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.

Things my anxiety keeps me from doing

Anxiety and therapy

I’ve been in therapy for about a month now and I am finding it really beneficial. I might write a bit more about therapy later however I wanted to do a post on something that my psychologist asked me to do the other day. I was mentioning to her that I have found over the last few years, and especially recently that my anxiety feels like a roadblock or mountain sometimes when it comes to doing certain things that either I used to love doing or that I want to try. We talked about it for a while and she asked me to make a list to bring in for my next session of things that my anxiety has either prevented me from doing or stopped me from trying and I thought it was a great idea and would also make a good blog post as well.

She knows I blog, its something I told her right up front on our first session and she was really happy to hear that I blog and she mentioned in the last session as well that she thought it would be a good idea if I wanted to post it on my blog so I can keep a record of the things as I mentioned I am at a point right now where I really want to push through some of these fears and anxieties and give these things a try again or for the first time. We both figured it would be something very therapeutic for me to not only blog the list but also blog each step of tackling the list and the results so that in years to come I can reflect back on it if needed.

I had mentioned to her about going back through some of my old posts from some of my darker times and reading them and some of the posts since then to see how far I’ve come along over the years as well as remind myself that if I have been able to overcome all this before and live a life almost without depression or anxiety for a number of years that it is possible that I might be able to get to that point again with or without medications and give me a goal to look forward to and achieve.

1. Returning to school

One of the first things I would like to tackle and actually already am in the process of doing before even deciding to make this list, but that I am going to include is going back to school. It’s something I have wanted to do for a long long time. Before Eddie and I even got together. I have been wanting to do it so bad but I have been so anxious about the application process, funding and mostly the work itself and how I would be able to handle it, that I have literally been sitting on this for over 10 years letting it fester and annoy and confuse me. Everything that happened over this past 2 months has actually been a mixed blessing in disguise and has pushed me outside my comfort zone so much that making the decision and starting the process to act on it has been almost easy

I am applying as soon as my tax return money comes in, which I filed tonight. I’ve had a bit of an issue saving up the money but then earlier today I filed our taxes and realized I will have enough to apply from it. I netfiled our taxes so we should have the money direct deposited within two weeks. My EI for the last few months has been approved as well and backdated so that should help out. I am still having a lot of anxiety over the process of applying for the student loan/line of credit and also with doing some of the other things I need to do before I apply and have been putting them off. I need to update my name on my Alberta student ID account and Revenue Canada. So these things have been getting in the way some but I am determined to get them done before the end of the week. Goals.

2. Going skiing again

I have loved skiing ever since I was about 5. We used to go all the time in Europe and in Calgary when we lived there. I have also gone here as we have a ski hill about an hour away. I so badly wanted to go this year and though finances have been a big reason for not going and time to go as well has been an obstacle I think if I am absolutely honest with myself the biggest hurdle for me has been anxiety. Mostly about the shape my body is in, and by that, I don’t mean my size. I am not worried about that what I am referring to is the pain I am always in and the fact I get hurt fairly easily.

I missed my chance this year but I want to use the summer to get into a bit better shape, again not meaning losing weight so much as just building up my strength and endurance. Losing weight would just be an added bonus at this point as I have already lost some. One of the things that terrifies me the most about skiing is falling. I remember some of the falls and just getting up and shaking it off and I am scared that I won’t be able to do that now. What if I break something or end up back on crutches again? The hip injury I had the summer before last weighs heavily on my mind and makes me anxious. I think I am scared more over the fact that I will go and not be able to do it then not trying at all. I just don’t want that type of anxiety and fear to stop me from doing the things I love or trying new things.

3. Go river tubing

One thing I have always wanted to do but have always been really anxious about doing is going tubing on the Gaspereau River. We planned it last summer but because of my anxiety we never ended up going. I love the water. I love swimming and am not scared of the water and actually I kind of technically have gone tubing this past September on the Annapolis River but not really in the way that I mean. Tubing on the Gaspereau river you actually tube down the river on the tube quite a ways. What makes me anxious the most is the same thing I really had to overcome this past fall and really didn’t resulting in a kind of hilarious fail which I am now anxious about repeating

I am absolutely terrified of spiders and this fall I participated in a community race at Ciderfest in Bridgetown where we got into tubes off of a dock in the river and then using oars had to use them to get across the river to the other side, around a buoy and back to the dock. My anxiety at doing this is so high because the docks are full of dock spiders which are huge typically and the spiders tend to crawl all over the tubes. I managed to do it and get on and go all the way around the buoy and back (in last place) but not before trying to avoid the edge of the dock and jump on the tube, which resulted in me bouncing off it and landing in the frigid water in my clothes (it was the middle of September, a rather cold one at that).

Tubing the Gaspereau would be different and I am not really sure where we would get on the tubes and if there would be lots of spiders, but it still makes me so anxious just thinking about it, however, I can’t get it out of my mind and want to do it so bad. I am a bit scared and anxious about the water as well, I am told it is gentle but very murky and muddy which the Annapolis River was as well and I didn’t like that part much. I am absolutely determined I am going to do it.

4. Horseback riding

I used to horseback ride when I was younger and we lived in Germany and I enjoyed being around horses when we lived in Calgary though I didn’t ride as much, mostly just going to horse shows at Spruce Meadows. I really have been wanting to go horseback riding again. I would love to go on a trail ride. As much as it is something I really want to do anxiety (and weight) has kept me from doing it. Again it comes back to being anxious about failing, about not being able to get onto the horse or even worse falling off it Even though I am so much bigger (as in from a child to adult) then I was when I was a kid for some reason now horses seem so much bigger to me now then they did then. I am also anxious about getting kicked or hurt or stepped on. I am not sure my exact weight right now but I will have to look into finding places around to ride and see what their weight limit is and set it as a goal over the summer and maybe try and go riding in the fall.

5. Mud sliding

One thing Nova Scotia is known for is our tides and our sense of adventure and fun. Ever since I can remember, ever since I was a kid visiting here from other places, I have always wanted to go mud sliding. One of the best places to go is the Shubenacadie River. The tidal bores are pretty unique and when the tide goes out the muddy river banks make perfect places to go mud sliding. This is something I really want to do but at the same time, it really fills me with anxiety for a few reasons. The first one’s kind of dumb but basically I am anxious about ruining my clothes, the mud stains. Just wear old clothes right? Easy enough, except it still fills me with anxiety, I have no idea why. Secondly and a bit more of an actual problem is unless you do a full zodiak tidal bore tour and mud slide with them then really you have no access to a shower and well you need a car to get there and I have a brand new car (2019) and my anxiety goes through the roof when I think of all the mud in my car.

Obviously even someone without anxiety would feel the same but there is more to it than just the car and clothes. I am anxious about the tides even though I know you have to time it right and it’s not actually an issue but in my mind it is. I also am anxious about sliding down the bank and into a river that I might not know how deep it is or how fast-flowing, etc. Again, it’s not really an issue because you would not just go anywhere. You would go in certain places where everyone goes and you likely would not be alone as on a hot day the place would have tons of people, which for me causes some anxiety in itself. The whole bathing suit in public thing. Last year couldn’t care less but lately, I am getting more and more self-conscious at the idea which is weird because I never used to be.

No matter what I am determined that I am going to accomplish these things over the next year or two. I really feel like the only way to overcome the anxiety and fears is to confront it head-on and jump in feet first, carefully and safely obviously but still, just do it. Now, I’m at risk of sounding like a Nike commercial

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