What Led Up to My Most Recent Relapse: Part 1

It has been many months since I last wrote. And a challenging many months at that. During my time of silence, I have enjoyed and been touched by reading so many others’ stories and I wonder, why am I not sharing mine? Fear of what I should say and how to say it has kept me away. The following is a swelling story that has been sitting here waiting to be published. Today I am biting the bullet and pressing publish. What do I really have to lose?

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You may have read some of my previous entries on this blog, where I chronicled my teenage and young adult years with major depressive disorder and crushing anxiety. I ended in 2011 (my last post), where I was cured of suicidal depression after a challenging journey withdrawing from the antidepressant Cymbalta.

Fast-forward to today. Well, wait! Because there are just a few things that need to be discussed before you find out just what is going on with me as we speak. From 2011 to 2015, I had successfully remained antidepressant-free, despite still dealing with a gripping anxiety disorder that sometimes led into mild depressive episodes. Over the years I also dealt with other bodily dysfunctions: a stubborn digestive disorder, hormonal imbalances, headaches/migraines and sleep issues, all of which combined to provoke my mental struggles. But with the support of my faith and relationships, I functioned pretty well, learning how to care for my body while also working successfully as an elementary school teacher.

Change has always been super difficult for me mentally (and physically) and 2015 was a year of change for me! That year, too, could’ve been what kickstarted the craziness and beauty of these most recent months.

First, in early spring of 2015, I found out the job I loved was being cut (in the fall); then I broke my foot in May, which was an unwelcome and inconvenient stressor. On a positive note, I got engaged in June and my fiance Nathan and I began planning a wedding for that fall (as well as a big road trip in August). In September, I began a new job teaching middle school (which also involved a significant increase in hours worked per week and responsibilities), got married, and moved into Nathan’s place, which happened to be significantly farther from work and my friends. I also began attending his church, which I didn’t realize was affecting me so much mentally. Their theology was quite a bit different than what I was used to and I began having an increase in anxiety and ruminations about this, while also longing for the churches I was used to attending (and my friends).

Our engagement, including an unforgettable road trip out West, the move and our wedding all went smoothly. I was in awe at how well I was “holding it together” through all those changes, but I know it wasn’t a coincidence! I couldn’t have done it without the support of God, my fiance, and our loved ones. I know it might sound cliche but our wedding was so beautiful, almost like a dream. It was an unforgettably amazing day surrounded by our closest friends and family. Because of all the love and support we’d received, mentally I was so happy and was riding that wave of bliss for quite a few weeks after our wedding.

Then, real life began and kind of kicked us in the butt. That fall, Nathan was also in grad school and we both worked crazy hours. The stress wreaked havoc on my mind and soon I was obsessed with feelings of inadequacy at both my new job and in my new roles as “wife” and “homemaker”. Basically, I placed insanely unreasonable demands on myself (and my husband). I couldn’t stop obsessing over what people must think of me/us and how our marriage compared to everyone else’s. So yeah, our early marriage was definitely not super blissful. But is anyone’s?

My husband had a lot of patience for me and our marriage, though rocky and “horrible” in my perfectionistic mind, got stronger. We developed healthy spiritual habits like praying, reading the Bible together and seeing friends, which gave us some buoyancy during the rough patches.

I am so blessed to have married someone as committed to health as I was. Ever since our dating days, my guy had faithfully and compassionately helped me wade through all of my mental and physical problems. It was in the spring of 2016 that I began seeing two different functional medicine doctors; one was a general practitioner who wrote an entire “whole-body” plan for me to follow and connected me with all sorts of other professionals including a dietician, an herbal specialist and a spiritual director. The second person was a functional medicine OB/GYN who helped me out a lot with my hormonal (and other womanly-type) problems. Both of these doctors I believed were gifts from God and basically “fell into my lap” (a coworker who had similar problems as I did gave me their info). It is very rare to find functional medicine doctors (who have the same philosophy on health as Nathan and I) who are also covered by regular insurance!

After I began seeing all these professionals, it was evident that my mental health was again deteriorating. The herbal specialist did start me on a bunch of stuff, but they also wanted me to see a psychiatrist. So in the spring of 2016, I called up my old psychiatrist and (relunctantly) decided to start on a new antidepressant, Abilify. It was such a hard decision after being potentially med-free for over five years and my insane struggle getting off of Cymbalta! Luckily, I had known my psychiatrist for many years and he knew about my resistance to medication. He said Abilify was different than any of the other ones I’d been on and had few side effects. I started on a low dose, and my husband and I prayed and trusted the Lord that this new medication would help and not hurt me.

We celebrated Nathan’s graduation that May and also the end of my first very stressful year teaching Spanish to middle schoolers. Though it was a hard decision, we decided it was best if I went back to the same job in the fall. Now that I had one year under my belt, it seemed doable. Plus we agreed I could take the summer completely off of work to totally prepare my mind and body for another year of stress. I did enjoy the summer of 2016…but…

There is a Casting Crown song that really resonates with me:

It’s a slow fade when you give yourself away
It’s a slow fade when black and white are turned to gray
And thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away
People never crumble in a day
It’s a slow fade, it’s a slow fade.

I had been making what I considered innocent choices over the course of many months since our wedding. In my depressed and overworked state of mind, I could easily reason away why I did what I did. Until pretty soon habits were formed that were out of my control and, slowly, I was fading away.

To be continued…

Love,
Brittany

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