Friday, July 29, 2011

The Depression Cure

A little over three years ago, I was sitting in a cafe in Turkey with my then boyfriend, Hans-Eric, and I had my first big anxiety attack.  The cafe had a view of the sea that I will never forget.  It was a beautiful day, a calm turqoise blue ocean and I remember sitting there, trying so hard to pretend everything was okay.  "Just focus on the horizon, look at the sea, just breathe".  I didn't want Hans-Eric to see me freaking out.  I was like a duck on water, calm and collective on the outside, but scared and paddling like hell underneath it all. 
The day before I woke up anxious, Hans-Eric and I were happy.  We were on vacation in Turkey for a wedding of one of Han's colleagues.  It was also the same week of his 30th birthday.  I remember walking through town with him, holding his hand, looking at silly tourist items and saying no to the pushy vendors.  We came upon a window display of gorgeous rings and he asked me which one I liked the best.  I took this as a sign of him wanting to buy me an engagement ring in the near future.  I was elated.  I was so madly and deeply in love, it felt unbelievable.  I finally met the man of my dreams.  I wanted to marry him and have my very own happily ever after.  But the very next day, my every feeling for him just vanished and all I wanted to do was run.
After my anxiety attack, I cried a lot.  Everyday, for hours, off and on.  I couldn't understand my sudden change of feelings toward Hans, toward life, toward myself.  I couldn't explain myself.  I could see how much pain I was causing him with my behavior, which made me feel worse, but I could not control it.  I fell into a very deep and dark depression.  I stopped working out, I didn't eat much, I had zero energy, I slept A LOT, I stared off into space, walked slower, talked slower, and throughout it all, I just wanted to die.  I wanted to curl up in a ball, and bury myself in the ground.  I wanted to hide, vanish, but most of all not feel what I was feeling.  It became acutely clear to me why so many people use drugs.  Who on Earth could stand to feel these feelings when they could just numb themselves with drugs instead?   I remember flying back from Sweden (just after Turkey we spent a few days in Sweden) and hoped the plane would crash.  I thought, "If the plane crashed, then I wouldn't have to feel this pain, this heart break, this sad feeling in my gut anymore, please CRASH!"  When they plane didn't crash, the same thoughts were there, just different scenarios.  "I wish a bus would hit me.  Why can't I just accidentally fall off this cliff?  Maybe if I just shut my eyes and drive a truck into the ocean with me in it, no one would even notice I was gone." 
Depressing, isn't it?  Well depressed I was, diagnosed shortly after with clinical depression, put on a plethora of medication, talk therapy and some scary highs and lows I don't even want to mention.  There I was, this 29 year old pretty blond, in the best shape of my life, wonderfully in love with a smart, handsome Swedish man, who loved me profoundly back, to all of it gone after an anxiety attack.  It was like I had everything I ever wanted, but it was too much for me.  Too perfect.  Did I not believe I deserved it? Was I scared that it would all go bad anyway in the end, so instead of later, why not end it now?  What happened???
Currently I am still medicated, but I don't feel like my old self yet. I still get extremely irritable at times. Its like I can't lighten up. I still have anxiety off and on for no apparent reason at all. For example, I will be laying in bed at night and my heart will start to flutter and race, but I have no idea what thought triggered me to start 'freaking out'. I do worry a lot still, about my future, about my happiness and lack there of it. I'm still stuck in a town that is super hard for me to live in and I worry that I will never meet the man I am going to marry if I keep this six months here and six months there lifestyle. I worry I will never be a mother. I worry I'll be alone for the rest of my life. Just typing that sentence puts a heavy brick on my chest. Skagway and my unhappiness there is an entirely new blog itself. There are days, and a lot of them, where I just want to pack my bags and walk away, leaving all that I have invested behind. I'm writing this in Seattle, and just the thought of going back tomorrow makes my body heat up, and my heart drop. I have a physical reaction to the thoughts of Skagway. Let me repeat that. My body actually physically reacts, with heat, a faster heart beat, a heavy brick on the chest and stomach, when I think of living in Skagway. Um, that says something. I know I have written many blogs about how I am determined to get out, but it still just hasn't happened yet. The sad thing is, I had my chance this year. I could have told Dave to not sign the lease for another three years. I didn't tell him that, but I also didn't tell him to sign it either.  When he asked me, I told him I couldn't give him an answer.  He signed it anyway. This leaves me with three more summers in Skagway UNLESS I can find another job in the mean time and have the confidence in another person to run the store for me. I own 40% and can't just walk away. Or maybe I can, but could someone please grab my hand and start pulling... God help me.  Anyway, enough about Sadway, I mean Skagway, back to depression (waaaa waaaaa).

I have never written about my depression.  Not even in a journal.  Writing about it just seemed pointless.  I have never been a journal girl.  I tried, but I start them and never finish them.  When I was younger, I felt like I needed to write TO someone, so I would address every journal entry as "Dear Diary, or Dear Journal, or Dear whoever eventually steals this and reads it, but it never really made me feel better.  I wear my emotions on my sleeve.  I want people to know what is going on with me, not hide it in some little book for my eyes only.  So now I blog.  I write to the world, whether the world reads it or not, is fine by me.  But why would I write to the world about something to sad?  So personal?  Well, for two reasons. 
  1. I want to get better.
  2. I want to help others get better, and by writing my story, it may (I hope) give hope to others.
How am I going to get better, you ask?  Well I don't know yet, but I just started a new book called The Depression Cure.  I picked it up at Borders and then put it back on the shelf, after reading the cover,  "Yeah right, a cure for depression without medication, this will never work."  As I walked away from the self help section, with one book called Be Happy: Release your power of Happiness in you, I got about half way through the store, when I turned back around and picked it back up.  Why not just read it and give it it a try?  It can't hurt, and besides,  I hate being on medicine.  I know it works for a lot of people, people that I personally know, but it hasn't worked 100% for me.  I have been on a lot of them: Wellbutrin, Celexa, Cymbalta, Lexapro, Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Effexor.  None of them worked.  Most made me feel like a zombie, or on speed, or the side effects were just too much for me.  Currently I am taking 100 mg of Nortriptyline.  I used to only be on 20 mg, but for various reasons, it's up to 100mg.  I hate them.  I don't feel all that much better.  I have horrible side effects.  Dry mouth, the shakes, head aches, tired, no motivation.  I just want off of them or at least back down to small dosage. 
What got me excited about this new book is that it isn't necessarily against medication, but if meds aren't working, here is another solution.   The author, Stephen Ilardi, has seen and documented countless patients where meds weren't working as well as the patient had hoped, but when they tried his 6 step Therapeutic Lifestyle Change (TLC) Program, they felt amazing and were completely off medication.  Believe me, if there was a shiny happy pill I could take that worked and didn't give me side effects, I would take them by the dozen, but so far, I can't find that happy pill.  A lot of people, and I myself too, believe that my shiny happy pill is a ticket out of Skagway. A new beginning, whether that is going back to school, or finding a new job, or moving to Europe to teach english for a year.  In this economy finding a job that allows me to still keep my house and live the way I have been living, is pretty hard or maybe just really scary for me?  I have considered taking the next three years that I am going to Skagway and using my off season as an opportunity to still make a salary and get a masters.... but in what?  I'm still working on that.  I think the depression debilitates me in this regard.  It leaves me feeling hopeless and not able to make decisions.
So finally, to the point of this ridiculously long blog.  As I read through this TLC program in the The Depression Cure book, I decided I want to document it as I learn and experience each new step, chapter after chapter.  I want others that feel the way I did, to be able to use my blog as a reference, or for hope, or for research, or... well i don't care what for, I'm doing it anyway.  I read the reviews for the book on amazon. These are real people, who describe themselves feeling the exact way I felt (and sometimes currently feel), who say this has worked for them.  Reading their reviews for this book, got me excited, so maybe my blogs on this book will get someone excited too.  If it doesn't work, well at least I tried, right?  I have hope though.  I hope to return to that girl I was, happy, in shape, with good days, and even bad days, but most importantly, to say "YES!!  I beat depression and I will NEVER let it beat me down again."


CM said...

First of all, hugs to you friend! I SO appreciate your post and am sorry for the hard time you've had. Depression is so prevelant and yet very few people talk about it. It's something that is very common in my family and extended family. You are a wonderful woman and I appreciate your strength and honesty. You WILL beat this!!

Nicholle said...

Thanks Christy. I just read the first step to the TLC program, and I'm so excited to feel the difference! It's amazing what he writes and how much it all makes sense. Thanks for the support.

mom said...

Thats my girl!! Keep on fighting!! I know how hard this disease is, believe me! I'm proud that you are continuing to search and learn how to get on top of it. I know you will find what works for have such tenacity!! I wish you peace, happiness and serenity in your days to come. You know you can call me anytime, I love you, mom xoxo

allison said...

I love blog posts like this-open, honest, and something I can identify with.

Thank you.

PS-you'll get out Skagway. Even if it's by just walking away. It's possible. xo