photo by Nicole Hill
I just recorded part 4 of How to be Awesome (I’ll post it next week!), and in it I briefly mention how lately people have been asking me, “Do you ever get depressed or down?”
And I feel like if you read my blog, then you probably know the answer to that question is a huge, fat, YES.
But I figured for those of you who are new, or newish, to this little place on the web, I’d share some insights about the roller coaster that is my life.
So, for funsy, we are going to start with a little history, and then we will bring it back to the present. But I must warn you, this history talks about my menstrual cycle, so if you don’t want to hear about it then go look at some pictures of my cookies! Or read my ideas for Easter eggs you can decorate with kids!
I have been diagnosed by medical professionals, and my mom, as suffering from a chemical imbalance. HA! No, but really. It sounds super serious when I say it like that but you know what I mean, I’m just a little off kilter in the caboodle, yes?
I’ve been a “perfectionist” or “sensitive” or “prone to having a breakdown” my entire life. I thought I was just being dramatic, but it turns out my flair for flash is working in conjunction with some actual crazy. It’s like, “living in a powder keg and giving off sparks…”
So until the birth of Ginger, I just went along, trying to not freak out, and I more or less had figured out a way to handle my crap without taking medicine. *Granted, there were quite a few nervous breakdowns. But we aren’t gonna go back THAT far today.
Single and newly-married Alison had LOTS of freedom. My routine for keeping the crazy at bay involved lots of running, training for and completing marathons, tons of downtime away from other people when I needed to recharge (yes I love to be social, but it takes a lot out of me) and then bouts of severe depression and anxiety related to my period. This would include but was not limited to: lots of me staying in my bed, breaking up with boyfriends, Bright Eyes albums on repeat, becoming vegan, going OVERBOARD on school & work projects, and or uncontrollable sobbing.
Except, and I know this is absurd, but it’s true, I never totally noticed that it was related to my period! I always thought it was just “me being me again!” and me not being able to keep myself together.
When I was pregnant with Ginger I was MISERABLE, sick, stressed, uncomfortable, BUT for the first time in my life, I did not have that off-the-rails-roller-coaster-feeling. Why? Because I was not getting my period. BAH! That’s when I had my first inkling that my hormones could be in fact: totally taking me for a ride.
And then I had Ginger. And I had a lot of anxiety post-birth, but other than that, I was ok. For a while. (Duh-duh-duuuuuuuhhhhh)
But after about 9 months my period and hormones came back with a vengeance. And unlike before, I couldn’t just NOT get out of bed, or fly off the handle for a craft project turning out poorly. Because there was another human who needed me to not be crazy. I think it was that need that put me into about a month-long anxiety attack.
Hahaha this all sounds so SEVERE when I write it but it just seems SO normal to me! I swear, I’m good. Ok?
Anyway, when I say month-long anxiety attack I mean, persistent shortness of breath, lots of restlessness (read: starting an entire product line of sewing patterns, mobiles, and mobile patterns) not being able to sleep, relax, or calm down in general, and then about once every other day I would start hyperventilating and have to pull the car over, or something vaguely dramatic, until I could breathe at a normal rate. At all times it felt like my skin was crawling and my muscles were clenched. That’s the only way to describe it, but if you’ve felt it I think you know exactly what I mean.
I cannot emphasize enough HOW NORMAL I thought this all was. And not only did I think it was normal, but I was mad at myself for not being able to keep my cool. I would tell myself to stop being so damn dramatic, and that I was making it up. I would convince myself I was totally fine and should stop being such a baby.
In other words, I was being anything but awesome to myself.
To be perfectly honest so much of that time is kind of a blur, I’d start to feel better, then get worse, and it dragged on for almost 3 months total. But I do remember very clearly being in the Joann’s parking lot with Ginger in her car seat, and I was hyperventilating in panic once again. Who knows about what. I’m sure it was terribly important at the time! But my mom called while I was freaking out and I managed to answer, because I knew it would help me calm down. She got off the phone and called my midwife. And then they ended up calling me to make an appointment for me to come in.
When I talked to the nurses and midwife (they are certified nurse midwives that can prescribe medicine) I tried to explain everything as calmly and rationally as I could, without sobbing or elaborating. I have a tendency to downplay the seriousness of my mental state, and I’m glad they saw that even though I was trying to joke about it, I desperately needed help.
I have to admit. It was kind of insanely validating to have someone look me in the eye, after I explained how I was and had been feeling my whole life, and tell me that I wasn’t just making it up or being dramatic. She explained that I most-likely have a chemical or hormonal imbalance all the time, but I cope with it, and then when my period hormones kick in I can no longer handle it, and that’s why I go a bit nuts.
For the sake of Ginger I agreed to talk sertraline, or essentially Zoloft, it was a pretty low dose, and it did help curb the crazy.
But after a couple years, a horrible pregnancy with Rad (I went off the meds, then had to go back on, then I took myself off…then went back on…it was a bad time) and some adjustment time, I am now off any medicine.
It’s a really long story as to why I finally decided to go off, and I feel like it’s personal (yeah I have SOME limits) and too much to get into, but overall I’m feeling pretty good. I definitely feel crazier, but it feels more like ME. I will say I support people taking meds, and think it’s the responsible thing to do in a lot of cases. It’s easy to be too proud or too stubborn about it, and I’m really glad I took them when I did. I also think it’s not always the best answer, in every case, for each person. So you have to do what’s best for you and your family at whatever particular time of life you are in.
So let’s jump back to the present shall we?
You can see why I giggle when people ask me, “Do I ever get down or depressed?” I usually answer, “High highs and low lows.” I find it to be true, 9 times out of 10, when you meet a person who seems to have exceptionally high highs, or a sort of manic energy, they usually have low lows as well.
And it’s very much like riding a roller coaster. But I value the lows, because they are just as much a part of me as the highs. If I had no lows in my life, I would not have nearly as much empathy or compassion. I believe part of my value on this earth is that I sincerely understand what it feels like to be totally and completely unhinged. To the point of being unsafe, to the point of needing help. It’s humbling and forces me to try to stay grounded and hopefully help other people who feel that way too.
This is my very favorite quote, and I share it with people whenever they are passing through a particularly hard time:
“There are places in the heart that do not yet exist;
suffering has to enter in for them to come to be.”
– Leon Bloy
I don’t share all of this with you guys because I think you HAVE to share this much information on the Internet to “be real.” You should only share what you’re comfortable with.
I share this with you because I am proud of my story. It makes me who I am. And, I think like a lot of you, I’m just trying to learn how to be awesome.
I want you to know that I consider you, yes you, reading my blog, following me on Instagram, and interacting with me in any way on social media, as an honor. You’ve allowed me into your life, I’m never totally sure why, and I don’t take that lightly. But if anything I say or do helps you to love yourself more, give yourself a break, or just enjoy yourself a little, I’ve accomplished my goal.
So thanks for being part of the party.
All the love in my insane little heart,
Would you like to read more posts where I share my thoughts on stuff?!