I am neglected.
I’m the product of parents who didn’t know how to fulfill my emotional needs.
I alternate between believing both that “my parents gave me everything; I had a happy childhood; I don’t have any reason to be this messed up,” and “my parents emotionally neglected me; I had an awful childhood; no wonder I am this messed up.“
I fantasize about being in the hospital because that seems like the ultimate (and only) way that people might finally see me and care about me. Logically, I know that it’s not true, but my emotional brain is convinced that being sick or hurt is the way to get the love, attention, and care that is not present in my daily life.
I am ashamed.
I’m a 22-year old who is still desperately attached to my mangled childhood stuffed animal, Lambie.
I surreptitiously, but uncontrollably, pull out my own hair. I know have trichotillomania (and dermotillomania while we’re at it), but it’s one of my most shameful “secrets.”
I eat spoonsful of Nutella straight from the jar, and sometimes that will be the only thing I eat for the majority of the day.
I am depressed.
I am pained getting out of bed in the morning. It’s hard to relate to people who casually say, “Yeah, I didn’t want to get up this morning,” but may not understand the gravity of depression. It hurts to the bone.
I have trouble taking my daily antidepressants because a hidden part of me doesn’t believe I’m worthy of feeling better.
I am obsessed with filling my brain with as much information about mental illness as possible. And yet, no matter how much I read books, articles, and studies about eating disorders, depression, anxiety, or impulse-control disorders, I struggle to control my own mental health.
I have a hard time with “I’m depressed.” Maybe because I don’t believe that the real me is just buried under mental illness. It’s more like “I’m a person living with depression.” It has taken so much of my personality and soul out of me, but without depression, I am a lively, joyful girl.
I am taking care of myself (or I’m learning to).
I practically begged my parents to see a therapist, nutritionist, and psychiatrist, when I was only 15 years old. It certainly wasn’t easy, especially because we didn’t talk about anything “emotionally charged,” but I knew that it was a step I had to take in order to alleviate my pain.
I reach out to others when I need it most. Even though I isolate, too, I also know that in moments of desperation, I do instinctively ask for help and support from those I trust.
I treat myself to occasional manicures, special purchases (a dress, a pillow, some art supplies), and a lazy Sunday. As much as my brain tries to trick me into thinking that I am worthless and unlovable, I try to actively do things for myself that remind myself that I deserve care.
I am brave.
I share my story with very few people, but when I do, it is the most rewarding experience. Sharing real experiences and thoughts is how I create deep connections with people.
I moved to Denmark for my first job out of college. I don’t speak the language, I’ve never been away from home for more than four months, and I left my entire support network at home.
I am working full-force in therapy at facing the demons and insecurities I have hidden for years. I am taking charge of my life by learning to be vulnerable, accept my flaws, and love myself in spite of them, and find happiness for the first time in my life.
I’m really lonely.
Yet I’m married, have four amazing kids and a dog. Yet, I am so lonely that it sometimes feels like my chest will explode.
I used to have friends. I used to be the life of the party. I was always the one that did the crazy stunts or stayed up for two days drinking and having a good time. I used to have a great marriage, and the kids and I always had fun and went and explored.
But then I lost everything.
Money, cars, my house, my mobility, my health. I became disabled in September of 2005. I won’t go into all the boring details but let’s just say that I will be lucky to be able to walk in a few years, even if the rate of progression stays slow like it is now.
I lost almost every friend.
People I had always been there for. People I loved, loaned money to, made soup for when they were sick, gave a shoulder to cry on, etc. Yet, at a pretty steady pace, all these people no longer cared about me. I could no longer party, no longer stay up late, no longer hike or camp with them, no longer go on long car rides. So they replaced me or just stopped calling.
Yet I could have still had a glass of wine with them or played video or board games; shit man I even knit. Yet it wasn’t good enough. And like a fool, I called, emailed, texted and IM’d all of them all the time. No response. Instead, I torture myself by reading their Facebook posts. I see the pictures of them having fun and hanging out, hugging and laughing. I see them interacting and carrying on like I never existed. It hurts. It hurts so bad that I cry a few times a week as I look at the pictures and see the joy in their face.
But what about my wife you say?
My wife has since become a roommate. She has had a long term affair with another man and acted like it was no big deal when I found out. She is never home and leaves me here with the kids all day every day. She can go three or four days without saying more than a single word to me and the kids. I’ve been with her since I was 17 years old. I’m now 33. So that makes the heart hurt worse, the tears burn a bit more and the darkness just that little bit thicker.
The kids, four boys who I live and would die for, try and understand. They don’t, and I don’t want them to know it all. It would scare them. They don’t get why I can’t give them piggy back rides, wrestle with them or just sit on the floor and play. So they aren’t around much. They go to my mom’s house to play over there, go to their friends’ house, or sit in their rooms and play games on the computer. They see the pharmacy on my night stand and see me cry out in pain. They’ve seen me fall down and they’ve seen me in the hospital.
And that, my invisible internet friends? That makes it all hurt so much more than anything that’s ever been done to me.
I sit here day after day. I look out the same window and wonder what other people are doing. I wonder if my name ever comes up in conversation or if people see old pictures of me and ask what happened to me.
I wonder if I will ever have somebody to sit with and tell them how I feel? Someone I can cry to and explain my fears to. Someone I can laugh with, and for just a minute forget what my life has become. Someone who will hold my hand, or brush a stray hair from my cheek or maybe a rouge tear or two, or many.
I want to feel again. I want to smile and laugh. I want to feel wanted and appreciated and not cold and angry.
So, I sit here. I write these words. Maybe a person or two will read this. In the end though, none of my old friends will read this. None of them will realize how bad they’ve hurt me. My wife will never change, and it’s too late for that anyway. The divorce papers are sitting in my sock drawer, waiting to be signed.
I never would have thought that the final years of my cut-short life would be spent in such physical and emotional pain. I never knew that loneliness would seem like it’s killing me faster than any disease and disability could.
This is just me venting. This is a great way to express what I really feel, without having to keep it all bottled up. If I had to keep this bottled up, it would drive me down, it would pull me under. I can’t let that happen. I have to be able to find small joys in life, like singing to the kids, making fun of Jenny McCarthy, and just living life to the best of my ability!
I love this site and the writers on here. You all are amazing people, and Aunt Becky is my hero!
(ed note: I love you. I’m glad you wrote this out. We’re all here for you. xo, AB)
Depression and I have been dancing partners for more than a decade now. Sometimes it’s a slow waltz, sometimes a spinning reel, and sometimes I get to sit off to one side and take a nice relaxing break from my dark friend.
Over the years I’ve learned to observe my own triggers and put safety valves in place. For example, I go to therapy once a year, even if I’m not depressed, just to keep tabs on the way I’m feeling. As soon as I discovered I was pregnant in 2008, I knew I had to keep a watchful eye on myself. I was prepared – absolutely certain – that I would end up with postpartum depression, and I was terrified of feeling as low as I could go with a baby to look after. When I hit rock bottom, I can hardly care for myself. How was I supposed to look after this tiny new person as well?
So, I lined up a therapy session at 34 weeks of pregnancy, aiming to build myself a nice set of mental defenses against the coming storm.
I went to my first session, wanting to talk about my anxiety over going on maternity leave. I loved my job, and I didn’t know how I could stand to be at home all day every day with a baby. We talked about it. I cried a little.
No, I didn’t. I cried a lot. I cried so much that I couldn’t even talk. I just sat there on the couch, sobbing so hard that my unborn baby started squirming, and the psychologist had to go get a second box of tissues. I did that for a whole hour, all the while trying to gasp out explanations for my behaviour. Hormones, obviously. Stress. Fear of change, of the unknown. I knew all my triggers.
Later that night, I was at home when there was a knock at my front door. There was a lady standing there who I recognised, although she didn’t know me. She was the niece of a work colleague – and she was a drug addict who was mixed up in all kinds of bad things that I’d been hearing about for weeks at work. She asked me if I could give her a lift into town. Odd request from someone you don’t know and I blurted out the question, “What for?”
She informed me that she was out of her anti-psychotic medication, and if she didn’t get to the pharmacy as soon as possible she was going to end up really sick.
Yikes. I threw out the first excuse I could think of – I told her I was pregnant and tired, and I couldn’t do it.
Mistake. Her eyes shot to my belly, and she spent the next couple of minutes telling me how lucky I was, and how she wanted her own baby, and… And by that point, my other mental dance partner was knocking loudly on the door of my brain – anxiety. I got her to leave, to go ask a different random stranger for that lift, and then I stayed awake. All. Night.
Convinced, utterly convinced, that she was coming back with a knife, and she was going to try to take my child from me.
By the time my next therapy session came around a week later, I wasn’t just a bawling mess- I was a shaking, hysterical, terrified mess, convinced that some kind of evil was heading my way. No ifs or buts about it, something bad was going to happen – from this girl, random strangers, an accident – I was sure that either my baby or I was in trouble, and no amount of logic or reasoning could sway my reptilian brain centre from this fear response.
And at that point I realised that this time, my depression and my anxiety had snuck around that safety valve, and I was in the extremely intense grip of something they hadn’t talked about in any of my childbirth classes:
Before the baby arrives, you’re supposed to be the glowing mother-to-be, fondly looking forward to the arrival of your new little one, taking it easy, enjoying your last days of freedom. Sure, you might get depressed once you’re sleep deprived, struggling to breastfeed and awash with postpartum hormones, but before the birth – no, that’s all supposed to be sunshine and moonbeams.
I was ever so glad I’d gone to that first therapy session, because otherwise I would have been running up against all these feelings with a baby in my arms. Or not, as the case so happened – it turns out I wasn’t wrong about my dire predictions, and everything did in fact go horribly wrong. But by that stage, despite a crash c-section, my baby being airlifted away from me, a month in the NICU, I found myself able to handle some of the greatest stress I’ve ever experienced without breaking down. By that stage, I was seven weeks into my therapy course, taking antidepressants, and acknowledging my fears.
From the simplest (fear of being bored) to the most complex (fearing that I’d end up being too much like my own mother and would turn my daughter into just this kind of wreck), I had faced down those issues, broken them into pieces, examined them, and found that they weren’t as scary as I thought. I’d come to understand some of the most important rules of becoming a mother; first, you can’t control what happens, so you just have to roll with it; second, your best is absolutely good enough; third, you can’t predict the future, so there’s no point guessing.
So, I guess this leads me to a few points about my experience of antenatal depression:
- It exists, and it’s not always the hormones. If you feel down, anxious or sad to a degree where it starts affecting your life or your enjoyment of life, go see someone about it. Your doctor, your therapist – it never hurts to talk, whether you conclude in the end that you’re depressed or not. You might end up with post-partum depression and be glad you put those defenses in place nice and early.
- I was terrified of taking antidepressant drugs during pregnancy for fear they might cause problems for my child. There are safe antidepressants you can take, and my personal experience was that the pregnancy hormones meant I had greater need for the medication than on previous occasions. My daughter’s problems, FWIW, were most certainly unrelated to the drugs, although when I weaned her from breastfeeding at 18 months, I was still taking the medication and as a result she went through a withdrawal process over about a week. She was a most unpleasant character during that week, but both before and after that, she was/is the same happy, delightful little person she’s always been.
- There’s no law saying you have to be delighted about everything baby-related. Birth? Bonding? Nappies? Cracked nipples? Pah! But in addition to those, of course, you get that milky new baby smell, smiles and cuddles, first words and steps and everything else that’s wonderful about kids. Taking a realistic view of the potential downers is important. Don’t expect it all to be utopia, but don’t expect it all to be terrible, either. Parenthood is, of course, a buffet that serves up a little awesome, a little awful, and you never know which you’re going to get.
I hear that all the time. There is no simple answer. But answering it is the focus of my daily life. Every day. The real answer is Gabriel’s not OK. Gabriel is Bipolar. His moods shift. Daily. Weekly. Yearly. He is never OK. I spend my days like a detective trying to sniff out any small clue of a mood change, charting, taking notes, observing him. Worrying about him.
He spent 10 months of the last 12 (literally, not figuratively) suicidal, dangerous, aggressive, and explosive. His meds are controlling that a little, but he is manic right now. Which is dangerous in other ways. And his meds aren’t holding that in. They aren’t ‘stabilizing’ him like they are supposed to. And without going into a tirade about doctors, I don’t have a ‘handle’ on this the way I PROMISED myself I would last October. And last May. And last July. You get the point.
The fact that mania seeps out now means that Gabriel is hyper (he isn’t normally at all), he is giddy, inappropriate (laughing, jokes, rude comments, butt jokes, pulling his pants down in front of a friend during a play date, etc), and more likely to jump off the roof (or trick his brothers into doing it) than anything else. Which is, in some ways, better than the dangerous depressive side. However, as October comes to a close, so will the mania, and the bipolar depression will replace my giddy-inappropriate child with one who hates the world. Who hates me. Who hates his brothers. One who is so negative and dangerous that he threatens to take knives to school and kill people. That kid is hard to live with. That kid is hard to keep safe. That kid threatens my sanity and the safety of my other two children.
We have to put him on another medication. A stronger medication. And although our ‘nurse practitioner’ is willing to give him a new medicine now, (they want to put him on Lamictal), my next appointment with his actual doctor, a real psychiatrist, isn’t until November 24.
Yes, the day before Thanksgiving.
Why wait? Because Lamictal has a 1 in 1000 chance of a deadly side effect. A deadly rash that may just start itself in the depth of my son’s mouth where I am less likely to see it. Less likely to be able to get him the immediate medical attention required. That scares me.
And scares my husband. So much so, that he refuses to give our son this drug until we see our psychiatrist. Who we can see the day before Thanksgiving.
So, I will bake pies early this year. And spend the that glorious Wednesday afternoon admiring the artwork on the walls of Children’s Hospital, nervously wondering if I will be rushing Gabriel to the ER with a rash on Thanksgiving day, and trying to hold down all those bites of pie I shoved in my throat in the anticipation of this moment where we are forced to make, yet another, hard decision about our son’s care.
But I have no choice. So we wait.
But the cycling won’t wait.
Depression is nipping at his heels and I am not sure we can out run it.
This week has been a struggle.
In brief: I have a chronic mental health condition, and have struggled for years to find mental and emotional stability. I’m also a woman, and am impacted heavily by hormonal fluctuations that occur on a monthly basis.
Anyone who feels that I am just whining can do me a favour and stop reading right now.
Through medication treatment and self-discipline, I have found a level of stability that has been unparalleled in recent years of my existence. All this good goes out the window, however, for a period of a few agonizing days on a monthly basis.
Is it predictable? Yes.
Does that make it any easier? No.
Recently, I’ve been told that I am not a good “fit” for certain mental health services that I feel should apply to me. First example: I finally had an appointment with the Women’s Health Concerns Clinic outpatient services this past Thursday. I spent months looking forward to this appointment, hoping it would provide some relief.
Here’s what I learned:
Don’t put all of your eggs into one basket.
That’s a worn out old adage, but there is much truth behind it. The psychiatrist on staff at the Women’s Health Concerns Clinic felt that, due to the fact that I have depression occurring presently as part and parcel of my chronic mental health woes, I am not a good fit for the clinic’s services.
I do not have “textbook” pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) symptoms. Also, in terms of medications that are usually helpful for PMDD, I am already taking a good selection of those recommended for front-line intervention, including vitamins and minerals such as B6, Calcium, and magnesium. There is potentially some room for dosage adjustment, but in terms of there being a supplementary medication trifecta for PMDD, that is it, and I’m already taking all of them.
I am not currently taking the “recommended” antidepressant of choice for PMDD, but the one I’m on now has done so much good for every other aspect of my life that I am extremely hesitant to swap it out for another medicine that might not work so well. Trintellix has helped me immensely. I don’t cry on a daily basis anymore. I’m more open with everybody: strangers, friends, my husband, you name it. I can actually get to work most days. I feel stable, I feel good… most days. Most days, I am an absolute delight – and I love it!
Obviously, I am hesitant to swap out this medication for one that is more “tried and true” for symptoms of pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder. There is absolutely no guarantee that the antidepressants that have been clinically studied for PMDD effectiveness would work as well. In fact, I’ve tried most of them, with little success. So why swap out something that works well, for 20-ish days out of the month, for something that has been scientifically proven to be more effective for PMDD symptoms, but does not work well with my unique chemical composition? It makes no sense.
I’ve talked a lot about medication and I want to address something that I learned the hard way, ages ago:
In mental health, medication isn’t everything, Especially when it comes to more complex conditions. But my efforts to connect with a therapist or mental health counsellor at present have left me feeling even more lost and alone in my journey.
The Women’s Health Concerns Clinic heard my request to connect with a 1:1 therapist or counsellor in the Hamilton community, but did not offer to connect me with any such services. I was offered a referral to a mindfulness group, something I am not sure I will pursue due to the fact that most publicly operated mental health groups take place during the daytime hours, and I need to go to work during the day so I can support myself financially.
Sure, I could take time off work for the group, but doing so may jeopardize my employment and would be difficult to finance at this point, since any hours of work missed for the mindfulness group would constitute unpaid time off.
Desperate, I decided to look into private therapy options, and sourced out a psychotherapist’s website via the Psychology Today web page. This therapist sounds like a great fit, based on her specialties listed on her online profile page. I contacted this psychotherapist and asked about accessing her services. Obviously, private therapists cost money, something of which I am well aware; however, this therapist recommended that I seek to gain a referral to her through my employer’s Employee Assistance Program, which could, potentially, fund up to four sessions with this therapist to see if that would be beneficial for me, and also so I could establish if I enjoy working with her on a 1:1 basis and wish to pursue services further.
I called up the EAP and explained the situation. The response I received was absolutely gut-wrenching: Because I have a chronic mental health condition, they are “unable” (or, unwilling) to provide me with a referral due to the fact that my therapy goals may not align with their mandate of connecting individuals in need with short-term counselling services.
It would be amusing, if it wasn’t so sad, to learn that even designated mental health support services stigmatize against people presenting with more severe mental health conditions.
What an eye-opener that was
In light of the recent high-profile suicides of wildly successful fashion designer Kate Spade and world-renowned celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, I must point out that turning away a person who struggles with mental illness from suitable services because they don’t fit the proclaimed mandate or envisioned purpose of the service is a very, very dangerous practice.
Anyone reaching out for mental health support should at least be connected with suitable services once they make the effort to reach out, even if the initial service with which they’ve made contact might not be the best fit.
It is highly unwise to tell a person struggling with a chronic mental health disorder that they can’t access services because they have the wrong kind of mental illness.
Three years ago, my husband attempted to rape me. I didn’t really think of it that way at the time. I did shove him off me with a hand to his throat, and he was extremely angry. A few months later, he completed the rape.
He’s always been terrible with boundaries and when I would say no to sex, he would keep trying until I gave in. I didn’t like it, but didn’t recognize it as anything more than annoying.
It was a red flag I guess, but didn’t seem like “real abuse” because I wasn’t being harmed.
After he raped me, I slowly spiraled downward.
We did marriage counseling. I did individual counseling. Still, I wound up checking myself into a psych hospital with severe post-traumatic-stress-syndrome, anxiety, and depression.
We have managed to stay together, but, as you’d expect, It hasn’t been easy.
He still struggles with boundaries, which are obviously so important to our relationship. Unfortunately, he will touch me sexually even after I’ve explicitly said that I don’t want to be touched that way (when my anxiety is at a high I do not want to be touched at all; much less sexually).
He’s started having sex with me in his sleep despite me saying no – when he’s aware of what’s going on he stops, thankfully. When he is very much in the mood, he won’t come to bed with me because he’s afraid he can’t control himself. I suppose I should just be grateful that he stays away but I don’t like hearing him say he can’t control himself. It freaks me out.
He has been (for the most part) patient and understands why I’m like this now. He’d do absolutely anything to make me happy.
I feel guilty because a large part of me hates him. He has told me that he doesn’t think about the rape unless I’m struggling, which is devastating to me. Something that changed me at my core so much. Traumatized me. Destroyed trust, my ability to enjoy intimacy, gave me massive, crippling anxiety and he…?
He doesn’t even think about.
We are in marriage counseling again; but we haven’t yet told the counselor what happened.
We’ve only had two sessions so far, and I haven’t been ready to discuss the rape.
The counselor is giving us all these tools to work on things and I just…I don’t know. I don’t know how to make it work.
I can’t afford to care for my kids alone. I’m a stay-at-home mom, no good work experience, no family to help me out. I MUST make this work.
And my husband really does try to make me happy and I feel so guilty that he can’t.
I will never be the same again.
Part of me wishes to just end it all and escape the constant anxiety and feeling like I will never get better. Don’t worry; I would never do that to my children.
I’m just struggling with so many feelings of anger, sadness, depression, stress, and frustration.
My husband used to be my best friend. We get along pretty well now, but I just can’t see him romantically again.
Can we make this work?