On the roller coaster that is my life

On the roller coaster that is my life
April 3, 2014 Alison Faulkner

Screen shot 2014-04-03 at 8.49.12 AM
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!

Still here?

Let’s roll.

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,

Alison

Would you like to read more posts where I share my thoughts on stuff?!

That one time Eric lost his job!

That one time I was SUPER sad I was pregnant with a boy!

That one time Gigi taught me lessons in self confidence.

45 Comments

  1. Michelle Jones 3 years ago

    Allison…I just started following you on IG. I guess I’m kinda slow to getting there lol..so while I have thousands of FB friends/biz followers I’m late to this party. This is the first time I’ve read your blog…I LoVe Your IG posts though!! I have to tell you this post felt like you were telling MY story!! My crazy!!! And I just want to thank you for helping me feel like I’m not the only one. XO
    Michelle

    • Author
      Alison Faulkner 3 years ago

      AW girl! Welcome! It’s so nice to hear so many of us have the same tale! Thanks so much for joining in! xo

  2. Rosaura Unangst 3 years ago

    Absolutely lovely. Thank you for being so raw and helping dull the stigma attached to getting help for mental health. That stigma (among other things) kept me from accepting help for over a decade in an eating disorder. Thanks for shedding light and speaking out. We are not alone.

    • Author
      Alison Faulkner 3 years ago

      thank you so much for reading and commenting! so much love

  3. Rachel 3 years ago

    I am a long time follower, but a first time commenter. I just have to say this is exactly my story. I have major hormone issues. And when my cycle comes it comes with a vengeance of me feeling completely out of control and almost psychotic. I suffer from postpartum anxiety disorder after each of my babies. I am having number five this summer, which is totally crazy in itself. But I can say also I’ve come to in brace it. It is truly who I am. I am fiercely in love with my children and a very attentive mother. But that causes me to feel like a failure. However I wouldn’t have it another other way. I also have been off and on and off and on Zoloft. Low doses also but it does help me, so I don’t have to drive over to my 1st and 2nd graders school just to make sure they are ok. I know the reality is I may have to go on it again after this baby joins our family. And that is ok. It will allow me to actually put my baby down and relax. I am hyper sensitive and want to control everything around me when that baby comes out. I love my husband dearly but it is even hard for me to let him hold out new baby. So on the roller coaster begins and I need a little help getting all my hormones in check again. I love hearing that others feel a little crazy too. It’s good it makes me realize I am not alone and there are others that feel it. I hate that there is a stigma about having chemical imbalances. Thank you so much for your post!

    • Author
      Alison Faulkner 3 years ago

      oh girl! #5! you are amazing! Rad’s pregnancy was so awful (with my hormones), that I experienced PTSD from it. It was terrible! Haha. So I’m SO impressed with your willingness to Keep on keeping on mama! You’re amazing!! Good thing they are pretty much usually worth it 🙂 xo

  4. Liz V. 3 years ago

    You’re great. I so appreciate you sharing this.

  5. Ashlee 3 years ago

    Wow! I feel like I just read about myself. Thanks for sharing. Helps me to realize I can stil be awesome even though I have “issues”;)

    • Author
      Alison Faulkner 3 years ago

      and more awesome because of them!! xo thanks for reading! xo

  6. jessica 3 years ago

    You are awesome! 🙂 Thanks for your post!

    • Author
      Alison Faulkner 3 years ago

      thank you for reading girl! Hope al is well!

  7. sarah 3 years ago

    I had major anxiety in high school…mostly apparent when i was trying to sleep. My mind wouldn’t shut off and I had some thoughts that scared my mom. I too was overbooked during high school, consuming my time with as many activities as possible.
    I was 17 when I went on paxil. I was on anxiety from then up until last summer. I slowly took myself off, thinking that with my exercise and eating habits, I would be ok. I wasn’t sure how I would be without medicine since i was on it since i was 17.
    I switched to a new grade level by teaching a 3rd 4th split classroom. I thought my crying everyday to work, not wanting to leave my house on the weekends or week nights, was attributed to the new grade level.
    it was a dark time, when I pushed away my family and friends. I decided I was tried of feeling that way, especially since I had so much to be thankful for. That’s where depression gets you. You know you have no reason to be sad or down, but you can’t HELP it.
    I went back on my medicine and i felt like I could see the sun again. I regained my confidence, the tears stopped, and I looked forward to going to work.
    I had no idea how dark that time was until i was out of it.
    thank you for showing that even the most blessed successful people can suffer.
    I {heart} you!

    • Author
      Alison Faulkner 3 years ago

      it’s crazy how we can always find an excuse for the crazy right?! makes it so much harder to figure out what is really going on! thank you so much for sharing! xo

  8. josie 3 years ago

    al-pal i just love ya.

  9. Megan 3 years ago

    Oh Allison, I love love this post. I get the crazy, I wouldn’t have 10 months ago, but I do now. I have two kids, My guy Brighton is 4 & my lady Zoey is 9.5 months. I was so fine after having Bright, full of love & “normal”. Then I had Zoey……. I was pretty much a wreck for 6 whole months. Tense muscles, bad bad insomnia. The anxiety was so intense, I had diarreah(gross, but true) like all the time, my tongue went like numb & tingley, I had the worst dry mouth & throat, I couldn’t eat, I was CONVINCED my daughters 3 month immunizations made her mentally handicapped, I couldn’t watch tv, read scriptures, be home, NOTHING! Everything scared me. My husband & our two babes ended up moving in with my parents because I could not cope. I’m now on meds, thank the light. I plan to wean off if them soon, but it want to feel ready, and not there quite yet. I’m doing WORLDS better now. That was just a smidge of my story, sorry it was so long. Thanks for sharing yours, it is comforting not feeling alone, and I’m grateful for this trial, I’m so much
    More understanding of others hardships. Love you & your blog! You’re somethin special!

    • Author
      Alison Faulkner 3 years ago

      thank you so much! thank you for sharing and I wish you the best!

  10. Megan 3 years ago

    Oh!! That’s awkward, I meant to say that ME, my husband and two babes moved in with my parents, not just them, I went with, that would be strange….

  11. Amy 3 years ago

    Thank you for sharing, Alison.

  12. Sara 3 years ago

    During my third trimester I got super, super itchy skin. It wasn’t cholestasis, or PUPPS, but it was internal, hormonal itching and it kept spreading and I wanted to die, and it literally made my body spasm and convulse, and made me so nauseous. I think I remember reading you had something similar. After my baby was born and it still continued, I did have PTSD, which I finally just figured out. After the itching still continued and having with a new baby, I wanted to die. It literally felt like my brain was melting! Now he is almost two and a half, and my brain has been able to heal, and my body for the most part, I am able to look back and recognize when I find myself slipping into a hard place. It has helped me so much with people dealing with depression or even self harm issues that have just arisen in my family. It was totally awful, but I needed it to reach a new level of love. Not that I want to deal with it again, but it has helped my relationships. But yes. Anxiety over having a child that needed me to be stable? Oh yes. Oh yes. So real. Thanks for sharing. ♥

    • Author
      Alison Faulkner 3 years ago

      OH Girl! Nothing is worse than ITCHING! I’m so sorry! I would have never thought of PTSD but sister has such a bad birth they brought that up, and she brought it up to me! It seems kind of extreme to say, but I mean, think of how extreme pregnancy and birth can be for some of us! It’s mental! so much love! xo

  13. Leanna 3 years ago

    Thank you for sharing your story, I too am a little new to your blog, so a little back story is appreciated for us moms that can ‘t sit and read from way back! I am pretty sure after my second daughter was born I was struggling with anxiety, but unfortunately my doctor didn’t recognize it. It’s all good now, but a little help through would have been nice! ya know? Thanks for sharing and keepin’ it real!

  14. Vanessa 3 years ago

    I feel ya. I have had depression problems, moodiness and anxiety/panic attacks most of my adult life, but I had avoid going on medication. I don’t want to walk around a numb version of myself. We can handle the crazy – look how far we’ve gotten so far managing it. The anxiety sucks for sure though. I find that listening to hypnotism or meditation tracks helps calm me down. Have you tried that? Also, talking to a therapist can sometimes uncover other issues you didn’t even know you had or were related to your anxiety. Was the case for me. xx

  15. Sarah 3 years ago

    I love you, seriously. I totally do. Thank you for sharing, your story is not mine, but it sounds so so so much like someone close to me. You have me crying at work 😉 but really, reading this today was a gift.
    Thank you!

  16. Sheila 3 years ago

    How brave, beautiful, and completely awesome of you!!!! You are my fav!

  17. Kelly 3 years ago

    I want to hug all the words in this post. I understand these feelings and completely as they’re very similar to my own. Your Awesome videos have been helping me to find inspiration to kick ass, and helped pull me out of my current funk by pushing myself to get my stuff together. Thank you for sharing this, and thank you for the videos too. You’re an amazing woman.

    • Author
      Alison Faulkner 3 years ago

      That makes me SO happy to hear! thank you so much!

  18. Evie 3 years ago

    Wow, that could be something written by me! Except, the awesome part, but I’m totally working on that!! Thank you for sharing, Alison. In a weird, non-stalkerish kind of way, I feel quite connected you.
    From the other side of the world, here’s a massive HOORAY for us crazy Mamas!

  19. Crystal 3 years ago

    Alison! I want to cry! You have just explained almost exactly what I’ve been dealing with. I actually went to the dr. A month ago when I FINALLY linked my crazy to my cycle. She wanted to start me on Zoloft as well, but I haven’t started taking it because I’m not sure I want to feel flat-lined and have “sexual side effects”. What are you doing at this point without meds? How are you controlling the crazy?

  20. Corinne 3 years ago

    Alison! Thank you for bravely sharing!! You know, the more I find out about peope the more I realize my story is the same as others. There is comfort in knowing I am not the only hormonaly- imbalanced mom!

  21. Callie 3 years ago

    i’m so glad i found you. this post is wonderful. so many of us will relate and feel better after reading it. i did. then i clicked on each link and loved them too. but the last one…almost brought me to tears. today alone i thought six of the ten things 2 year olds should never think about themselves. SIX! thanks for the much needed dose of perspective. our three daughters thank you too 🙂

    • Author
      Alison Faulkner 3 years ago

      aw thank you so much! and thanks for reading! xo

  22. Christa 3 years ago

    I came across your IG account from Freshly Pressed – and I love reading your blog (and your dance video at the hotel recently? Bomb.com)

    Anyway, thank you for sharing this. As a fellow ‘crazy’ people often think that if you are bubbly by nature, or the type to put on a happy face even when you’re sad inside, there is this assumption that everything is always roses and puppies and lollipops.

    I am saving your quote. In fact, I just had it pressed into a bracelet as a gift for someone I know who has a similar struggle with mental and physical issues.

    You’re brave, awesome (duh!), talented and funny. I would have bought your pony stationary.

    Keep it up girl! 🙂

  23. Heidi L 3 years ago

    I think so many of us can relate and understand these feelings. It’s amazing how much anxiety and depression is out there once you start sharing your story. I myself have suffered from both and I also thought it was “normal” until I finally started getting help for a related problem (though I didn’t realize it was related at the time–also a hormonal imbalance of sorts). It wasn’t until I started feeling better that I realized, whoah, it is not normal to cry over every little thing, it is not normal to feel so “blah” all the time, it is not normal to have your pulse jump to 300 at the thought of calling to order pizza. I’m doing much better now and have, thankfully, been able to figure out some of my triggers. Caffeine and excess sugar can make me super anxious. Luckily, I was able to get things figured out (though, admittedly I still have some work to do) without the use of meds but rather by changing my diet and adding supplements. (A b-complex vitamin works wonders!)

  24. Betheny 3 years ago

    You are such an amazing writer and person in general. I love that you shared this story. How brave, kind and unselfish of you.
    All my love,
    Betheny

    • Author
      Alison Faulkner 3 years ago

      thank you so much! I really appreciate that.

  25. emily 3 years ago

    Thanks for sharing your story. Love you blog as always.

  26. Sara 3 years ago

    Love you, Ali. xoxoxo

  27. Amy K 3 years ago

    Alison!!!
    God knows how much you’ve influenced my life -to the best- and I’m obsessed with you!
    I was NEVER interested in blogs but yours hold a special place in my heart! It’s where I come for everything, when I want to be awesome, when I check recipes I’m never gonna make because I’m terrible in the kitchen, and when I simply need something to make my day…
    You sharing your experience brought me closer to you -in a non creepy way I promise

    • Author
      Alison Faulkner 3 years ago

      aw thank you! What a compliment! I sincerely appreciate it and thank you for breaking your blog rule!!

  28. Charlotte 3 years ago

    I’m visiting from Strawberry Swings and Other Things. I’ve never had the courage to share on my blog any of that, but your story sounds so close to mine that I just had to comment and say thank you for sharing. I feel like the more I talk about anxiety the less it makes me feel crazy and the more control I feel like I have. I hope sharing this piece of you on your blog has the same effect on your ‘crazy’.

  29. I adore your honesty. It’s refreshing and beautiful. Our family has had an immense amount of suffering in the last two years and I had never heard that quote by Leon Bloy. I feel like it speaks exactly how I feel. My heart has grown throughout all of the suffering. Good for you for continually finding the path for you. We are all on our own path, aren’t we. And your crafting skills are bad ass. There’s that.

  30. When I originally commented I seem to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments
    are added- checkbox and from now on whenever a comment is added I get 4 emails with the same comment.
    There has to be an easy method you can remove me from that service?
    Thanks!

    • Author
      Alison Faulkner 3 years ago

      oh man! I’m pretty sure you need to do that on your end! I don’t have anything on mine! I’m sorry!

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