required driving on the highway I’m most afraid to travel.  I employed every tactic I could to “make” myself able to do it.  I breathed.  I drummed.  I took a flower essence.  I listened to a comedy CD to distract my anxious thoughts.  I did it.  But instead of feeling victorious, I felt like hell.  I felt sick, I felt exhausted, I felt worn out.  Then I examined what I had been feeling in preparation for the drive and how my body truly responded….and then wrote the poem above.

This is not a life. Making myself do things I am currently unable to do…and making myself sick in order to do them.

This is not a life. Using all my energy to “manage” symptoms I ultimately have no control over.  Anxiety.  Depression.  Migraines.  Panic Attacks…..all the after-effects of trauma.  You could almost say I earned these symptoms.

This is not a life. When all my energy is directed toward managing these symptoms, I have nothing left to give to the things I want to enjoy in my life – creating, nurturing, nourishing, enjoying, playing.  When every ounce of psychic energy is directed toward treating anxiety, depression, migraines and panic attacks, I have nothing left to give to anything else, and this is not how I want to spend my energy – especially when Western medicine has tools to help ease, and maybe even heal the trauma that caused these symptoms in the first place.  Because again, when all my energy is directed toward managing these symptoms, my body is not able to heal – and I want to heal because I am more than the trauma that I have experienced and more than the anxiety that has since defined my life.

This is why I am choosing Prozac (or whatever else my doctor might recommend in helping to treat the after, and ongoing effects of trauma).

Posted in Authentic Freedom, Healing, mental illness, Spiritual Practices

A Surprising Treatment for Depression

Today’s blog explores a surprising and unexpected natural treatment for depression.  Who knew it could be something this simple!

Too Much Time on Our Hands

Today I am taking off my “teacher” hat and putting on my “I too struggle with depression” hat so that I can share with you a surprising treatment that I discovered for one of the common symptoms of depression – obsessive thought patterns and the resulting downward spiral into darkness.  As anyone who struggles with depression would attest, one of the worst possible things we could face is TOO MUCH TIME ON OUR HANDS.  I don’t know how it is for you, but for me, when I am too much alone, especially too much alone with my thoughts, things can get ugly.  One of the rarely mentioned side-effects or companions to depression is obsessive thought patterns.  Obsessive thought patterns might manifest as worry or anticipatory planning.  For others, the obsessive thought patterns have to do with grabbing on to the slightest perceived injury  that might signal rejection.  For those who struggle with depression, these tiniest little slights become fodder for an inactive mind.  We grab them, draw them near, then think, re-think, ponder, obsess, create stories, imagine scenarios, and prepare for our own apocalyptic demise or hope for the apocalyptic demise of the one who “harmed” us.  Then, we internalize, nurture, cultivate thoughts of self-loathing and self-rejection to match the loathing and rejection we are sure we have received from the other person.  I have come to not so affectionately call these thought patterns, “The dark thoughts in my mind.”   Sounds like fun, right?!  WRONG!  The funny thing is that for those of us who struggle with depression, until we learn otherwise, we think that this is the way everyone’s brains work and we consider it to be normal.    I was shocked to learn that this is NOT how other people’s brains work. While Lexapro provided temporary relief of these symptoms, the side-effects eventually became too much and at the same time, the medication lost its effectiveness.  So, I have been working drug-free to manage these symptoms.  Practicing yoga, engaging in my spiritual practice, nurturing my creativity and sharing my creative gifts in the world have all been supportive measures for managing my depression.  Even with all of this, however, the depression still haunted me, in some form or another, pretty much on a daily basis.  Then I found a surprising treatment method that has not only kept the depression at bay, but seems to have quieted the obsessive thought patterns if not altogether, at least by 85%.  What a relief.  And who knew it would be so easy.

Getting a “real” Job.

Spiritual Direction, Teaching, Writing all amount to a “real job?”  Right?  From the perspective of value, worth, purpose….Absolutely.  But….not if they don’t pay the bills.  And it was the “paying the bills” part that I finally had to face.  So…..five weeks ago, I started a “real job,” cashiering for minimum wage at a local garden center.  I go in.  I do my job.  I go home.  No personal responsibility.  Nothing to have to  fix or reform.  No one to manage, supervise, guide or direct.  And the surprising fringe benefit to this job:  NO MORE OBSESSIVE THOUGHTS.  Getting a real job has provided for me a surprising treatment for my depression…..and I sense it might provide the same benefit for others.  I can’t be depressed when I’m in the public eye.  I have no option but to be in the present moment…because there is nothing else to do there.  I get to engage with mostly friendly and kind people.  I am surrounded by beautiful things.  And, I’m too dang busy to think about anything other than what I am doing.  Then, when I go home to my other “real job”  I’m uber efficient and am accomplishing more in a very little amount of time than I would have ever accomplished before getting this job.  Yes, it is a challenge to juggle the job with clients, classes, writing, the kids, the house, paperwork, friends, etc.  But….somehow what NEEDS to get done is getting done.  The rest, I’ve decided, can wait.

In a Nutshell

So, in a nutshell….the surprising treatment for depression is work – work that keeps us busy.  Work that keeps us engaging with other people.  Work that may be rewarding in its own way.  Most importantly – work that keeps us out of the dark places in our minds.   So even when my novel becomes a best seller….I just might keep this job….if for no other reason than to maintain my sanity.  🙂  Hi Ho  Hi Ho It’s Off to Work I Go.  🙂

Lauri Lumby

http://yourspiritualtruth.com

Posted in mental illness

Mental Health Week – My Story

On Sunday, May 13th, I am launching “Mental Health Week” on the Your Spiritual Truth blog.  In truth, it will more than likely become Mental Health month with the overwhelming response that I have gotten from readers.  An overwhelming number of submissions have been coming in which is FANTASTIC.  All stories of love, support, resources and guidance.  I welcome your contributions as the week(s) unfold! 

Ready, Set, Go

I thought it would be appropriate to launch Mental Health Week(s), by coming out of my own closet of mental illlness.  It’s not really much of a closet as I have been pretty upfront about my own struggles with depression and anxiety, but maybe haven’t shared the “whole” story. So….here we go.

Looking Back in Honesty

If I am really honest, depression has been a part of my life for a really long time – certainly since my teens.  I remember periods of feeling really blue and the “obsessive thoughts” and  “mind chatter” that often accompany depression have been my companions for as long as I can remember.  In fact, it wasn’t until I was taking Lexapro (much later in life) and the “mind chatter” was suddenly absent that I realized I even had that symptom and that it might somehow be connected with the unique brain chemistry that predisposes one to depression and/or anxiety disorders.  I also know today that the “vertigo” and “migraine” attack I had in 1985 was more than likely a panic attack that was mis-diagnosed.

The Ceiling Fell In

But it wasn’t until the spring of 2000 or 2001 (I cant’ remember the exact dates), that I became sidelined by the symptoms of depression.  I had suffered a significant loss; been in a traumatic, potentially life-threatening storm while traveling with my two children; experienced a devastating disappointment, I was probably experiencing some post-partum; and my father had a heart-attack – all within a very short period of time. In a time when I should have been basking in the delight of my children, all I could do was sit in the living room chair and watch.  Fortunately a good friend recognized my symptoms as depression.  She suggested counseling and homeopathy (she was a professional homeopathy practitioner).  I accepted both recommendations and added Spiritual Direction to the mix.  With the support of my homeopath, therapist and Spiritual Director, I moved through 30+ years of ungrieved losses and did a lot of healing and releasing all which served to alleviate many of the symptoms of depression.

The Walls Collapse

Enter panic attacks.  Somewhere around 7 years ago, I suffered my first “official” panic attack.  Under the stress of a marriage that was beginning to unravel, my husband’s travel schedule, health concerns around one of our children and while experimenting with a “cleansing” diet, the bottom fell out.  While driving to meet my husband for a weekend out of town, the world started closing in, my heart started pounding, I felt like I couldn’t breathe, my vision started to first get really small, then began to cloud over.  I didn’t know if I was having a heart attack, blood sugar crash or if I was dying.  If you have had a panic attack, you know how terrifying this is!  I pulled off the road as the symptoms “relaxed”.  Somehow got back on the highway, white knuckled it home and collapsed on the couch for what turned into a 3 day paralyzing migraine.  YUK!

The Power of Denial and Bargaining

Do you think I went to the doctor to investigate these symptoms?  No way!  I did not want to face the possibility of diagnosis.  “I could not possibly have had a panic attack.  Those are for my other people….not for me.  I’m perfect, put-together, impervious to mental illness, Lauri, right?!   And besides, I know a better way!”  So….I spent the next 2 1/2 years pursuing EVERY POSSIBLE remedy to these “symptoms” other than diagnosis and pharmaceuticals.  To make a REALLY LONG story short, these alternative methods provided much relief and gave me many tools that I have shared with others as potential sources of not only relief, but support.  But then, after returning from a 10 day pilgrimage to England, I began having panic attacks EVERY NIGHT at 2 am which woke me out of a dead sleep.  After two months of these nightly attacks, I said, “ENOUGH!”  I consulted my physician who released a heavy sigh of relief as she had been encouraging me to accept medical support for these symptoms since my first attack 2 years earlier.

Prayers to the Ancestors

My physician wrote out a prescription to the lowest dose possible of Lexapro and I went home with my little bottle in hand.  I was terrified.  I didn’t want to have a diagnosis.  I didn’t want to take drugs.  I didn’t want to be like my ancestors who had all suffered from depression and anxiety disorders most of whom either became housebound or took to drinking to manage their pain.  I remember sitting in my backyard with the bottle of Lexapro in my hand and praying, “God, please tell me what to do.”  The response was IMMEDIATE.  I suddenly saw before me generation upon generation of my ancestors. They looked at me with desperation in their eyes and collectively begged, “Please help us.”  With tears streaming down my cheeks, I silently opened the bottle of little white pills, took one out, placed it on my tongue and swallowed.

To Hell and Back

After I made it through the initial side effects of Lexapro, I found that it did seem to alleviate many of my symptoms.  I also realized that the “voices in my head” were suddenly absent.  This was the most pleasant surprise.  1) I never knew these voices weren’t “normal” In fact, I didn’t even know I had voices until they were gone. 2) There was an overwhelming sensation of peacefulness when not hounded by the constant chatter of worry, obsessive thoughts, planning, anticipating, etc. etc. etc.   (If you have these voices, you know what I mean.)  My brain was quiet for the first time in my life!  And the timing of all of this could not have been more perfect because now, the true unraveling of my marriage began.

Where Things Get Really Interesting

This is where things began to get REALLY interesting.  It became obvious to both my husband and me that we had been beating a dead horse and that perhaps we should just let the horse die.  We accepted divorce as the best option.  Then one day, I simply forgot to take my Lexapro.  Then the next day I forgot again.  On the third day I decided, “Let’s see what happens if I just don’t take my pills.” (PS, I’m NOT advocating that anyone do this without the guidance and support of your doctor!!!!!)  What happened was nothing.  No side effects.  No withdrawal.  (unlike when I had tried to wean myself).  No panic.  No depression.  That was two years ago.  Now….does that mean my depression is gone for good and I will never have another panic attack?  NO!!!!!  I still have situational depression.  I still experience anxiety and I have had a few situations of minor panic.  AND…..the voices are back.  BUT…..I am not paralyzed or sidelined by any of these symptoms and I have learned effective tools of self-care, meditation, yoga and mindfulness practices that have helped manage these symptoms.  And the most effective treatment I have found to date?  SPEAKING and WRITING my truth.  Does this mean I won’t need medication again in the future?  Who knows?  But for today, I am happy for the relief that medication, therapy, Spiritual Direction and complementary medicine have given me.  And I know that the journey through depression and anxiety is unique to each individual and to each life situation.

YOU ARE NOT ALONE

The biggest lesson I have learned in all of this is that I AM NOT ALONE!  Mental illness, especially depression and anxiety are epidemic.  Nearly everyone I know has somehow been touched by mental illness.   And the good news is that today we have effective methods of diagnosis and treatment and most importantly SUPPORT!  So if you are suffering or know someone who is……please get help.  There are therapists, medical doctors, pastors, spiritual directors, teachers, alternative health practitioners out there who are willing and able to help.  And don’t be afraid to share your story with others…..you are not alone and you might just find that the person you share your story with needs your support too.

If you want to learn more about mental illness, check out the NAMI website:  http://www.nami.org/template.cfm?section=about_mental_illness

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom

http://yourspiritualtruth.com