(Apologies in advance: while this is the “short” version, it’s still quite long. >_> But, anyway, this is the post I mentioned on FB a couple of weeks ago, so a little bit is out of date [like the fact that I’ve been sick as hell for three weeks & counting].)

In August, I had a mental breakdown. This sounds incredibly dramatic, and I have been struggling with how to talk about it. I’ve written pages and pages of explanation of how I Dropped My Basket (which is what I’ve been calling what happened in August), and it is always so very long. Sometime this week, I realized that I could tell the story in pieces, that it does not all have to appear in one post. With that concept in mind (something that would likely be obvious to most people but was a true light bulb moment for me because it hadn’t even occurred to me), I am going to endeavour to try again.

I am beginning with dropping my basket, because it was a catalystic event for several things and certainly shapes where I am now. While I have not written a lot about it, people who know my family know that we have had a rough couple of years. The last eighteen months in particular have been pretty hard. A lot of it has been me. I’ve battled anxiety and depression most of my life; the last three years has seen a resurgence in prevalence of anxiety and a case of depression that I’ve not had for years. There are a lot of events that led into causing this and counting them all would take way more effort and time than I want to put into it. Like anything that happens with mental illness, it’s rarely one thing; it’s a puzzle.

To try to help you understand how hard this year has been, here are some examples of things that I was either not able to do or that would cause panic attacks or that would take days (or longer) for me to do:
– deciding what to eat (this question could literally be one of two or three decisions I could make in a day)
– leaving the house (for ANYTHING, be it for fun, for medical appointments, for simple errands)
– making phone calls of any kind
– talking to people (online, in person, etc.) There were literally days where talking to the three people in my house were too much for me, so anyone outside of it was outside the realm of consideration.

These are just some examples. The emotional roller coaster that I was (and am), is hard to describe. Rin has been a champion through all of this, and I’m still not sure how she handled all of it. If it were simply a case of handling my anxiety issues, it likely would not have been so thoroughly overwhelming, but life kept throwing us curveballs. There are several things that I will (hopefully) be exploring in more detail in the future, but I’m going to sum up some of what the end of 2014 & most of 2015 has had to offer:
– Last fall, I had an EMG that confirmed nerve problems in both of my legs. The diagnosis that resulted from that is idiopathic peripheral polyneuropathy (though it wasn’t completely confirmed until March 2015.) 

– Last November, I fell and injured myself enough it required an ER trip; that ER trip proved to be frustrating and required a follow up to my PCP. She was concerned at potential complications that can occur with neuropathy and falls, so she prescribed a medication (Neurontin) for me to try to help avoid both that complication and possibly help with pain issues. I started taking it, and it seemed to be helping. Seemed to be is the operative phrase.

There were complications with our family travel in Georgia in December including some family drama and me becoming incredibly sick. It delayed our return until early January (which caused a small bit of trouble at home, too, since people had been expecting us at Christmas).
January and February are largely a blur to me. Since the medicine seemed to be helping, I talked to Doc about increasing the dose. I started having more anxiety problems and a few other issues including thoughts of self-harm that made no sense (as in I felt like a passenger in my brain watching myself think these things). Since partially controlled pain can cause symptoms to be exacerbated (and in some cases can make them worse than before), after lengthy discussion between Doc, Rin, and I, we increased the dose again. This was a huge mistake. The worsening symptoms increased DRAMATICALLY, so much that I started to step back down to the previous dose immediately.

March saw me at the first appointment with the neurologist She agreed that if it was causing that much trouble I should definitely stop taking it. The catch was that I had to continue to dial it down which meant almost a full month of taking something that I KNEW was harming me and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it. This was not good on so many levels.

April is typically a rough month for me for a variety of reasons. It was complicated by some miscommunications with my therapist which just added to the stress. My baby girl turned thirteen which was less hard than twelve, but was a milestone for her.

May brought us news that Rin’s PawPaw was doing more poorly than he had been doing last we had heard. This brought some serious discussion between Rin and I about trying to travel down south to see him. We had aimed to leave in early June, but life intervened.

June had a check-in with Kero’s pediatric neurosurgeon at Riley. There was a small amount of growth in her cyst, but Dr. Smith was not overly concerned. She did however find some concern in the overall level of symptoms that Kero was showing, and she took our concerns about them seriously. We all agreed that it was time to start the testing process so that we could learn more. Sadly, the scheduling process became one of the stressors of the summer as there were miscommuncations between two offices, and a bunch of other issues. The first test wasn’t scheduled until October which was frustrating, but there wasn’t much to be done about it. June also had me seeing a new specialist, a urologist. This was incredibly stressful and led to my own tests being scheduled.

For the next two months, various crises kept popping into our lives. We kept trying to schedule a trip down south and kept having to reschedule it. Thankfully, we had agreed early on that we were only going to tell a couple of people to avoid any Issues. Of course, the downside of this was that no one realized that we were struggling with travel plans that much, but it would have been worse for all of us if everyone had been trying to make plans and kept having them rearranged. It was bad enough with Rin’s mom knowing (and she knew because we were staying there first.) Not Traveling has been an overall theme this year.

August was bad. The urologist testing was far worse than I had anticipated, and involved a lot of unpleasantness for both Rin and I. The first week after was largely me helping convince Rin that I wasn’t upset with her and helping her handle what had happened. (This was also me avoiding thinking about it and recovering because holy fuck that took all week.) Just over two weeks to the day, I Dropped My Basket. (I’ll come back to this in a bit.)

More travel plans failed. We missed DragonCon, we missed David and Catie’s wedding. (We’ve also now missed Samantha & Dustin’s wedding.) We missed several other things. In fact, off and on, we’ve been Trying to Leave for several months. A lot of it has just been small things piling up. A good chunk of it was anxiety on my part and Rin’s, and my breakdown certainly didn’t help THAT situation at all. So, now, we’re going to try again in a couple of weeks and hopefully make my cousin’s wedding. *fingers crossed*

*glances up the screen* That’s the short version. Really. I don’t think I could simplify it much more than that, but it’s necessary to give a picture of how I came to where I was in August.

We had been having a disagreement. I couldn’t tell you what it was about, and frankly, it doesn’t matter. In the middle of it, I quietly said, “I want to die.” This isn’t something that I would say lightly, and it almost started a fight on its own because she thought I wasn’t being serious. Then, when she did realize I was serious, there was a lot of hasty explaining to get to what I actually meant.

The truth was I didn’t want to die, I just wanted everything to stop. I wanted to not be overwhelmed all the time. I wanted to not be in so much pain all the time. I wanted to not be terrified of the entire world and everyone in it all the time. I wanted it all to stop, and in that moment, the only way I could think to make it stop was death. Exploring further led to a lot of sobbing (hours of sobbing) as I choked out everything that was blocked up in my head. By the time I was done, I felt emotionally wrung out and empty. I certainly had no idea what to do with myself, but there was a silver lining in all of this.

A lot of the things that I was sobbing about were things that I’ve been holding onto for years. They included coping mechanisms that were really not helpful or healthy. They included beliefs about who and what I am supposed to be according to pretty much everybody -but- me. By the time I finished dropping my mental basket and watching it shatter into pieces, I could see that a lot of what I had been holding onto with duct tape, fairy dust, and anything else that would hold it together was not the stuff I’d spent the previous eighteen months learning how to get better at. It was all the other stuff. So, by letting it all go, I was able to give myself a place to start again.

Unfortunately, that place was (and is) fragile as fuck. I am having to rebuild how I think about myself and how I look at the world. But, within a week of having my breakdown, I was able to look at my sometimes-therapist Tom and tell him that I felt BETTER than I had in ages. I was finding that I was able to process things a bit more clearly, I wasn’t cutting myself down all. the.fucking.time. which I pretty much had been prior to that point. Nothing was good enough. Nothing. Tom made me examine a few hard truths, and he told me something that I plan to explore in depth in its own post, but overall, I was able to see that hitting bottom was probably the best thing that could have happened to me, timing notwithstanding.

So, that’s what I’ve been doing since August: rebuilding. I have been taking the things that Kim taught me about mindfulness, and I have been taking the words of Jenny Lawson, Glennon Melton, Brene Brown, Elizabeth Gilbert, and other writers like them to feed my spirit and my soul. I was finding more solid ground than I’d had in months, but at the same time, I was still struggling quite a bit. Aside from anxiety being a thing I’ve had for years, it is also a symptom of some of my chronic health issues, so it’s a double whammy. I’ve also learned that ADD can play merry hell with anxiety, too, so…triple whammy. It left me in a completely vulnerable, messy place.

In that place, though, I was able to genuinely consider a subject that my psychiatrist had been mentioning as a possibility for about a year. While he was not thrilled to hear that I’d been in crisis, he was pleased that it was getting better. He was also able to extrapolate that it was the irritability and other mood swings that were a problem, so he mentioned a mood stabilizer again. I was at first hesitant as I have been every time it has come up. In the last three years, I’ve had some pretty shitty experiences with trying new medicines, and the one early this year was pretty damn awful. I was not eager to jump back into medicine roulette, no matter how good an idea it might be. I also knew that I couldn’t take the most common mood stabilizer for reasons that I explained to him. He thought about and did some looking and realized that one of the newer medications in that class might actually be a good fit, both because it has the potential for starting at a very low dose, and it is listed as weight neutral. (I’m not going to talk about which medication it is because I try to avoid talking about active medications for…well, a lot of reasons. If I know you and you’re curious, feel free to ask. I might not answer, but feel free to ask.) Rin and I discussed it for a minute and decided to let him write the script with the caveat that I would not start it until after Kero’s EEG at Riley was done. (That was coming up about 5 days from my appointment.) The prescription was written, my refills were sent to the pharmacy, and off I went.

The Riley experience is DEFINITELY it’s own post, because it’s going to be long as hell because three days in a pediatric hospital breeds adventure. Or something. 😀 I ended up starting the medicine about a week later than planned, but I could tell a difference within the first three days. I refused to let myself get overly hopeful though. I was still too nervous. However, within the first week, I was actually able to go on errands with Rin. I didn’t have a panic attack before leaving or while we were out. We were at Menard’s picking up a couple of things for the car and the house, and I realized that not only was I NOT freaking out about being in public, I was actually ENJOYING myself and I was singing. It was…incredibly nice. We actually went several places, and then I was able to go out again the next day AND the day after that. (Going out of the house three days in a row was something that really hadn’t happened in awhile the Riley trip being the exception.)

Things continued to improve. I also had  A LOT  of guilt, because the clarity I was gaining and the emotional control I was gaining had me looking at Rin and frequently saying, “How the hell were you dealing with me?!” Thankfully, she helped me work my way through that. Since I started the new medicine, I’ve been able to reach out to people more – in text, anyway. The phone is still panic inducing I’m sorry to say. >_> I’ve been able to actually look at things on Facebook AND set limits for myself when I am becoming overwhelmed. I’ve been actually commenting on other peoples’ posts which I hadn’t been doing for awhile.

The biggest stressors have been Trying to Travel and handling the Teenager Dramaz. I also found out that my Grandmother has a small aneurysm and her sister died. It was incredibly upsetting, and still is. I am worried for her. And yet, I’m also terrified. Every day, I try to summon the courage to call and see how she is doing and every day, I fail at it. The phone is just too daunting and I have no bloody idea what to say, because, “Hi, it’s your crazy granddaughter who had a nervous breakdown this year and who is terrified of the telephone but wants you to know that she loves you anyway” seems a little crazy even for my level of acceptable crazy. So…I struggle.

For all that the medicine helps, it isn’t a magic wand. It hasn’t made everything all better and it’s not going to no matter how much I wish it were different. I keep being worried when I have a bad emotional day that I’m breaking the new medicine and Rin has had to talk me down from that one a few times. The biggest difference with those bad days though is that a) I notice it more quickly and can tend to stop the crazy spirals from becoming completely off the rails, b) I am more able to say, “Rin, I need help” in some variation on the sentiment, c) I am able to have a few minutes or an hour of being an emotional hot mess and then I’m able to balance again (sometimes anyway), and d) they aren’t EVERYSINGLEMOTHERFUCKINGDAY like they were before. So, there’s improvement there. A lot of it.

I’ve also been making the effort to feed my spirit with things that are encouraging. I save pictures I see on FB that have inspirational quotes. One day, I was having a bad day and I asked my friends to either tell me something amazing or show me something beautiful. Many people posted pictures. Since my phone has an S-pen which lets me write on the screen, I saved every single picture that people posted, and I wrote a note about who shared it and anything else that was relevant. I made myself those notes for the Bad Days. I think I might try this more often. I even made an album in my phone’s gallery called, “I Am Loved” and that’s where I saved those images. I am working at creating better habits. I am working at not letting the self-defeating anxiety monsters win, and I am working on trying to create new mantras in my brain to replace the negative mantras that I’ve lived with for years.

The most important thing is this: I am trying.

I am trying desperately to regain ground I’ve lost. I am trying to relearn healthier habits and I am trying to find new ways to manage both the changing things my body is doing (thank you so much neuropathy for adding to the “what will my body be doing today” game *headdesk*) and my mental health issues. One of those methods is talking about it. It’s actually helping, but more importantly, I want to show people that they aren’t alone. That’s why I finally decided to break up the monster update post (not that this is -short- by any stretch); by breaking it up, I will “let” myself write current things as well as cover other things more in depth. (Yes, I know. That sounds silly, but for some reason, I felt that having an update of where I’ve come from on my blog was important before sharing any new things. I just try to roll with the quirks in my brain…) Also, we will (hopefullypleaseuniverse) be traveling in a couple of weeks, and we’re going to be seeing people, and I’m going to be testing a lot of this new stuff during the holiday season which is…my worst time of year for anxiety probems anyway. I want people who see me to know that I’m a hell of a lot more fragile than normal right now. I’m also being a lot more honest than I have been in the past. Instead of playing down the type of pain I’m in or the type of day I’m having, I’ve been telling people the truth. (Or most of it. No one needs EVERY detail.) Hiding things like that is something that I do to “protect other people”, but it doesn’t protect anyone, least of all me. So, you know, if I’m having an awful pain day, I’m not going to try to hide it in the name of not upsetting other people. My theory is that the people who love me would rather know the truth anyway. No. That’s not my theory. That’s my sincere hope, a prayer, and something I am hesitantly counting on.

I also want people to understand that Rin is still doing  A LOT of taking care of me. I’m getting better at being able to do more for myself, but I’m still needing a lot of help. Don’t be shocked if I defer to her for most things; there are reasons for it and I’m not explaining all of them. Also, there are days where I just really cannot handle people well. People are scary, even people I love. Try not to take it personally if I’m really quiet or if I spend a day hiding in bed. It’s not you; it’s me. But…I’m trying and things are definitely better than they were in August.

I’m doing the best that I can. Please be gentle with me.

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