Why going back on meds for mental health issues is not failure

Warning: this post may be triggering to some and deals with the topics of mental health, depression, anxiety, medications, therapy, and suicide. Please do not read this post if you are sensitive at the moment to any of these topics or unsure how you would react. Please reach out to your local helpline if you are having thought of suicide or of harming yourself or others. I am not a mental health or health professional and this is just my own opinion. I am not advocating one way or another for the use of medications or therapy in mental health, just my own observations.

I’ll be the first to admit that when I was able to come off medication for depression and anxiety in the mid-2000s, I swore I would never go back on them. I hated the stigma. I hated the side effects. I hated remembering to take them. I hated everything about them. I was not ready, not willing, and not able to come to terms with my diagnosis and start the path to healing. Should still have been on them? Was it the right decision? Probably not, but since I refused to take them properly my doctor was more concerned about them causing harm to me, or me causing harm to myself with them and so she took me off. I had moved back home at the time after a couple of years of living away from my family. When I moved back I had good support so I think this might have been part of her thought process at the time.

Surprisingly I did okay for a number of years, after the initial rocky few months of withdrawal symptoms. So I don’t know, maybe it was the right decision at the time? I guess I will never really know. Six years later I ended up back on medication after trying to take my life for the second or third time. At the time I was going through some tough stuff and in a relationship that was very abusive. I felt like a complete and utter failure when I was told I needed to go back on some sort of medication by my family doctor. He prescribed me Paxil and referred me for a second time to a psychologist. I again was having a hard time with my diagnosis and with the idea of taking medication which I felt just compounded the situation. I talk a bit more about mental illness & me in other posts.

One of the things I failed to notice at the time and honestly so did everyone else around me, was that I was still not taking the medication properly. I didn’t think much if I missed a day here or there. There were days I just didn’t feel like taking it. I would start taking them, have some bad side effects and then stop taking them for a few days or weeks and then I would try again. This was the worst thing I could have done. I can’t say that I wasn’t warned because I was, in passing, by both the psychologist and pharmacist but no real emphasis was put on what this would do to me, to my mind, to my body. So I continued on taking them whenever I remembered or felt like it. I wondered why I felt so horrible. I wondered why I had continued thoughts of suicide. I wondered why I felt so down and felt like it was absolutely impossible to function day in, day out. Again I started hating the medication, hating the stigma of being on them because misguidedly I felt like people knew I was on them because of the side effect like falling asleep at work. I swore to myself again that I would never ever go back on them.

Fast forward another 5 or 6 years and once again I am back on them after losing my job and having a car accident. This time around however has been completely different. After talking with my new psychologist who is wonderful, we both agree that I am now ready to face the truth, willing to admit that I needed help and that I was struggling. With help from her, my husband, and my parents, they helped me realize the truth, that taking medication is not failure, instead, it is success. I am now willing and able to keep track of my medication, to use an app to ensure I don’t forget them. I have my husband to remind me as well, but I am learning to take control myself. The road ahead may not be easy. I may have setbacks. I may even feel again that I’m failing but the truth of it is, is that I am not failing. I am succeeding.

I am taking control of my life in a way I have never done before or only ever attempted at. I am accepting therapy in person (well, via zoom at the moment), I am doing the homework I am given. I am taking the medication, Cymbalta this time around. Beyond the initial side effects the first 2-3 weeks I am tolerating the medication rather well. I am feeling better. I am feeling hopeful. I feel refreshed. I am taking them on time and every day. I think I have only missed one day in about 6 months, which really didn’t affect me because I am taking them properly. This has made such a huge difference in my mood, my attitude and how I am processing things.

I still have a ways to go, but another difference this time is I am coming up with my own goals, my own things to work on and accomplish rather than waiting for other people to suggest things in my absence of being able to. In therapy when she suggests setting goals I come up with a lot of them myself. I participate and give suggestions on what I want to work on and how I want to improve my mental health and tackle my anxiety. All of these things make, for me, going back on medication a success. Do I still hope one day to get off them? Of course, I do. However, I no longer look at being on them as a failure, as being a necessary evil but instead as a tool to help me be the best me I can be. If I am able to come off of them again sometime in the future then great, and if not, that’s perfectly fine too.

My success is measured by who I am as a person and how I treat others and not whether or not I am on medications for mental health issues. I am so much more then that

I feel like I’ve lost all control

This is not necessarily only about diabetes but my depression and anxiety too, that being said diabetes is such a frustrating disease! Just when you feel like you are getting somewhere and you are proud of yourself something happens and it all goes to shit. I’d like to blame being at home but really I can’t, that should be one of the times I have more control, not less. I’d like to say I am eating the same things as I was when I was out working but again I can’t, I’m not. I do eat a lot of the same things. But now I have free access to everything in the fridge and the cupboards and though sometimes I am not even hungry other times I feel constantly hungry. It’s a little hard to explain, to be honest. I think honestly it’s more mental than physical.

Since childhood, I’ve always just been a creature of habit. I get into habits easily. Even if it makes no sense. I don’t get great pleasure out of food usually. I’m not huge on tastes or textures, in fact, a lot of textures turn me off. I’m sensitive to smell. I won’t eat certain food just because of the smell. When I was little I survived on Kraft dinner and bread and water. I would not eat anything else. It wasn’t until I was in my teens that I even tried pizza and then I would only eat cheese and pepperoni. I got used to some of the dishes my parents made in my pre-teens and teens such as spaghetti, sheppard’s pie, tacos, scalloped potatoes, and ham or bologna but I was very limited. No matter how much they tried I would not eat anything else.

In my teens, I started trying other things, got hooked on Pepsi and root beer, pizza, chicken nuggets, fries, and other things. Typical teen things. Again though, I would not try anything else. If my parents got Chinese I would eat plain steamed rice and soya sauce. Eventually, I took a liking to ginger beef but even now that’s the only Chinese takeout food I will eat.  I can’t handle spicy. I started eating stew in my 20’s and fajitas. Everything though I liked rather plain. I was never a fan of sauces, spices, or anything like that. Imagine eating spaghetti with nothing but margarine and maybe a little sprinkled parmesan? Or a hamburger with nothing on it. Eventually, I started adding bacon (my go-to now) but otherwise, I wouldn’t eat much. Even veggies it was simply corn, carrots, or cucumber. Greens I would only eat romaine or head lettuce. Fruits it was apples, oranges. Berries it was simply strawberry or raspberries.

Over the last few years, I have really opened up my tastes and started trying things I wouldn’t even consider before.  I had started eating more veggies and trying new ones, same with fruits and greens. I started liking more varieties of stuff and was getting more adventurous. I have never been much of a cook but Edward likes cooking. I do know how. It’s not that. I even know a lot of the recipes my parents used off by heart but I would walk him through it rather than doing it myself. I guess I had no confidence in myself and still don’t. Sometimes I think it has to do with depression and anxiety as well though. The anxiety makes it so I get overwhelmed, frustrated, and then anxious really easily. I see this a lot with every day things like cooking, cleaning, and other household chores. I also don’t like going into the grocery store alone. The selection intimidates me. Trying to turn recipes or meal ideas into a grocery list overwhelms me.

Anyway, I had been doing really good with drinking more water, only diet pop occasionally and cutting back on sweets, eating veggies and fruits and we were making (well, Eddie really) meals up ahead of time so we had leftovers and using my freestyle libra I was getting decent results with my blood sugar. Now I just seem to have lost all control. I eat what I like when I like again. I drink more diet pop or even sometimes regular rather than water. We don’t make meals up ahead of time much anymore. We don’t by veggies or fresh meat much. I guess some of that can be blamed on supply which is a little rough right now but I know that even with exercise and eating semi-decent foods I can get my sugars back under control.

Mentally though I am having a hard time rallying myself and getting things back under control. I feel a bit lost actually. In so many ways. Some of it has to do with things going on right now all around the world but it started way before this. It started about the time I stopped working. It was such a big setback to me at the time and I still haven’t quite got over it. I have things that I feel like I should be able to do easily that seem such a big struggle, like cleaning and cooking. I’ve never been big on either but I did it out of necessity. Maybe having someone else around is fostering laziness in me that was already there? Not sure.

One thing I was really proud of this past month was the fact that I lost 20lbs, but looking back on it I realized that I was kind of cheating myself because I did not lose it due to good control, healthier eating, exercising, etc., instead, I lost it because I was extremely sick at the beginning of the month (again). I didn’t want to eat anything, I wasn’t eating anything, I had constant bouts of diarrhea and slept 20 hours a day or more with whatever it was that I got. Add antibiotics to that which caused more issues and it was easy to lose 20lbs in about 3 weeks. In less then a week I have gained 5 back. So yeah, I really can’t take credit for that. One good thing though is the 20lbs lost made a big difference in my pain. So I need to grab onto that, grab onto the way it made me feel good and work on losing more, getting healthier both physically and mentally, and really concentrating on school so that this is not another missed opportunity.

Speaking of that, I have school starting in a month. I registered my courses and have my list of courses for the semester. I got my school email account all set up. I’ve been doing some prep work to ensure I don’t get stuck or lost in my courses, but not as much as I would have liked. I’ve stalled there a bit too, which scares me. I feel like my biggest issue right now is my loss of control on so many aspects of my life. So many good things, but so many bad things. Even the good are daunting and cause me anxiety. Normal, I know, even for someone without depression or anxiety. The difference is they learn to cope. At the moment I don’t feel I am. Thankfully I have a Zoom appointment with my psychologist this week on Thursday.

She is really great. She encourages my blogging and encourages me to get out and try new things and explore. I have never felt in the past that therapy has helped me much and always had rather bad experiences with it. She’s different though. I feel like I’m making breakthroughs with her. My husband and family back me up on things as well. They are super supportive. My husband sometimes though gives in because he doesn’t want to hurt my feelings or he just wants to make me happy and sometimes pushing me to eat healthily and not eat things I want feels to him like he is being mean, at the same time though he understands my health is in jeopardy so I think he struggles as well with that balance as well.

I know I will get through this, if nothing else I a stubborn as fuck. Even if I sometimes give in when the going gets tough I pick myself back up, tell myself no, I can not give in and I try again, even if it takes a while to get to that conclusion (umm… like 20 years for school, but who’s counting anyway). Again, I know I will get through this. I have support both professionally and through friends and family some of who have always been there and others who are newer but super supportive. I’ve just got to keep pushing myself outside my comfort zone and never give up and on that note, it applies to my diabetes as well. I can’t give up. If I make a mistake I need to just get up, dust off, and try again. Really use the CGM to watch for trends, watch how certain foods affect me, and find suitable alternatives that I still like and satisfy any cravings I have.

I so badly want to get everything under control. I feel better obviously when my blood sugar is in my goal range (5-10 mmol/l) and I know that the complications can be really bad if I don’t regain and keep control. I have seen it in my father and my grandmother. My mom too to a point. She’s a little better at controlling hers than my Dad and I though (yes, my mom, dad, and I are all type 2 and so was dad’s mom). It can be frustrating but at the same time, it can be interesting too. I know being able to cook and bake would be beneficial here because I can learn to change recipes to suit my needs (ie. no sugar, low carb, etc) but still satisfy my sweet tooth and still make me feel like I am not sacrificing. I just have to get better at it. Really push myself, the problem is there is so much I need to change, so much I need to improve or learn that it again seems so daunting. I am not giving up though. Never. I will always keep trying.

Nova Scotia Strong

Sunday April 19th, 2020 will be a day forever etched in my memory. A day I will never fully get over. I have not felt much like posting anything the last few days, too much shock, too much heartbreak, too many unanswered questions. Honestly, it took me till last night to really fully process everything that happened Saturday night and into Sunday in my lovely little Province on the East Coast of Canada. The cartoon above contains 18 pairs of shoes and was done by Michael De Adder a local (Halifax) political cartoonist. The shoes represent 18 lives lost on Sunday which incidentally is now up to at least 22 maybe more in the northern part of mainland Nova Scotia at the hands of a mass murderer.

The shoes include those of a 17-year-old girl and her parents, a nurse, a continuing care worker, 2 parents killed in front of their small boys (I believe they were the correctional officers), a beloved Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer and a pregnant mother who had not yet even had the time to tell her family, among multiple other people that shattered a small Nova Scotia town and spread to other locations before the police eventually caught and killed him in Enfield, Nova Scotia. I will not mention his name. He doesn’t deserve the recognition.

I am not going to go into detail. It’s too horrible, to be honest, and it is all over the news anyways, a simple google search will bring it up. You’ve probably already heard something about it pretty much regardless of where you live by now. But it was senseless and heartless and watching it unfold and knowing he was still at large Sunday morning was heartbreaking and terrifying at the same time.

I do have family close to where he was but he was also on the move dressed as an RCMP officer for some of it and in a mock RCMP car so it was hard to know what was going on. Nothing came out over the Emergency Response System just a tweet from the RCMP. It’s just beyond words. Beyond comprehension. Beyond anything, I have ever experienced in my life and I was not even all the close to where it was happening at the time. With all the locations (16 active crime scenes) it will take a while for them to gather more info and there may be more bodies we are being told. I just don’t understand it. I can’t wrap my head around what would cause someone to lose it like that or the hatred that must have been there as there was planning to a point it seems.

The outpouring from people across Canada, the US and the World has been amazing and healing. I hope that eventually, we will get answers, and most importantly that the families will get some peace one day, but how do you? How do you get closure or understanding from something like this? They will though. Nova Scotians are strong. We will stop looking around the corner in fear one day. We will rise up again. We are a family and we stick together.