The truth is, I have been contemplating the creation of such a place as this blog for quite some time. I have even started one or two only to delete the whole thing after spending hours bringing it to life. I’ve always been afraid; of what I am not exactly sure. Most likely of somebody I love reading it and misunderstanding it’s contents. I guess I wanted to create a place where I could say what was really going through my head, not just an edited and acceptable version of the truth. I have another blog on blogspot that is exactly what I just described. An edited and polished version of reality complete with updates on the family and cute pictures of my kids. But I can never say what’s really going on inside my head. So here we go.
To start off I shall begin at the beginning. Wow…that sounded very theatrical, didn’t it? Anyway, I am 36 years old, a wife for 16 years and a mother for 14. Some people look at me and think I am a great wife and mother. I have worked pretty hard for the past 16 years to keep up that appearance. The truth is, on the inside I am not. All my life I have done what other people have expected me to do, rarely making a decision for myself. Now here I am in my mid thirties and already having a midlife crisis. I have been to the edge of sanity and back again and I find myself wondering – what would happen if I could start over? My happily-ever-after hasn’t quite turned out how I thought it would.
As far as I can remember, the worst part of my journey started right after my youngest was born, just over three years ago. Well, I guess it really started with the depression and the horrible mood swings I suffered from as a teenager and young adult. The next big event was being diagnosed with post-partum depression after the birth of my oldest. With all of my subsequent children I have had post-partum depression and have taken medication for it. Each time I had a baby, the severity of the depression multiplied. So after my daughter was born the doctor put me right on Wellbutrin, a medication I had taken before and seemed to tolerate well. Two weeks later I started to have these weird pulsing headaches that got continually worse. After about 24 hours, the headache was so bad I couldn’t bear the pain any more. I told my husband that something wasn’t right and I needed to see a doctor. I cried and couldn’t even speak through the pain. And that was coming from me, a person who had been through two natural childbirths. I guess that’s not a good comparison because it was a different sort of pain. But the point is that I am not inexperienced with pain. So we went to the hospital where the doctors did CAT scans and spinal taps to try and figure out what was going on. I was on a steady dose of morphine that only dulled the pain a little, but I was grateful for what small relief I could get. 12 hours later I was back at home with this cryptic diagnosis: cluster headache. What does that mean anyway? I slept for another 12 hours and woke up feeling much improved. That’s when I remembered that I had missed a dose of the Wellbutrin and was late for another. So I popped my little pill and went back to life. Two hours later, the headache was back. Coincidence? I didn’t think so. I stopped taking the medication and called my doctor to tell him my suspicions. He told me that even though he didn’t think the Wellbutrin was responsible, he would give me a different medication. I chose not to take it and take my chances instead. Looking back, it wasn’t a wise decision, but given that I had just gone through childbirth, was running on no sleep and I had just had a pretty painful scare, I can understand my actions. 6 months later I found myself sobbing to my husband about how empty and hopeless I felt and decided to finally see an actual psychiatrist for this depression.
Dr. B wasn’t the best of choices. But how does one actually find a good psychiatrist? It’s not like I was going to ask my friends and neighbors, like I would if I were looking for, say, a hair dresser. “Hey, Suzie, I heard you have gone the rounds with mental illness and I was wondering if you know of any good shrinks?” Ya, OK. So I had to pick my psychiatrist by calling a number in my health insurance provider list, then spend 45 minutes on the phone answering some very personal questions with some college kid who was getting paid minimum wage to pick up phones and screen would-be candidates for mental health care. Which is ironic because the insurance only pays a small portion of mental health bills anyway, so the whole process was a complete waste of time. Anyway, I saw Dr. B faithfully, every 2 months for 2 years. I tried new medication after new medication and subsequently became addicted to benzodiazepines. Nothing changed, except that my crippling anxiety was under control thanks to those lovely, but highly addictive medications. But no anti-depressant could control the depression that continued to grow uncontrollably. Once in a while I would have periods where I felt great. I had energy, I loved life, I would start 5 new projects a day and complete nothing. But it wouldn’t last. Following these good times would come another free fall into the abyss. I got lower and lower. After years of waiting, my husband was finally accepted into nursing school. We decided that he would quit his full time job and I would increase my hours at my job as a pharmacy technician to full time. At that point I didn’t realize how sick I actually was and how this drastic change in lifestyle might affect me.
It was winter; the post holiday part. The skies were a depressing shade of gray and it just seemed to drag on hopelessly. I had been working full-time for 2 months, pulling 10 hour days at work while my husband struggled with a heavy load of homework and clinicals. My kids were basically fending for themselves and we were terrified. This was new ground for us. I hadn’t worked full-time since I was pregnant with my first baby and had surely never been the bread-winner for our family of 6. My job wasn’t going well either. Some of the women I worked with who rated high on the bitch scale were making life hell for me and pretty much everyone who breathed the same air that they did. Coupled with a substantial amount of pressure to perform well and a larger load of responsibility, I was not having a very good time of adjusting. I would come home from work exhausted and emotionally drained. I had nothing left for anybody else, but still had my duties as a wife and mother. More nights than I care to admit, the kids ate cereal for dinner. I would sleep every chance that I got. I would go to bed early, with the aid of prescription sleeping pills and a big dose of my anti-anxiety meds, and leave all the laundry, dishes and nightly homework help to be done another time. I stopped showering on a regular basis and considered using alcohol, something I had never done before. I stopped going to church with my family and isolated myself from my friends. Some nights I would wake up in the middle of the night and be terrified for no reason. Some times I would see images in my head–grotesque images of monsters and dark places. It scared me and I often felt like I was losing my mind. I started to dream about dying. I thought about how nice it would be if I just got in a terrible car accident, then I could escape these feelings of emptiness, hopelessness and darkness. I eventually moved on to more active thoughts of dying. If I killed myself, how would I do it? Where would I do it so that my kids and husband wouldn’t be the ones to find me? Every time I thought about this, it felt strangely liberating. It was painful, but it brought relief, kind of like scratching an itchy scab. The more I thought about dying, the more obsessed I became with it. I was sleeping every chance I could now, neglecting my 3 year old daughter when she was home with me. Luckily, I was at work most days so she didn’t get the brunt of my increasing loss of grip on reality. One day I went to work in the morning and by 10 a.m. I felt like I couldn’t take it anymore. I was so empty and tired. I didn’t just feel sad. Sad would have been nice compared to what I was experiencing. What I felt was no feeling at all. Just a desolate wasteland of despair. At my job at the pharmacy I work as a compounder and while I was making a set of diazepam capsules, I stared at the container of drug and thought of how much it might take of this highly concentrated powder to send me into oblivion. I knew that nobody would miss a little scoop of it since it was a fairly good size bottle. I even scooped several hundred milligrams of it out of the jar and set it aside–a substantial amount considering the usual dose is 5 to 10 milligrams. Twenty minutes later, the powder was back in the jar where it belonged, and I was asking my boss if I could go home.
That night I was checking into the psychiatric unit at the University Hospital, where I would spend the next 10 days of my life.