I noticed that many people used the month of November for giving thanks to the things in their life. A person battling any type of mental health issue is thankful for the strength to just get out of bed each day.
On that note, I am using the month of December for a time of reflection on the daily blessings. These are the daily things that I have recognized as my joy; happy moments that I cherish. Consider this my journal for this month. On my blog site www.reflectionswithrhonda.com , I wrote about my experience with Lupus and mental health issues. My psychotherapist suggested I keep a journal on the moments of joy so that feeling can be recreated.
Journal Entry: December 8, 2012
Today was a super relaxing day - intentionally. I slept on and off until the afternoon. I didn't do it out of depression, but to recharge my batteries. I focused on my breathing, relaxation and stretching exercises.
All week long I try to keep my brain active and work it to the point of exhaustion. I try to stay focus so I do not have the opportunity to open myself to voices, the feeling of a stare or a presence standing by me. By the endof the week I have worked myself to an exhaustion and take Saturdays to regenerate; a healing sleep is what I call it.
Once up I checked my email and noted I had a comment from a reader of Cherished Moments. The person pretty much attempted to reprimand me for revealing so much of my personal life, as if I should be ashamed. I am not ashamed of my life or the battle I am fighting. I am reaching out to others that may be experiencing the same thing, or others that may not have recognize symptoms in themselves.
My personal opinion: Many people are left untreated for mental health issues which open the door for suicide and homicide. If they are able to recognize their symptoms, or their family/friends notice there is something going on, these people may have been able to get help before they went over the edge.
I know not everyone follows my blog www.reflectionswithrhonda.com so they are unaware of why I started writing. I briefly went over it in my article Holidays and Depression. Mental health issues are not a sudden breakdown, suicide or homicide. There are symptoms that are slowly developed over time. My awesome support team caught my mental health issues, I didn't. So I am going to explain my journey in order to help others recognize it in theirselves or family, friends, coworkers to recognize it in someone they know.
After a lot of reflection I noted where the mental health issues became recognizable; although I may have had brief moments my entire life. I am not going to go into my entire life story or moments that may have affected my life. However, I will touch on events that I now recognize as the development which led to my journey of recovery.
- In February 2011, I took the kids on a wonderful 3 day Bahama cruise. The whole time was fun for everyone. I enjoyed the relaxation, sunbathing, food, and comedy shows. However, I did not participate in the casinos, nightclubs, or events. It was as if my body enjoyed the rest and the beautiful weather.
- On the day we returned I woke up with a rash from neck to ankles. I chalked it up to something I may have eaten or too much sun the day before. I took a week for the rash to dissipate.
- We returned on the day the Twin Cities was experiencing a snowstorm and all the flights were delayed; we spent six hours in the airport waiting for our connecting flight home; we arrived at the Minneapolis airport at 1:00am. Being the work alcholic that I am, the idea of not getting to work the next day really bothered me; do not like things that I cannot control. So, on very little sleep the boys went to school and I went to work. My manager was shocked that I even came in; she was apprised of our ordeal.
- That Friday I had a flat tire which really irritated me because I would be late for work. The following Friday my car was dead due to the interior and parking lights stayed on; have no idea why they were on as the lights were turned to the off position.
- Over the month my sinuses turned really bad; chalked it up to coming from the beautiful tropical weather to the artic weather. I seent he doctor on several occasion because it turned into a sinus infection that would not go away. Finally got a prescription for Singular which appeared to help.
- The second month I started getting Lupus-like lesions throughout my scalp and on parts of my body. I was not happen as I thought I was now getting a Lupus Flare which I haven't had in 9 years.
- The third month my body ached so bad; there were days I couldn't get out of my bed or my feet were so sore that I could not walk. I even started losing feeling down my arms. I was prescribed Prednisone to assist with the inflammation I was experiencing.
- After many trips to the doctor, loss of work, seeing specialist and blood work my doctor said she didn't believe my symptoms were pertaining to a Lupus flare. My ANA levels weren't high enough to cause this many issues. She said that sometimes the brain manifests symptoms of illness due to stress. I was floored, my brain is actually causing this much discomfort? She suggested a low dosage of Lexapro. I was opened to anything that would help me feel better. I was miserable and sick of being sick.
- By June 2011 the dosage wasn't strong enough. I was easily agitated, argumentive and just plain irritable and battled exhaustion. The doctor increased my dosage. In October, I started having to take a nap from the time I got home from work until 7pm to go to the gym with the kids. Eventually I just stopped waking up from my nap and stopped going to the gym. My son didn't understand and it apparently bothered him and didn't say anything about it until he got angry.
- Thanksgiving weekend 2011 my son and I went to Famous Daves for Thanksgiving Dinner, the thought of preparing a meal and having a lot of people over was just overwhelming. Mario had went to Chicago to visit his family that weekend, it was James and I, and I had to work the day after. So it just made sense to go out to eat. That Saturday, I was feeling moody and spent some time alone in my room. James asked to stay at his dad's since I wasn't fun to be around anyway. The thought of him actually wanting to go to his dad's set me off; I was angry, but took him anyways. I came home and started cleaning the house with a vengeance. Had several argumentive conversations with Mario on the phone. The next thing I know I am on the kitchen floor crying my eyes out. My only companion was our dog, Taz. He was so confused and refused to leave my side. He even licked my tears. Mario was really concerned because I couldn't even speak on the phone. My son called and asked me to pick him up from his dad's house because they were over there drinking. I refused because I was so mad about him wanting to go in the first place. my oldest son went to get him. Per Mario's advice I took a hot bath, went to bed and watched a movie. The next thing he was walking through the door. During my six hour ordeal he was breaking every speed limit to get home because he was worried. He confided that he almost called the police to check on me.
Yes, it was that serious. If I was not a strong person who knows if I would have been capable of suicide. It was terrifying to not have control of your feelings and thoughts. I don't believe in suicide, and that may what have saved me that day. Anyone else may have took their life. I certainly was not prepared, nor ever thought anything like this would strike me.
- The following day I called Health Partners for a referral for a psychiatrist. Unfortunately there wasn't an opening until January 6, 2012. the woman from Health Partners said to call my primary care doctor and explain what was going so that we could begin treating mental health issues with medication.
- As soon as Monday hit, I called my doctor and got in right away. She prescribed a generic Effexor to help. That is when I joined the D.I.A.M.O.N.D. program and started on my path to recovery.
- The Effexor appeared to help. However, after a few months I started feeling sleepy or had nights where I couldn't sleep; no happy medium. And, I began hearing voices; normally it was little kids in the hallway or a man's voice on the otherside of our bedroom. I learned that when people suffer from mental health issues they tend to either hear voices, feel like someone is falling them, see visions, or being touched. The doctor prescribed a higher dosage. I was feeling pretty good except the voices continued.
- My family really enjoyed being around me since my mood had improved. Unfortunately not enough since I was still isolating myself from events. Each time a party was planned or something to do with my friends, I would have a panic attack before getting ready to go and pulled no shows. Eventually I started to decline invitations. Eventually my friends stopped asking me to do things and I started expecting on Mario and my kids to fill my time.
- January 2012, my son came to me and said he would like to speak with someone. He wouldn't explain to me what was going on, but I did what he asked. Apparently he had some issues and felt the need to speak with someone. Almost two weeks later, on his 15th birthday, he snapped and had a moment of rage. It was so bad we had to call the police. We were getting ready to go to Buffalo Wild Wings for his birthday and I asked him about his math class; had gotten an email about missing assignments. He started getting really defensive, then angry, punching walls, broke a mirror, etc. I had to have Mario restrain him. When the police came and handcuffed he started screaming for his brother; long story short, his brother was in custody. the police transported him to Children's Hospital Behavioral Health. He had broke his hand from punching the wall, his toxic screening was negative to drugs, and the beds at Fairview Behavioral Health were full. Here my own son was struggling with Adjustment Disorder and Stress Anxiety and I didn't even know it until he finally snapped. He continued to see his therapist to control his rage, but wasn't being cooperative with other issues recommended. James refused to see him anymore. I did not feel forcing him would be helpful.
- That May my eyes were opened to the fact that my son had started self-medicating. I immediately brought him to the Anthony Lewis Program which was a program recommended by the school and would still get school credit. In the interim we focused on getting him off marijuana and alcohol and diagnosed with ADHD and properly medicated.
- June 2012, my psychotherapist advised me to spend time with my friends. Start off with little things like movies, dinner, etc. Pretty much she was telling me it was time to join the land of the living. I did as she said, but found myself present physically yet not mentally engaged. I did not find much enjoyment with group settings.
- Daily activites such as cleaning the house and doing laundry became too hard for me to do. I would freak out if I saw my kitchen was messy or the bed not made. Mario actually hired someone to come clean and even cook to help ease the burden.
- While struggling with controlling my emotions, I would go into rages. Unfortunately the person that caught the brunt of it was Mr. Man. I was physically violent to him. My psychotherapist reprimanded me and said the behavior was not normal. This was something we had to work on. I read an article of a woman that stabbed her boyfriend in the neck with a pair of scissors. She was obviously struggling with mental health issues. I know this because I often envisioned doing the same to Mario. I have learned to control my actions and have not acted on this impulse.
- In August 2012 I had seen an image in the corner of the room; thus the story, Premonition. I started as a swirling ball of smoke and formed into a face. I was not scared and even drew the picture of what I had seen. Again, I researched to figure out what it was; it wasn't a dream, I was wide awake. The only things I could come up with is a demon or messenger. Since I was not scared I ruled out a demon. I would like to think it was a messenger because a few days later I was struck with another breakdown. It was August 5, 2011; and I couldn't keep myself from crying. Not because it was the 11th year anniversary of my father's death, but because I was worried about my oldest son. I called him all night long to check on him. He kept assuring me he was OK. However at 11pm on his birthday, August 6th he was put into custody in the state of Texas. On top of that I had issues with my youngest son. I broke down; didn't sleep for days, didn't go to work, and I cried all the time. My doctor switched my medication to Celexa.
- The Celexa worked so much better than the Effoxor. I almost felt 100%. I started enjoying time with my friends, grandkids, etc. I had energy even. The out of the blue at the end of October I snapped. I was walking into a room and stopped because I thought I had heard something. All of a sudden I heard a man's deep voice next to me on my left side. I was so terrified I can't even remember what was said to me. I took a medical leave from work.
- The issues increased. Not only was I hearing voices, but I was woke up with the feeling of someone rubbing my head and telling to wake up. I wasn't scared. I was confused wondering why I was being woke up at 1am in the morning. I got up, walked the whole house, and waited for one hour for a sign. Nothing happened so I went back to bed. The next night I was dreaming that I was being dragged by my legs, I was scared and woke up to my legs falling back onto the bed. For two weeks straight I felt a heavy stare on my left side and back of my head. The only time I would leave the house was to take the kids to school or go to the grocery store. Panic attacks would strike me every time I got behind the wheel of the car. I was easily startled by cars passing me on the freeway.
- The doctor increased the dosage of Celexa and referred me to a psychiatrist to explore a different class of medication. During my leave I simplified my life. I started the "Juicing Experience", planted an indoor garden, worked on my family tree, focused on cleaning the house. In preparing to return to work, I cut back on the naps and left the house for longer period of times. After one month at home, I started going to work half days and slowly returned to full days.
- I am still not 100% better, but at least I know I am on the right path. I know that by finding enjoyment in life, diet, exercise and me time are very important to my path.
My mental health issues did not happen overnight, but slowly developed over time and I suppose it may be different for everyone, but there are still signs.
It may not be you, but someone close to you that may be experiencing symptoms and not even realize. If you notice a loved one slowly withdrawing from their normal routine, easily agitated, suffering from constant exhaustion or a co-worker suddenly missing a lot of days of work, it may be a sign of mental health issues. Recognizing it early on could save a life.
I am thankful for the use of my limbs, vision and do not have to live in a wheelchair. The signs of Lupus or Mental Health are not visible, nor can you see how much suffering they endure. Daily tasks become a chore and overwhelming. It is frightening not to have control of your moods. And, it is hard to explain to someone that has not experienced it.
If it wasn't for a wonderful doctor, I may not have been properly diagnosed and received treatment. Who knows where I would be at this time if it wasn't for my support group. If I can open the eyes of others, or share my experiences to those that are diagnosed then I have made an accomplishment. You are not alone and it is more common than you think.
Mental Health issues are not something to be ashamed of so why should I hide it? It was explained to me that the brain experiences a chemical imbalance which can be treated with medication. By seeing a therapist they can help you figure out you; what your life experiences did you have which trigger these moods; how to manage them. Yes, I may have to be on medication for the rest of my life. I am OK with that. Just as long as I am able to live my life to the fullest and enjoy my time at work. I am not going to hide in the shadows and get lost in the voices. Hopefully others will find their way back to the land of the living.
This is why I can discuss my struggle publicly. I am willing to open up a part of myself and share in order to help others. It also helps me at the same time.