It’s a rainy day in Austin, Texas and I’m crashing at my brother and sister-in-law’s place for the week while Ellie is spending time with her grandparents in South Texas. I was feeling the need to get the heck out of dodge and go somewhere quiet to write. So here I am, writing on my brother’s couch next to his adorable dog, Winston (Ellie calls Winston her daddy. Not exactly sure why, but makes me feel good to have Andrew close by ☺).
If you’ve read my previous posts, you’ve seen me write about Andrew’s experience with depression, but I’m not sure I’ve shared as much about my personal journey with it. It feels scary to talk about, but I think it’s an important discussion and I’m willing to take one for the team in hopes that someone will feel encouraged. So here goes…
My college experience at Baylor was a very scheduled one– I was the type to wake up at 6am to go run six miles before class and have my “quiet time”, a one-hour Beth Moore Bible study. After class, I would spend all my free time at the library (because I would NOT have graduated if I hadn’t), then cheer practice, then bed by 10pm (I was living on the edge).
When my senior year of college arrived, it was like someone flipped a switch. I didn’t want to get out of bed, nothing excited or motivated me, and almost every experience scared the heck out of me. So I found free counseling at Baylor!! My therapist recommended I consider talking to a doctor about antidepressants, but I had none of that. I was convinced I was feeling this way because I had just quit my ADD medication cold turkey after four years of taking it daily. Surely that choice was the cause of my chemical imbalance, not the fact I wasn’t prepared for the real world and possibly about to be asked to not only take care of myself (which I felt fully incapable of doing), but to take care of someone else as well. Oh, yeah, I also happened to be engaged to my late-husband, Andrew.
As time went on, things weren’t getting better for me. I was about a year into my marriage at this point, and almost weekly Andrew would recommend I go see a doctor and ask about medication. I still wasn’t ready for that. My mom had me convinced (based on the news and possible side effects) I would harm myself if I got on medication. I’m not sure what pushed me completely into the dark hole of depression, but all I can remember was I went from seeing the world in color to the next day seeing the world in black and white. I’d gained the Freshman 15 after college in eating my feelings and was just really, really unhappy in every possible area. I felt helpless to do anything about my lack of motivation for life. I could not recognize the woman I had become.
One morning I woke up feeling like I’d felt every morning for the past two years: not motivated to get out of bed and overall just sad about my life. But for some reason, on this particular morning, it finally hit me that nothing was going to change unless I did something about it, so I surrendered to multiple options for help and made an appointment to see my doctor . He put me on some basic antidepressants and, slowly but surely, my life became a lot more manageable. I got off them once I found out I was pregnant with Ellie, but I was afraid of postpartum depression so I got back on them after she was born.
After Andrew passed away, I felt this urgency to try and get off the medication. Part of me wanted to feel the pain of my loss so I could fully grieve, and while I felt the antidepressants might have been preventing that process from happening, another part of me was afraid of fully feeling the pain because I wasn’t sure if it would be too much for me to handle. When I went to meet with my doctor about decreasing my dosage, he suggested we wean me off six months at a time. I had no idea I was on one of the highest dosages at the time, so it has taken me almost two years to be at the point where I am today.
Last week, I met with my doctor and he cleared me to be completely off the medication. He warned me that 50% of the people who stop will get back on, but that I could try life without it. So here I am, for the first time in a long time, fully feeling the pain of my loss (my experience with antidepressants were that the medicine protected me from experiencing some of the pain of my loss, this is not everyone’s experience) . I’ve been extremely emotional this past week. When I’m angry, beware, because there is no buffer now. When I’m sad, I cry (just cried this morning looking at my cousin’s baby holding The Ellie Project). But when I’m overwhelmed by being a mom, entrepreneur, puppy owner, etc., I ask for help from those I love and trust, because I’ve learned I don’t have to go through life alone. Even though I’m experiencing my feelings without the filter of medication, I’m learning to apply all the tools I’ve gained from life coaching and therapy, while reminding myself to be patient and take life a day at a time. While the transition has been turbulent. I see these tools are working.
One unexpected blessing from being off antidepressants is that I feel more connected to God than I have in awhile. I am very aware of my need for His grace and His love to help guide and carry me throughout the days. The moral of this story is that there is no moral, just a story about a girl who is figuring it all out as she goes, trusting God each day to guide her and heal her so she can be the best mom she can be, and so she can be of service to the world however He sees fit.
My hope in sharing this with you is to remind you that you need not suffer in silence and that there are many forms of help available to you that will work. I want you to know if you have ever felt low, hopeless, or not yourself, you aren’t alone. I am here to support and encourage you along the way as a friend who has been there and is a continual work in progress! Please never hesitate to reach out. Sending you lots of love! You can do this!
P.S. I’m loving seeing your faces and the faces of your sweet kids holding The Ellie Project on Facebook. Thank you so much for sharing our sweet book with your family and friends. I’ve been blown away with how The Ellie Project has touched the hearts of families all over the country! I truly appreciate your continued support in telling others to go to www.ellieproject.com to get their copy of the book! Thank you so very much!
P.S.S This is my own personal experience. Everyone has a different experience. I am not suggesting everyone get on medicine or get off medicine. My heart in writing this post is to let you into my own personal journey and to encourage you that we all go through difficult times. Each of us knows what is the best thing to do for us, so do that and be compassionate and kind to yourself. Sending you lots of LOVE!