FINDING THE LIGHT: The Path To Recovery From Mental Illness And Breast Cancer

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I am not a professional in the field of mental health or breast cancer. All my post about mental illness come from what I learned through years of therapy and through research. Always confide in a professional first. My posts are only meant to give you suggestions, educate you and encourage you.

 

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FINDING THE RIGHT MEDICATION

Many resist going on medication when they find out they have mental illness. The idea of being on an antidepressant for life can be frightening. Some medications also have a bad reputation. There are stories of people going on them and becoming like zombies. The person just sleeps, can’t function or even think. This scares people. They want to get better, not become a zombie. So many turn to alternatives like medicating with drugs and alcohol, natural remedies, or just go untreated.

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Finding the right antidepressant that works for you is not an easy process. What works for one person doesn’t mean it will work for everyone. You have to keep trying different types until one works for you. Plus, antidepressants are not an automatic cure. You can’t take the medication and suddenly everything is better. It doesn’t work that way. An antidepressant treats symptoms of your illness, but the rest is hard work through therapy to undo years of misguided thinking and self-loathing. You have to change your way of thinking completely and that is not easy.

When I started on antidepressants for my mental illness, I wanted the medicine to take away all the bad thoughts, to make me love myself, and to make me feel like I was worth something. I wanted it to work right away. Unfortunately, they didn’t work that way. The psychiatrist told me it could take up to two weeks for my medication to start working, and if it wasn’t working in that time, he would try me on another one.

My first thoughts were: You mean I have to wait? It doesn’t work right away? I want to feel better now.

The psychiatrist just handed me a prescription and sent me on my way. Two weeks later I was feeling the same. The psychiatrist put me on another one. With the new one I was constantly tired. I needed lots of naps. I would go to college and fall asleep in class, and when I went home for the day all I could do was sleep. It seemed like I was spending lots of money on antidepressants that weren’t working. It seemed hopeless. Would I find any relief from my illness?

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I told my therapist how hopeless it seemed and how expensive it was to keep buying medication that didn’t work. She helped me find programs to pay for the antidepressant and encouraged me not to give up. She told me to never take myself off an antidepressant. Why? Because automatically being taken off of antidepressants can cause withdrawal and other complications. She said if I was having any problems with my medication to call my psychiatrist right away.

A good psychiatrist knows medications well and knows that a person must be weaned off of an antidepressant before a new one is started. I had psychiatrists take me off medication without weaning. I had sweats, shaking, nausea, and sleeplessness and became very sick. I couldn’t eat for days. It was awful. After that I found a new psychiatrist. I went through several until I found Doctor Lance Besner and he knew his medications well. I will never leave him because he is the best psychiatrist I ever had.

Before I saw Doctor Besner, I was seeing a psychiatrist who had me on high doses of three antidepressants. After being on that much medication for several years, I began to lose my memory and I had a tremor. I couldn’t remember what day it was and the simplest things. I have a bad memory to begin with, but this was worse. I felt like I was losing my mind. On top of that I couldn’t even hold a pen without shaking. I couldn’t hold my hands still no matter what.

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I told my psychiatrist and he sent me for neurological tests. When those came back normal, he took me off all my medication. I started making mistakes at work, I went days without sleep, I went from hot to cold within minutes, and I couldn’t eat. Just the thought of food made me sick. I got suspended from work for a mistake and my whole body began to shake. My husband took me to the emergency room. They said I was dehydrated and going through withdrawal.

A friend suggested I go see doctor Besner and I did. He started the game of trying to find what medication worked for me. It is a rough game, but this time he gave me samples of the antidepressants. That way I wasn’t losing a lot of money when the prescription didn’t work. When one antidepressant didn’t work, he cut the dosage while slowly starting me on a new one. Once I was completely off the old antidepressant, he increased the new one. He did this process until I found one that took away many of my symptoms. I could finally sleep, I had more energy, I could think more clearly, and my depression wasn’t so horrible. I took control of the rest of my depression by going to therapy and working hard to change my thought processes.

If your antidepressant isn’t working or you’re having bad side effects, tell your psychiatrist. Don’t take yourself off the medication on your own. Be patient; there is one that will work for you. Don’t expect the medicine to be an automatic fix. Remember, you have to put work into your recovery. You must go to therapy and do any homework the therapist gives you. Remember, it takes time for antidepressants to work, so don’t expect to feel relief right away.

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I have found the right combination of medication that works for me. With medication and hard work I am enjoying the light of recovery.

TAKE CARE OF YOUR BODY

We as humans often abuse and neglect our bodies. We fill our bodies with junk food, we sit on our butts instead of exercising, and we neglect to get tests that are important to making sure we are healthy. Our bodies are precious works of art created by God, yet we hurt them. It’s your body, and you must decide how you want to treat it. As you know, it is breast cancer awareness month. My question to you is, “Do you love your body enough to get a mammogram?” It’s your body and your choice, but it’s also your life. Don’t you want to live it?

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Here are some facts for you. A mammogram can identify about 87% of breast cancer in women. This statistic can be found on the Susan G. Komen site https://ww5.komen.org/BreastCancer/AccuracyofMammograms.html. The National Breast Cancer Foundation Inc. states in an online article called Early Detection, “When breast cancer is detected early, and is in the localized stage, the 5-year relative survival rate is 100%. Early detection includes doing monthly breast self-exams, and scheduling regular clinical breast exams and mammograms.”  https://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/early-detection-of-breast-cancer/

So if mammograms have an 87% chance at finding cancer and survival rate of early detection is a 100%, then wouldn’t you want to get that uncomfortable test done? Wouldn’t you want to do whatever it takes to make sure you detect breast cancer early? You could skip a mammogram and take the chance that you’ll never get breast cancer, but do you want to leave your body and life to chance? It’s your body and your choice, but don’t you want to be safe? Don’t you want to know what’s happening within you?

Taking that chance is like jumping in water with a shark in it and hoping you don’t become its food. Chances are the shark is preoccupied on another catch and it won’t even notice you. Then there’s the other option: it sees you and chomps right down. You could be swimming freely without a care in the world or struggling to get out of the water alive. It’s the same with cancer. Chances are you may never get cancer and then there is the chance you do develop the disease. If you never get a mammogram, cancer can grow and spread. By the time you realize you have it you find yourself fighting to stay alive or worse.

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I didn’t want to take chances with my life. When I turned 40, I started getting my mammogram and at age 44 they found something. It turned out to be stage 1 and stage 0 ductile cancers. I also found out I had the BRCA gene which increased my risk of getting ovarian cancer and breast cancer. I was lucky I didn’t have to go through chemo. I did have a bilateral mastectomy and a hysterectomy to avoid a reoccurrence. That was no fun, but it could have been a lot worse. If I would have skipped that test, the cancer could have spread to other parts of my body. I could have gone from stage 1 and 0 to stage 4 which is the highest stage of cancer. I could be dying, but instead because I wanted to take care of my body, I’m cancer free.

Even if you do catch cancer at a later stage, it is still treatable. I have a friend with stage 4 cancer who was diagnosed three year ago. She is on chemo for life. Cancer has spread to other parts of her body, but she is still with us. She’s with us because her disease is being treated. She takes one day at a time and knows her limit, but she keeps on fighting. She makes wonderful crafts. My aunt has stage 4 cancer and is a doctor. She hasn’t let her illness hold her down. With treatments these two ladies keep on going. If they had let their disease go untreated, they may not be here at all.

These women and many other women are living because they took care of their bodies and did self-exams and got a mammogram. I’m alive because I decided to get my yearly test done. I hated it, but I got it done. It’s very uncomfortable. They put your breasts in a machine that smashes them and takes pictures of them. It doesn’t take long to get it done. It feels strange having someone else touching your breasts, but it’s worth it. If it comes out negative, than you can let out a sigh of relief, and if it comes out positive, you’ll have a long road ahead of you, but you can beat it.

Take care of your body. Get those tests that can save your life. Don’t leave your life to chance. Stop putting off that mammogram, stop making excuses for not getting it done, and step up and call your doctor today. If you don’t have insurance, there are programs that will help pay for a mammogram. So get on the phone or online and do your research. Treat your body with the respect it deserves and do what’s necessary to protect it from disease.

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This month means a lot to me. October is breast cancer awareness month and I’m proud to wear pink and tell people I am a survivor. Because I took care of my body, I am standing in the light of recovery one year cancer free.

BE AWARE OF YOUR DEPRESSION

It is common to think that everyone’s symptoms of depression are exactly the same. When you read information on the illness, it lists the symptoms, and we believe that must be how everyone else experiences it, but everyone is different. Some never leave the house when depressed, others may sleep for hours on end, and still others may stop taking care of themselves. We may have the same symptoms, but we each react differently. So when you’re going through a good period or recovery, it is important to be aware of your illness and signs of when you are having problems and when you need help.

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When I went through the worst of my depression, I often felt like lying around all day, but my willpower wouldn’t let me. I put on a fake smile and forced myself to go to college and work. I felt this deep darkness covering my soul like a storm cloud and inside I hurt, but I couldn’t miss classes or call off from work. I deeply wanted to sleep all day and give up, but I’m not that type of person. I believed I must push on no matter what, but I internalize my pain. I do tend to neglect myself like not eating properly, pushing myself too hard, skipping showers, and forgetting to take my medication. I make mistakes I normally wouldn’t, like on keeping track of finances.

Through years of struggling with depression, I learned to keep track of the symptoms of my depression. I keep track of them mentally and in my journal. I have the number to crisis services if I ever need them, and I follow up with a psychiatrist every two month. Even though I am in recovery, I must be prepared for bad days and signs of when I’m slipping down that hole again. Being pro-active can save me from falling all the way to the bottom of the hole again. I have worked too hard to allow myself to hit bottom.

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As you have read in my blog posts, I recently lost my grandma. During the time she became bedridden and death began calling her, I started noticing my signs of depression. I began to make mistakes in my bill register. I’d forget to subtract things and missed paying bills on time. Then I felt that dark cloud seeping in, and I had to push myself to get out of bed. I cried easily, and I began to neglect myself. I pushed myself to go to work even when I didn’t feel like it. I even pushed myself to exercise with a friend when I had little energy.

I felt during the circumstances with my dad being in charge of Grandma’s affairs and her care, it would be best not to tell my parents. Instead I told my husband about my symptoms. We discussed steps we would take to assure the depression remained under my control. I journaled my feelings, decided I could no longer visit my grandma, and Lou would help make sure I took care of myself. I also leaned on my support system. I had to be sure I didn’t stop doing my regular tasks like writing my speech for October 18 and working on my book proposal. I had to keep myself busy so my mind wouldn’t take over.

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My husband and I also talked about what symptoms to look out for that would indicate I needed professional help. Signs like talking about dying, not eating, stopping doing things I enjoy like writing, thoughts of self-injuring, and canceling plans with friends and family and inability to sleep even while on medication. There is also crying over small things and worrying so bad I am continuously sick with anxiety attacks. Anxiety attacks for me means I am unable to keep food down.

Lou helped me monitor my symptoms, and I kept track of them in my journal. I practiced coping techniques I have learned in therapy. Like keeping busy, writing my feelings in my journal, changing negative thoughts to positive, and leaning on my support team. I knew my grandma would not want me to hit the bottom of the hole over her, and I worked too hard to let the depression take complete hold of me.

Being aware and pro-active helped me keep my depression under control. I fell apart at Grandma’s viewing, but kept it together for her funeral. Days fallowing her funeral I took care of myself. I spent extra time with my husband so I wouldn’t be alone. I made sure I talked out or wrote out my feelings with my husband and friends. I took extra time to do small things for myself like watching a movie I liked, taking a break from my writing for a few days, snuggling with a shawl my mom saved from Grandma’s room, and allowing myself time to just sit and cry. My husband and I even took a four day vacation to Dayton, Ohio just to get away and have fun. We had a great time exploring a Packard car museum and an airplane museum, spending time together, and exploring the area around our hotel.

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Because I kept track of my depression, monitored my symptoms and practiced coping techniques, my depression is fading. I’m still missing my grandma and I’m still grieving, but the darkness is no longer pulling me down that hole. I’m making less mistakes, and I am feeling more at peace with my grandma’s death. I am very proud of myself for being aware of my symptoms of depression and taking care of it before I hit rock bottom. I was able to get a hold of my illness without getting professional help.

Being aware of your symptoms of depression and the things you do while you’re slipping down the hole can help you handle your illness or get help before things get bad. We are never cured of depression even in recovery, and knowing when this illness is threatening to take control can help you fight it before it overtakes you. You must always be aware of the symptoms of your illness even while everything is going good and especially during rough times in your life. Being pro-active can help you better manage depression and save you from hitting rock bottom. If it helps, write down the symptoms and give a copy to your support team so they can help you. The key is you must always take care of your depression even when you’re dancing in the light of success. Ignoring the signs that you’re having problems and getting help when you have already hit bottom will make the climb to recovery even harder.

Because of my awareness of the depression I faced, I was able to avoid hitting bottom and once again took control of my illness. I am doing much better and I am relaxing in the light of recovery.

ARE YOU A FIGHTER?

I’m enjoying a vacation so this weeks post is a oldie, but goodie. Next week I will have a new post for you. I have some ideas swimming in my mind. Enjoy!!!

 

In order to recover from mental illness, you must have determination, strength, and willpower to live a healthy life. You have to fight harder than you have ever fought in your life. Facing your mental illness is one of the most difficult challenges in your life. In order to fight, you must educate yourself about your illness, take your medication as advised, participate in therapy, and do any homework your therapist suggests.

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When I found out in college I had depression, I collected pamphlets, I checked out books at the library on depression, and when I got a therapist, she gave me a video on depression. I needed to understand what my illness was and if I could get better. When I got sick again, years later, and found out I was a self-injurer and I had borderline personality disorder, I researched online and at the library and I bought books on my illness. Through research my life began to make sense. Many of the problems I had as a child had a reason. I wasn’t a freak; I was ill.

Once I understood my illness, I became determined to live a normal life. In order to reach recovery, I had to fight. Fighting meant going to therapy and learning to change my way of thinking, to look at my life in a different light, and to take my medications as prescribed. Most importantly, I had to want to get well more than anything in the world and I had to learn to believe in myself. In order to believe in myself, I had to love myself, which was a struggle of its own.

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A friend kept telling her psychiatrist what medication  to put her on and took herself off medications when she thought they didn’t work. By doing this she only made herself sicker. I found that even when medications didn’t seem to be working, I had to stay on them and allow my psychiatrist to change them. I also learned I had to try many medications until I found one that worked. By being patient, I did find one that has helped me reach recovery and stay within recovery.

I spent my life drowning in negativity and believing I was ugly and worthless. My thoughts dipped into darkness and raced uncontrollably for many years. I burst out into angry episodes and broke things. How could I change all that? Within my heart I knew the only way I could learn to be positive and control my thoughts and episodes was to go to therapy and do the homework my therapist gave me.  I had to fight for my right to be happy and to find the positive side of life.

So dig deep down in yourself and find the willpower to fight. If you can’t find the power within you turn to God and ask for his help. By fighting, I am living a wonderful life and I have found true happiness above the hole, in the rays of the light.

Disability in SIGHTS SEMINAR

October is a busy month: It is not only Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but it is also International Blindness Awareness Month and National Disability Awareness Month. On October 18 my good friend, Amy Bovaird, a very talented author, is putting together a seminar called Disability inSIGHTS. There will be seven speakers on different topics like mental illness, Autism, blindness, and deafness. It will be an uplifting seminar that will encourage its attendees to work around their disabilities to inspire and touch the world.

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Amy Bovaird messaged me on instant messenger, asking if I would be willing to speak about mental illness for this very special event. I was excited and a bit scared. She wanted me to write a twenty to thirty minute lecture. I’ve never written longer then a ten minute speech. My first question was, “Can I do a speech that long, and what will I talk about?” I confided in Amy about my concerns. She was very encouraging. She is a reader of this blog and made suggestions of different topics I could write about.

Then I worried about how I would write my lecture. For a fifteen-minute speech I used index cards, but there would be is a lot of cards for a twenty to thirty minute lecture. So how will I remember everything I want to say? I asked Amy and others who speak. They suggested I do an outline of the different things I want to say. It is my story, so what can go wrong? So I am working hard on my outline.

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The title of my talk will be “Recovery from Mental Illness is Possible.” I decided I will share my story about how I suffered with mental illness and struggled to reach for recovery. I will give some examples of coping techniques I used to reach recovery and the steps to take toward recovery. I hope to inspire other attendees to also reach for recovery from mental illness. Just as the seminar states, I want to give insights into living with mental illness and becoming capable of reaching recovery and becoming an important part of society.

I urge you to come and listen to not only me, but the other six speakers. First, I want to tell you about the one putting the seminar together, my friend, Amy Bovaird. She is legally blind and is also losing her hearing. Despite her disabilities, she is an author of three wonderful books, and she is a powerful speaker and a blogger. She is a very determined person who doesn’t let any obstacles get in her way. She has been working tirelessly on making this seminar a success. I find her to be a very inspiring woman who is living her life to the fullest despite her disabilities. Let’s help her make this seminar a success.

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Here is some information about the other speakers. Maxwell Ivey, Jr., aka the Blind Blogger, speak about, “Life is like a River: Overcoming Adversity and Moving Forward.” He has a rare, incurable hereditary eye condition that results in blindness. He will have an inspiring lecture about his struggles and how he overcame his disability to become a successful author, speaker, online media coach, and podcast host.

Emmanuel Lee’s topic is, “The Life of a Deaf–Blind Adult.” He will share stories about his life, like facing abuse at home and bullying at school. He’ll tell how the Helen Keller National Center for Deaf–Blind Youths and Adults taught him to adapt to his newfound abilities.

Stephanae McCoy’s topic is “How Losing My Sight Expanded My Vision.” She will share three tips about what she learned to help you also navigate the road to social entrepreneurship.

Chelsea C. Nguyen will have a table center for “Blindness and Adaptive Hands–On Makeup, Hair Styling, and Shaving Demos.” She will give demonstrations on adaptive styling and shaving tools a person with limited or no vision can use. She will give others the opportunities to touch, feel, and practice on a mannequin head.

There will also be an expert panel on Autism, starting with Erica Ploski, MA, LPC, a licensed professional counselor and mother of three children. Casey Ireson is a college senior and public speaker sharing autism awareness and insights from his personal journey. Dr. Paul A. Bensur Jr., who is a published author of Autistic Spectrum Disorder A New Outlook, will also be on the panel.

This will be an inspiring seminar not just for people with disabilities, but for anyone. So come hear me and the others on October 18 at the Tomridge Center, Erie, PA from 10 am to 3 pm. Register now at the site below. Space is limited, so register right away. You can also find out more about the speakers and the conference at this site. Let’s all reach beyond our disabilities and challenges to dance in the light of success.

https://amybovaird.com/disabilityinsights

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EULOGY TO MY GRANDMA

God worked really hard when he made my grandmother. He put extra love in her heart, warm arms to hug with, and strength that could endure the toughest hardships. I don’t have the right words to completely describe how wonderful my grandma was. She made a big impact, not only on my life, but on the lives of everyone she met. Even while she was sick in the nursing home, struggling, she touched the people around her. She had a glow about her. It shone from the inside out. The glow was God’s light. God placed it within her soul, and it shone so bright that it radiated in her smile, her warm eyes, and in the things she did.

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My grandmother never had a lot of money, yet she would give her last pennies to help another in need. I remember holiday meals at my grandparents’ home where Grandma would invite a lonely elderly lady to join us. My dad told us stories where Grandma would give food to strangers when she barely had enough food to feed her eight children. She gave endless love and compassion when she had nothing else to give. While she was in the nursing home, my husband and I brought her cookies we made, and she offered them to some of the other residents. She lost her independence, her home, and almost everything, and yet she was still giving.

As a child, I always felt abundance of love from my grandmother. She didn’t spoil me with gifts, but with love. No matter how bad I felt after being bullied at school, I would always feel better after a hug from Grandma. Grandma was a good listener, and I could talk to her about anything. She always had comforting words to share, and she knew how to make me feel special and important. When I felt rejected at school, I felt accepted at my grandparents. She always believed in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself.

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Grandma could write the most beautiful letters that brought tears to my eyes, and she loved to write them. I believe it is from her I got my writing talent. She beamed with pride each time I read her a story I wrote. Each time I got published, she had to have a copy. She loved my writing, and I was more than excited to share with her my accomplishments. Even while she lay dying, I read her a chapter from my memoir, and in a very weak and low voice, she told me she liked it. Even while life was fading from her, she loved the words I read to her. I believe they gave her comfort.

I never left my grandma’s home without a hug. She hugged everyone, even strangers. Her arms were always warm and gentle. When I brought my friends to my grandma’s, they too had to have a hug, even though she didn’t know them well. I looked forward to her hugs. Her hugs were more than just two arms wrapped around me; they were magical. They lifted me up when I felt down, they filled me with strength, they brought light into my dark soul, and they helped me face a harsh world with courage.

Grandma said that she loved all her grandchildren the same, but in my soul, I felt like her favorite. Ever since I was a child, people said I looked like a younger version of her. I believed that made me extra special. Before I went to writing conferences, Grandma would pick a day to take me shopping. She would buy me two nice outfits for the conference and take me to lunch. She even bought me a suitcase set I still have.

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I lived with my grandparents for a bit while I was in college. At church and on the phone, Grandma bragged about my good grades to friends and family. She wouldn’t let me help her around the house. She said my college work was more important. She bought me my favorite foods, and when I got sick she nursed me until I was well again. I just wish I hadn’t been so sick and could have lived with them longer.

Even though I was at the deepest depth of my mental illness, I couldn’t let my grandparents know how sick I was. They enjoyed having me live with them, and I couldn’t crush their hearts with the knowledge I was trying to take my life. Even though she didn’t know, it was her endless gifts of love that kept me from succeeding with suicide. She was the one light I had to hold onto in my darkest times.

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Grandma had a deep love for God. She didn’t have to preach the word of God, because she lived in his light. She spread her passion for the Heavenly Father by the life she lived. She gave kindness to everyone around her, she gave endlessly, she never judged anyone, and she touched people with a smile. Her faith is what got her through some very rough times in her life. When her son was killed by a drunk driver, she got on her knees and prayed. When she got in an accident that left a mother childless, she prayed for strength. When she had little money to feed her children, she prayed. God was her strength and guiding light. Her love for the Heavenly Father was so great that you could see it in her eyes and smile. She was the most faithful and religious person I’ve ever known.

My grandma has always been a huge part of my life and will forever remain in my heart. She watched me take my first steps and from heaven she’ll watch me take my exciting steps into publication when I publish my memoir. I believe she will continue to watch me with each new step I will take in my life.

Grandma always said, “Never say goodbye, because I will see you again.” So when I went to see my grandma lying in bed, skin and bones, her glow fading and death calling her, I didn’t say my goodbyes, but instead I told her, “I will see you again.” Some day when it’s my time to go to heaven, I will be reunited with my grandma and I will give her a big hug.

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Today, the day this post goes out, I will be sitting at Grandma’s funeral whispering, “I will see you again someday.” No matter how long it takes, I will see her again. Until then, I will live my life to the fullest and use my writing the way God wants me to, to help others. I’ll give from my heart and I will live in God’s light, like Grandma did.

See you again Grandma. You live in my heart and I will always be thankful to be your granddaughter.

 

 

FINDING THE RIGHT MEDICATION

Many resist going on medication when they find out they have mental illness. The idea of being on an antidepressant for life can be frightening. Some medications also have a bad reputation. There are stories of people going on them and becoming like zombies. The person just sleeps, can’t function or even think. This scares people. They want to get better, not become a zombie. So many turn to alternatives like medicating with drugs and alcohol, natural remedies, or just go untreated.

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Finding the right antidepressant that works for you is not an easy process. What works for one person doesn’t mean it will work for everyone. You have to keep trying different types until one works for you. Plus, antidepressants are not an automatic cure. You can’t take the medication and suddenly everything is better. It doesn’t work that way. An antidepressant treats symptoms of your illness, but the rest is hard work through therapy to undo years of misguided thinking and self-loathing. You have to change your way of thinking completely and that is not easy.

When I started on antidepressants for my mental illness, I wanted the medicine to take away all the bad thoughts, to make me love myself, and to make me feel like I was worth something. I wanted it to work right away. Unfortunately, they didn’t work that way. The psychiatrist told me it could take up to two weeks for my medication to start working, and if it wasn’t working in that time, he would try me on another one.

My first thoughts were: You mean I have to wait? It doesn’t work right away? I want to feel better now.

The psychiatrist just handed me a prescription and sent me on my way. Two weeks later I was feeling the same. The psychiatrist put me on another one. With the new one I was constantly tired. I needed lots of naps. I would go to college and fall asleep in class, and when I went home for the day all I could do was sleep. It seemed like I was spending lots of money on antidepressants that weren’t working. It seemed hopeless. Would I find any relief from my illness?

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I told my therapist how hopeless it seemed and how expensive it was to keep buying medication that didn’t work. She helped me find programs to pay for the antidepressant and encouraged me not to give up. She told me to never take myself off an antidepressant. Why? Because automatically being taken off of antidepressants can cause withdrawal and other complications. She said if I was having any problems with my medication to call my psychiatrist right away.

A good psychiatrist knows medications well and knows that a person must be weaned off of an antidepressant before a new one is started. I had psychiatrists take me off medication without weaning. I had sweats, shaking, nausea, and sleeplessness and became very sick. I couldn’t eat for days. It was awful. After that I found a new psychiatrist. I went through several until I found Doctor Lance Besner and he knew his medications well. I will never leave him because he is the best psychiatrist I ever had.

Before I saw Doctor Besner, I was seeing a psychiatrist who had me on high doses of three antidepressants. After being on that much medication for several years, I began to lose my memory and I had a tremor. I couldn’t remember what day it was and the simplest things. I have a bad memory to begin with, but this was worse. I felt like I was losing my mind. On top of that I couldn’t even hold a pen without shaking. I couldn’t hold my hands still no matter what.

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I told my psychiatrist and he sent me for neurological tests. When those came back normal, he took me off all my medication. I started making mistakes at work, I went days without sleep, I went from hot to cold within minutes, and I couldn’t eat. Just the thought of food made me sick. I got suspended from work for a mistake and my whole body began to shake. My husband took me to the emergency room. They said I was dehydrated and going through withdrawal.

A friend suggested I go see doctor Besner and I did. He started the game of trying to find what medication worked for me. It is a rough game, but this time he gave me samples of the antidepressants. That way I wasn’t losing a lot of money when the prescription didn’t work. When one antidepressant didn’t work, he cut the dosage while slowly starting me on a new one. Once I was completely off the old antidepressant, he increased the new one. He did this process until I found one that took away many of my symptoms. I could finally sleep, I had more energy, I could think more clearly, and my depression wasn’t so horrible. I took control of the rest of my depression by going to therapy and working hard to change my thought processes.

If your antidepressant isn’t working or you’re having bad side effects, tell your psychiatrist. Don’t take yourself off the medication on your own. Be patient; there is one that will work for you. Don’t expect the medicine to be an automatic fix. Remember, you have to put work into your recovery. You must go to therapy and do any homework the therapist gives you. Remember, it takes time for antidepressants to work, so don’t expect to feel relief right away.

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I have found the right combination of medication that works for me. With medication and hard work I am enjoying the light of recovery.

THE GRIEVING SOUL

Many ask, “Which is harder, having someone die suddenly or watching someone die slowly?” In my experience, both are equally hard. Death, no matter how it happens, is extremely painful and heartbreaking. We can never prepare ourselves to lose someone we love, no matter how short or long the loved one’s life was. Grief is hard either way and could send anyone into a depression. For those who have depression or who are in recovery from depression, grief can be especially cruel.

Last week my grief was just too overpowering for me to be able to release it on paper. I just couldn’t put it into words. In a way, I have been grieving for my grandma over a period of several years. It first started when she got sick about six years ago and had to go into a nursing home. Slowly, over the years, I watched my grandma’s health deteriorate. I missed visiting her at her home. I missed her inviting my husband and me over for lunch for a feast and then sending us home with a bag of groceries from her cupboard, and having her at family events, and so on.

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Even though her health has faded, God’s glow shone in her. During some visits we sat silently at her side holding her hand while she slept, and during other visits we filled her in on what was going on in our lives. One time we helped her play bingo and she won. She insisted we take her prizes home. It was her way of still giving, even when she had nothing left to give. Even though she was stuck in a nursing home, unable to give what little she had, she still had endless love to give.

When she was put in the nursing home, a part of her died. She had always been an independent woman and suddenly she was confined to a wheelchair. She had always been a talker. I used to be able to hold a conversation with her for hours, but the conversations turned to me doing most of the talking. The strong, vibrant woman had turned into a weak, elderly woman dependent on her nurses. I grieved losing the woman she once was.

In December, my mom called me and said Grandma was dying, and I cried. We watched her body slowly going through the dying process week after week and month after month. Each time my husband and I came to visit her, she seemed frailer and she slept more. We spent most of the time sitting at her side, holding her hand while she slept. When she was awake enough to talk to us, her words were few and sometimes she was confused. Yet she still had that glow of God’s love in her soul. The glow shone in her smile and eyes, but that glow was dimming.

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Recently, Grandma became bedridden, and the dying process sped up. Hospice told us it’s only a matter of time. Each time I go to see her, I read her a chapter from my memoir. She is now skin and bones, her body dying and her smile completely gone and in its place a frown. I look into her eyes and I can see the glow slowly fading. My heart is shattered. I want to wrap her in my arms and cry, but instead I tell her how much I love her and that I’m happy she will soon be reunited with Grandpa in heaven.

It is so hard watching her die. I pray each night that God takes her home soon. I ask God why it has to be so slow. Each time I see her, the weaker she becomes. Wednesday, when I saw her, her eyes were closed. When she did open them, her breathing was ragged. I could tell she was struggling. I read her another chapter. I asked her if she liked it. Her voice was so weak that I had to get up close to her lips to hear her say, “Yes.”

Each day I wake up wondering, “Will this be the day I get the call she passed?” I find it nearly impossible to get out of bed and go to work. My heart is so broken and filled with pain I can barely breathe. I push myself to go to work and force a smile on my lips, even though a depression is blanketing my soul. I know all the signs of my sickness. I am very aware of my illness and I know that unbearable sadness all too well. I keep pushing myself to keep going because I know that’s what Grandma would want me to do.

I’m turning to my support system for comfort. My husband is very supportive. My close friend, who has been one of my biggest supporters, is dealing with her own problems and she can’t be of much help to me, and I can’t be of much help to her. So instead, I’m turning to some of my other friends. I feel bad not being able to support my friend and it seems strange not being able to confide in her, but at least we have other people to lean on.

My grieving may have put me into a depression, but I know if I keep practicing my coping techniques, leaning on my support system, and taking care of myself, in time I will once again pull myself out of this dark hole. Maybe by the time this post goes up, Grandma may have passed. It’s hard to tell when God will take her home and give her her angel wings. I just know this will get harder before it gets easier, but I will get through this. I’m too strong to let depression keep me down.

It’s easy to slip into a depression when you’re grieving. You may have never had depression in your life, and you lose someone you love, and suddenly you’re in that dark hole. While you’re going through grief, know the symptoms of depression, practice self-care, turn to counseling if you need to, build a support team, and don’t deny yourself the right to cry. Crying helps you let that pain out. Taking care of yourself and your needs is very important. If you neglect yourself, you can fall farther down that dark hole. If you need a higher dose of antidepressants to get you through or to start some medication, then talk to your psychiatrist or doctor. Do what it takes to fight the depression and climb out of that hole.

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It may take a little time to get over my depression, but I refuse to let it drag me all the way down to the darkest depth of my hole. I am a fighter, like my grandma. Grandma is fighting all the way to the end, and when she is gone I will continue to fight until I am once again dancing in the light of recovery.

 

WHAT MY DAD TAUGHT ME

Parents teach their children lessons that will be used in the future. These lessons help us grow and evolve into strong and independent adults. We use them to guide us through a rough and unpredictable world. We can also use those lessons from childhood to help us through struggles in our lives like fighting to reach recovery from mental illness. What do you remember from what your parents taught you as a child that can help you reach above your mental illness?

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The other day my husband and I were in the car going to an appointment when I saw a small child on a tricycle on the sidewalk. I asked my husband if he had one as a child. Then I recalled the one I had was passed down from my older sister to me and from me to my younger siblings. Then I asked my husband who taught him how to ride a bike and the lesson came to me. A valuable lesson I never really thought about until that moment.

I remember my dad taking the training wheels off my bike. “Okay, Aimee, get on. Start pedaling. Don’t worry I’ll be holding on to the back of the bike.”

I started pedaling and once I got moving dad let go. I suddenly wobbled from side to side and fell into a mud puddle. I stood up, wet and muddy.

Tears streamed down my face, but dad looked into my eyes. “You can’t give up now. Get back on and try again.”

I pouted. “I don’t want to fall again.”

Dad patted the seat. “When you fall, you dust yourself off and give it a try again until you get it right.”

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Dad’s lesson followed me through my journey to recovery. See, on the road to recovery I fell off the bike quite a few times. I took time off from college to get treatment for my mental illness. During that time I started working in a grocery store. I began to make friends, I got a social life for the first time, and I even started dating for the first time. Life was going great. I got off my antidepressants and discontinued therapy. I was in recovery.

A few years down the road, the depression began to settle in again. I felt myself falling off that bike so I looked into getting a therapist. Before I knew it I was lying in that mud puddle again. I felt like my world crumbling around me, I began injuring again, I got into an abusive relationship, and I began to feel like a close friend was abandoning me. I sent that friend notes (with blood on them) begging her not to leave me. I wasn’t thinking straight. My friend told me she couldn’t handle my illness and ended our friendship. Then my boyfriend began to hurt me physically and emotionally.

I ended up in a mental health hospital after my boyfriend packed my bags. I wanted to lie in that puddle and give up. It would have been easy to do, but that lesson my dad taught me was engraved in my mind and soul. I had to pick myself up and get on that bike again. I had to keep trying no matter how many times I crashed. So I participated in therapy, I took my medication, and began to journal my feelings. Within a week I was released from the hospital to continue treatments at home. I was back on the bike to recovery.

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In the years to follow I fell off the bike again. I got depressed and began injuring again. The abuse I received from my ex-boyfriend was hard to get over, and it seemed like I had lost all my friends. I cried my eyes out in therapy. I went to work and came home and that was all I did. I wanted to give up, but once again the lesson my father taught me kicked in. A co-worker with gave me a goal to go six months without injuring. So I got on my bike and began pedaling up a steep hill to reach that goal. I went to therapy each week and began to learn healthier coping techniques. Each time I felt myself wobbling, I pedaled harder until I succeeded. Once I reached six month my co-worker threw me a party to celebrate my accomplishment.

 

I tried to stay on that bike, but I kept falling off. On my road to recovery I kept crashing into episodes of depression. I’d pull myself up only to swerve, wobble, and tumble down again.

I met my husband and he began holding that bike for me. Like my father, he encouraged me to get up and try again. Each time I tumbled my husband told me, “Don’t give up.” In time I was riding down that road of recovery without any help. I finally got it right and I reached recovery.

If you slip up in your road to recovery, remember to pick yourself up and try again. Don’t give up because you fell a couple times. That’s part of the process. Just keep pulling yourself up and pushing forward. Never give up, just get back up, dust your pride off, and get back on that road to recovery again. Think of it as learning to ride a bike. You keep falling and getting back up again until you’re pedaling right into the light of recovery.

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I have been on the bike of recovery for a while now. I fall from time to time, but I dust off my knees and get back on again. The road can be full of hills, it can be bumpy, and it can twist in many directions, but I never give up. Because I never give up, I am riding my bike in the light of recovery.