Wednesday, July 12, 2017

 Brace yourself. This is going to be a long one, and it's probably the most personal I've written. If you aren't interested I completely understand! Come back Friday for a beauty post!

That being said, I have some new readers here (hi!) so let me preface this by writing that mental health issues are near to my heart. Why? Because I have them. I'm very open about my struggles with anxiety and depression, and just like any physical ailment that you might be able to see, it needs to be properly treated. But unlike a physical condition, you can't always tell if someone is struggling with a mental illness. Most people have no clue what I experience. I've learned over the years how to hide it so that I could make friends, go to school, get a job. A mentor of mine says it's by the grace of God that I'm resilient, and I agree.



I've had generalized anxiety since childhood. I never wanted to be around other kids and I would get sick to my stomach almost every day before leaving for school. My parents didn't know what to do with their peculiar only child. They thought I was just shy, a phase I'd eventually grow out of. I didn't. I just learned how to cope in my own little way. By the time I was in 4th grade, I was having panic attacks regularly. My heart would constantly race and I felt like I couldn't breathe. I went to several specialists. None of them found anything wrong with me. Then I went to see a therapist. The real culprit was my head, not my heart.

This went on for years. Through high school, college, and today as a 32 year old woman. I dance around it, having some periods of relief and then other periods where I am a total wreck. I've learned what my triggers are though, and a big one is change. When I graduated from college with my degree in human development (I don't recommend this degree by the way unless you really do want to become a social worker, counselor, or therapist) I went to work for an out-patient rehab facility and there were some extremely unethical practices going on there. I was so distraught over what I saw that I quit one day on the spot. Literally packed my shit and got the hell out of that place as fast as my feet could carry me. I remember it was pouring rain, and I sat in my car and cried. I was fresh out of college and I thought helping others would come easy for me. Little did I know that not every professional has that same purpose in mind. I called Nate, who gave me the number of a therapist well regarded in town. I called her and made an appointment with tears running down my face.

We have done some great work together, but no amount of talking, venting, writing, exercising, crying, screaming, or laughing can fix it. I can't just get over it. It's a chemical imbalance. There is a difference between stress and having real anxiety. So when someone sends me inspirational quotes or tells me to relax by taking a nice lavender bath and it'll all work out, then I know they have no idea what they're talking about. It's not that simple.



I avoided going on medication for years because I was afraid. At the time, taking psych meds meant that I was truly crazy, that I really wasn't like other people. It meant I had to finally deal with my issues in a more invasive way. However, my life was spinning out of control and solely hashing things out with my therapist wasn't cutting it so I tried Zoloft. It worked, but the side effects were awful. My hair began falling out in clumps and I developed a constant cough. I went off of it and although my symptoms subsided, the anxiety and depression came back with a vengeance. Figuring out what works is trial and error, and that's the tricky part. I reluctantly took my therapist's advice and went to a psychiatrist so we could try something else. She prescribed prozac and klonopin. Well that worked! It worked so well in fact that I felt almost cured. Is this what it's like to be normal? I asked myself that every morning. I was on those medications for over a year, but now that I want to start a family, I have weaned myself off and I have cleared my body of everything. Not just those medications but also birth control. What's it like to come off meds? In a word, Hell.

Before I continue, I need to be absolutely clear that I am doing this with the help and oversight of my doctors, and if you are in a similar situation, please seek the advice of yours. Everybody is different. There are some women who continue taking certain medications while pregnant because they really have to. I have decided that I want to go medication-free, but that is my choice. It's important to talk to your doctor and do your own research before stopping any medications.

Anyway, you couple going off psych meds with going off birth control and you get a whole lot of crazy mood swings. It's been a roller coaster ride, but for the last few days, I've actually surprised myself at just how okay I'm doing. Like, I'm really okay. When you don't have a crutch, it's easy to get scared. I know I don't have anything to rely on right now aside from myself and my own ability to cope. I have been talking myself through certain tasks that I find difficult. On our trip to Ohio, I had moments where I wanted to hide from everyone. Nate has a huge extended family and talking to a group of people can feel overwhelming but I did it. I'm realizing that I really can do these things. I might feel uncomfortable in social situations, but I can do it. I can be at peace with being uncomfortable a lot in the next few months. It'll be worth it. And if I decide to go back on medications at a later date, then that's fine too. I most likely will need to.

So that's it, I'm medication free mood swings and all. I've had good days and bad. It's a blast 😏

I'd love to know your thoughts on this, whatever they may be. I'm hoping this community can be a small support system because some of you have become my friends. It's mostly why I continue to blog.

If you made it through, thank you for reading! I really appreciate it.

27 comments:

  1. I'm 26 weeks pregnant and when I found out I was pregnant (very early on at 3 weeks), I chose to stop my medication with the support of my doctor. At that stage, the baby and I were not sharing a bloodstream and while my husband and I weren't actively trying to conceive, I knew I had to get off at that point to remain medicine free throughout the rest of the pregnancy. To be honest, it's been rough. My first 4 months were hell physically since I was diagnosed with HG (severe morning sickness) for which I was hospitalized twice, wore a Zofran pump, and was out of work for a month and a half. Now that I'm in my sixth month and that is behind me, I find my anxiety and depression rising again. It's tough when coupled with the normal hormonal floods you get while pregnant you have your natural demons to combat. But I'm managing. The worst is when people who know my condition caution me from getting too stressed since it can hurt the baby - as you know, you can't control these physical responses entirely so the comments only serve to make me more stressed and depressed at how I'm caring for my baby in utero. It's been a tough ride and I'm aware I have a higher chance of postpartum depression once the baby is born. I haven't decided if I'll return to medication immediately after birth but until then, it'll be a struggle and one I know will only serve to make me a stronger mother and person. Thank you for your honesty in sharing what you're going through and I wish you all the luck in conceiving and pregnancy. Because for all the sickness, emotionally and physically, it's a pretty amazing ride.

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    1. First, congratulations on your pregnancy! I can only imagine what you've been going through. I'm almost convinced I will have a similar experience, but time will tell. I can't stand it when people say to calm down and relax because it can impact your health, or in your case, that of your baby. If it were that easy, I'm sure you would! People really don't get it unless they've gone through it themselves. It sounds like your are feeling a bit better and I hope that the rest of your pregnancy is easier than the first few months. Thank you so much for sharing your story. Feel free to email me any time if you'd like to talk :)

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  2. I don't have any insight on this but I've ready your whole post and you are so courageous for sharing your story. I'm sure it will help a lot of people, life is not all about cute outfits and flowers so sharing real struggle is key. I'm rooting for you and keep fighting and being so strong.

    xo
    Pinksole

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  3. I am so glad that this morning I had time to read your story! Girl, you are so brave and honestly, what I am most proud of is you doing what you know you need to do for yourself even though its scary. Your gut will never lie to you about how to take care of yourself. We all love you and are here for you!

    The Adored Life

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    1. You are so sweet Alissa, thank you so much! Like I've said before, your blog is truly a light among the plethora of blogs out there. I like that you combine beautiful photos of your style along with your honest and positive writing. Don't ever stop!

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  4. I admire your courage in sharing this and always keeping it real here! And boy am I sorry if I've ever been the one who offered ignorant, trite advice like "take a bath to relax." What you shared is very helpful and educational for people who don't deal with this first hand, so even that first job of helping other people didn't work out, you're still doing an amazing job of it via your blog. :)
    Gina || On the Daily Express

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    1. No, I don't recall you ever telling me to take a bath lol! You have no idea how much I've enjoyed our little talks together Gina! I'm so happy I met you! You are a very calming influence :)

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  5. I think two things happen when we are brave enough to share our stories. 1. It helps us process our own journey and 2. It gives others permission to be vulnerable and possibly share their own or at least know they're not alone. I hope you continue to share and look forward to supporting you as you move forward!

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    1. I completely agree! I wish things like this were talked about more often because I know how common these issues are. Thank you for always being such an inspiration Kristi. I hope I have the pleasure of meeting you one day!

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  6. You are such a brave person to share your story. I can't imagine how hard going off meds is and I think you are courageous to try before you try to start a family. You are bringing attention to something that many people struggle with silently. We should all be more aware of this. Good luck with your continued journey and hopefully starting a family!

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    1. Thank you Laura! I'm not brave though, just honest :) When I'm going through something, I feel compelled to share that here because I'm not going to pretend everything is alright all the time if it's not. I just can't do that! I'm glad I can follow along on your pregnancy journey. It's very helpful!

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  7. I think you are so brave to share. I am sure this will really resonate with some people. Though I cannot relate with anxiety or depression, I have severe migraines and had to come off my medication when we were trying to get pregnant. All the hormones I took during infertility only made my headaches worse, and it just plain sucked. People said similar things like "you just need to drink more water" - so annoying. All that to say, I know what it is like in a way to have a medical issue and to not be able to have the right medications because you want a family (a good thing!) and to suffer for it physically. It's so hard, and I am sorry friend.

    Amy Ann
    Straight A Style

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    1. Oh gosh, I get migraines too and actually had one all day yesterday! They are so painful :( Your story has been amazing and I love how your faith guides you in life. I definitely admire your strength. At least pain is temporary, right? Thank you for being supportive Amy Ann.

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  8. Your strength in your self and knowing what you need is going to help you in tremendous ways. You know yourself best, seek out help when you need it. Don't let your mental health needs override/disuade your desires of having a baby. There is support out there, surround yourself with those around you who understand. Best of luck!

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  9. I have anxiety too, but mine is while driving and it sucks it has kept me depending on others for way too long I hate it I cry and ask why me all the time, but I'm trying to change that looking for a car and practicing driving too, this time I feel ready to go forward with it, my fear of depending on others is far greater than my fear of driving. Kuddos to you for being open about your struggle with mental health, I admire your strength. Best of Luck <3

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    1. I can relate, I get horrible anxiety while driving too so I know how that is. Maybe some soft music in the background will help? I know that music helps me while I'm driving, although if I'm really in the throws of anxiety nothing helps at all. I really hope you'll find something that works for you. I think the more we do something, the easier it gets over a long period of time. Best of luck to you as well and don't hesitate to email me if you'd ever like to talk :)

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  10. Thank you for sharing this Noelle as I have been through more or less similar experience. I have been in counselling for anxiety since my early teens. However, it was only after child birth that I went on medication for a year due to severe PPA. Coming off my meds was hard especially because it really messed with my sleep pattern too. I had also just started a new job so you can imagine. It took me a long time to be comfortable with talking about my anxiety but I'm glad I am at that point now.

    I'm also very happy that talking about mental health is becoming less of a stigma. It is as important as physical health and thank you for doing your part and talking about your struggles. I always look forward to your more personal posts but this one definitely resonated with me due to my similar experience.

    Here in Canada we have a great health care system but we are still lacking in the public mental health coverage. It's an issue I'm very passionate about and doing my personal best to bring to the attention of our politicians. We have quite ways to go but I'm hopeful.

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    1. Yes, mental health NEEDS to be covered by insurance! I cannot stress this enough! I always have to pay out of pocket even though I have a proper diagnosis. Can I just say that health care here is crap? Because it really is a huge problem and I don't know when it will be solved. Keep fighting the good fight Saadeh :) I always appreciate your friendship here and on Instagram.

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  11. Thank you for being open and honest. I have a very similar story to yours. I was diagnosed with depression in high school and had anxiety but it was blamed on other things. I was put on meds at the time for the depression and it helped and I was able to go off and was ok for a few years. My anxiety came back with a vengeance during my 2nd pregnancy and after I had terrible postpartum depression. I went undiagnosed way to long and it had spiraled out of control to where I couldn't eat and wouldn't leave the house or go to appointments or shopping unless someone could drive me. It was hell, I thought I was going to die. My mom finally intervened when she realized how bad I really was (thank you mom) and I got professional help. I went on Zoloft and Xanax for the terrible anxiety attacks. I would wake up every-morning when my husband left for work and I would have attacks. I would get dizzy and nauseated and feel like I couldn't breath, it is a horrible feeling that no one can understand unless they have been there. It has been a roller coaster for me the past 7 years. I got unexpectedly pregnant with our son who is almost 4 and stopped the meds cold turkey (approved by my dr.) and was fine throughout the pregnancy. I thought maybe I would be ok but 3 months after he was born I started with the postpartum and anxiety again. I immediately went back on prescription meds (a lower dose because of breastfeeding) because I had 3 children to take care of and I had to do life. I stayed on the medication a year and then weaned myself off because I wanted to prove I could be "normal" and do it on my own. This lasted 6 months and I was back to panic attacks and anxiety again. This time I went the natural route and did a saliva test which showed lots of chemicals out of wack so I was put on natural supplements, Gaba etc... This worked fine for a few months and then I was back to fighting anxiety. So I am once again taking zoloft. My hair is falling out like crazy and I have terrible night sweats and dry mouth and I am SOOO tired all the time from the medication. I have xanax to take when I have to do something that causes me anxiety and panic but I take it sparingly. I am not happy with how I am doing but I am alive and breathing and taking steps every day. The worst thing for me now is feeling like a failure as a mother because of how my anxiety affects my children and family. There are things they want to do that sometimes I can't make myself do, just normal things. Going to Target or the park with the kids or just along can be anxiety inducing. Restaurants are hard for me and crowded stores, concerts, festivals, even church. I always have to be looking for a way out. Driving can also be extremely difficult for me or drive thru's. If I am stopped at a traffic light surrounded by cars I start feeling like I can't breath and I get light-headed. Things that should be fun like family beach vacation I dread because it is a struggle for me just to get through each day sometimes each hour until I can be home again. I could go on but you get the point and you understand. I can't believe I am saying all of this in a public forum but it feels good to just get it out. Not many people understand how it makes you a prisoner.

    I am so happy for you that you are preparing to expand your family, how exciting. It is so encouraging that you are feeling so great and able to manage through moments that would normally make you anxious. I felt great during my 3rd pregnancy and I hope the same is true for you. I will be following along to see how your journey goes.

    I should say that being a believer has also been a tremendous help for me. I know not everyone is but for me it truly has saved me. Even with taking medication sometimes I have to call out to God to lift me up and help me get through. Bible verses are so helpful for me, just remembering God's promises and praise and worship music helps get my mind to a better place.

    Thank you for being real and honest. It is so helpful knowing you are not alone.

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    1. Please please don't be ashamed for posting your story on a public forum, because your story is so helpful. I have to admit that when I first read it, I had tears in my eyes and I wish I could reach through the computer screen and give you a giant hug. None of this ever seems fair, does it? I wish there was an instant cure for this type of anxiety and depression. I wish things were easier for you. I can completely relate but I don't say that to take away from what you are going through, because I think we all can go through similar things but feel them in different ways. I'm not a religious person but I do want to be. My therapist says that believing in ANYTHING greater than yourself is crucial in finding some peace of mind. There has to be a reason for all this. Thank you for sharing your story, and I hope you will keep in touch. My email is on the top of this page if you'd ever like to communicate outside of here. I like hearing someone tell me that everything will be ok, even if I don't believe them. Everything will be ok <3

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  12. Thank you so much for sharing, Noelle. I feel so much closer to you reading these real talks. I can't say I personally understand what it is that you are going through, but you're are showing tremendous strength and courage. Depression is definitely something that is well hidden with people because it's not easy to talk about and it's even harder to admit. I went through depression when I was pregnant with Gabriel and I remember just crying all the time about it or just crying (behind closed doors) and not even really understand why but just so, shitty.

    When you mentioned your childhood, it brought back memories for me because I had a really difficult time socializing with others too, they'd take me away to do a one-on-one.

    Thank you for sharing, and I'm so glad to hear you're planning to start a family! I'm so happy! XOXO-- T

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    1. Thank you Terri, I'm so touched that you can relate to this and that my real talk posts resonate with you. That's my goal! Depression sucks the life out of people and it is so isolating. But look how far you've come! Thank you for reading and sharing what you've gone through. Life is crazy!

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  13. First off, look at all this amazing support and all of the people who struggle the same as you. Someone wrote that sharing your story allows other to be vulnerable, that is so true. It starts to feel not so alone. You and I have had our talks about this and I am so excited to get coffee soon and catch up in person. I am so glad you shared this. Although I have never had to go on meds I do know the crippling feelings of anxiety. Keep talking about it, keep fighting it because by doing so you are gaining more control, not the anxiety. Love you!
    -
    nicole

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    1. Love you too, red :) I can't wait to see you and catch up! I know you're having a blast in Vegas so continue doing that LOL! This is why I love blogging, it's such a great community

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  14. Oh, Noelle. I won't even begin to act like I know what you are going through. But what I've taken away from this post is how incredibly brave you are. Brave for starting this blog and putting yourself out there. Brave for going into so much detail in this post. Brave for making the decision to come off meds. I love and admire you so much. Not just for this but for everything I know about you to date-- style, personality, kindness! I am in your cheering squad over here!
    Caryl | http://morepiecesofme.com

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Thank you for commenting! I read each and every one, and do my best to answer questions or return the favor on your blog. Interaction is my favorite part <3