Thankful (Let Me See You Be Brave)

Some of you have been asking me lately why I don’t seem to blog anymore. See; this year. More recently, you’ve been asking why I wasn’t participating in NanoWrimo. I met a lot of my greatest, sweetest friends through there, and I was flattered you noticed my absence. The truth of the situation, however, wasn’t something I could talk about, or was willing to talk about. Until now.

I apologize if I’ve been short with you or failed to give you an answer when you asked where I’ve been. I’m also sorry if I’ve pushed you away just to avoid the truth and get rid of you, or if I’ve just plain ignored you. It wasn’t you – it never was. On Monday, the doctor found that I had two bulged disks in my neck, so I’m somewhat heavily medicated while I go through therapy for it, and I’m forever seeing pink sparkly ponies. It’s entirely possible that it’s the medication that’s making me brave enough to tell this story, or it may just be that it’s time, but I’m going to come clean with all of you about where I’ve been this year and why I’ve behaved as I have. Some of my closest, dearest and longest friends don’t even know this, as I’ve kept it close to my heart and away from the maddening crowd of life.

I started to notice something was wrong around Christmastime last year. I started feeling extremely depressed, often times thoughts of suicide crossing my mind. I had gone through a horrible breakup a few months earlier that had wore me down and broke me apart at the core, but enough time had passed for me to know that this was much more than that. I’ve always been a strong, resilient woman, and suddenly I felt like a timid little sheep facing down the cavernous belly of the beast. I was scared, but not ready to admit it.

Come January, things had only gotten worse. It occurred to me that I had started a new medication, Lyrica, to help with all of the pain I was in. When I looked up the side effects, they described the exact symptoms I was having. I went off the medication and in about a week / week and a half, I was feeling like myself again. The depression and confusion and anguish were gone and I was ready to move on with my life. But that didn’t happen.

It was a few weeks later that I started having severe pain in the left side of my head. It got to the point where I would completely lose my vision in my left eye. It wasn’t just a sensation. I really couldn’t see out of that eye. I went to the doctor, but no one could figure out the issue at first. I went to two doctors, and yet nothing. I was really starting to suffer and become extremely ill from the severity of the pain. While in the MRI machine, everything went completely black and I forced them to pull me out. I’ve had MRIs before and had never had that happen. It wasn’t that I blacked out, but that my whole range of vision completely darkened as if I were blind. As soon as I sat up, the lights came back on. Even after that, we still had no answer. Meanwhile, I was back to being an emotional tidal wave. I couldn’t control anything inside of me.

My autoimmune doctor was the one that that finally figured out that my blood disorder was wreaking havoc on my brain. The blood was pooling and thickening in one particular area of my brain, and there wasn’t much we could do about it. It wasn’t a clot yet, and if it turned into one, I was in trouble. If they tried to thin out the blood in any way, it would cause a hemorrhage. I was given orders to take it easy, and told that the place where the blood was the thickest was the cortex of my brain that controlled my emotions. The pressure from the thickening of the blood was causing my erratic behavior and feelings, and I just had to ride out the storm.

I kept hope alive that my problem was just that, but in my gut I knew something else was going on. I stopped being able to sleep, I wasn’t hungry anymore, and I was running around on adrenaline just to get things done because of my lack of sleep. I started taking pills at night just to knock me out and ones during the day just to keep me going. I started drinking alcohol, which I never do. Granted, it wasn’t to the point where I was drunk, but it was enough to know that I wasn’t myself. Yet the only explanation I had was the one given by the doctor, so I kept my mouth quiet and my issues to myself. I put on a fake smile for awhile, and then eventually just faded into the black and kept to myself in order to hide the emotional roller coaster I was riding until it slowly came to a safe stop, the blood thinned, and I felt like myself again.

The problem was, my blood had thinned, but I wasn’t feeling any better. In fact, I felt worse. That’s when I really started to isolate myself. I blew off everyone and everything imaginable to avoid people. I shirked my responsibilities. I didn’t care if I was being rude. I didn’t care about anything, especially not myself.

I tried everything to get back to me. I ditched everything that wasn’t me; the clothes, listening to the music on the radio, a way of talking like everyone else and fitting in. I went back to country music, I pitched all the clothes I didn’t like and got only the things I did, and I said and did what I wanted. None of it helped. I saw a piece of me shining through, but by the time that summer began to crest over the horizon, things had only taken a further tumble down the rabbit hole.

Around this time, I just completely went off the grid. When I did pop my head out to talk to a few people, I acted like I was fine, that nothing was wrong. There were only a half a handful of people who had any idea that something may be wrong. Everyone else basically thought I was being a jerk. At that point, I didn’t much care what they thought. I didn’t even know who I was anymore. Other peoples’ opinions of me sure as hell didn’t matter.

The middle of July marked the shift in the shaky ground I was standing on, and I finally fell through. It was inevitable, really. I hadn’t been fine in quite awhile, but I wasn’t ready to admit that. I wasn’t ready to give up the fight. There’s a stigma that goes with not being okay. It means you’re crazy. It means there’s something wrong with you. But that’s not the truth, and there was still a dark veil in front of me that allowed me to ignore the truth just a little bit longer. It let me fall into a false sense of security each day when I would put on my cowboy boots and my country words and walk out that door falsely confident. That little ray of hope kept me going and kept pushing me through. It kept me telling myself I was okay even after the bottom had long fallen out.

This is when the panic attacks started. I had been acquainted with them occasionally since September of 2012 after not ever having any. This was different. Out of nowhere, I was slammed with the sensation of not being able to breathe or control anything. This was happening three or four times a day, and Xanax was barely helping. I still wasn’t ready to give up the fight, but I was slowly losing it in every way possible.

It wasn’t until a friend of mine threatened to 302 me that I realized things had gone too far. This friend knew me better than anyone else in the world, had an education in psychology, and would never threaten such a thing on me unless it was one hundred percent necessary. I literally trust this friend with my life, so I was forced to open my eyes and see that I was worse off than I had been telling myself, and the person I was lying to the most was me. Truth be told, he probably saved my life that day, with that one not so small threat.

For those of you who don’t know what the 302 law is, it’s a law much like the 5150 law in California that Steve-O and Mischa Barton were forcibly committed for a mental evaluation under. If a person or persons feels that you are submitting to erratic behavior, they can force you into a limited hold in a mental institution to be forcibly evaluated for mental disorders or conditions.

I had a doctors appointment lined up not long after all of this, and I had promised my friend I would talk to my doctor about what was going on. I had talked myself out of it three or four hundred times in those few days, and when I got to the doctor I planned on saying nothing to her. I wasn’t strong or brave enough to admit something was wrong. I had spent my entire life taking care of myself and everyone else around me, and I just wasn’t prepared to tell someone that I needed help. I was always the girl who didn’t; the girl who everyone went to when they needed something. And now, here I was, a shell of myself and unable to stand on my own, but unwilling to admit it because I felt it just wasn’t who I was or who I was allowed to be.

Though I had a standing appointment with the doctor for a separate issue, God had plans of his own. I broke down in the middle of the appointment, out of absolute nowhere. I just started bawling my eyes out and I couldn’t stop myself. I never cry in front of people, and my doctor knew me well enough to know that I was typically a happy, outgoing young woman who looked to the sunny side of life. She knew in that moment that something was very wrong.

I had to make a fast decision there or then about my own strength and free will. I had mere moments to agree to see a psychologist or be 302ed. At that point I almost wanted to be 302ed, because if I was, I could get away from everything. I could let the world stop and go on without me while I took time to myself to heal, because that’s what I needed most. Afraid of being pumped with medication when my body has issues tolerating it, and worried the situation would be made worse, I agreed to see a psychologist. My doctor told me I had every symptom of PTSD and that she wanted to continue to follow up with me, because what was going on with me was serious, and in no way my fault. There was nothing wrong with me.

I called the psychologist she suggested the next day. I remember thinking a lot of things about myself that fit the stigma of mental health disorders. I remember thinking something was wrong with me. Then I would think about the strangest thing – Demi Lovato and her battle with addiction and being bipolar came to mind. I remember thinking how brave she was for going public with her problems, and how strong she was to realize she needed help on her own, taking herself off of a world wide tour, and, at a mere 18 years old, checking herself into a rehab facility to get help. If she could do it with the world looking on, I could stand up and do it for myself, in this tiny little town.

The psychologist was quick to reinforce that there was nothing wrong with me. She was careful to diagnose, but overwhelming in assuring me that I didn’t have any mental health disorders. For me, it was a relief, but I knew even if I had, that I was okay with who I was, because I had sought help. I had decided to get better, instead of sitting around lying to myself for another eight months. I was simply suffering from PTSD related anxiety for all that I had been through, and it wasn’t hard to pinpoint the situation that threw me into a tailspin.

Almost immediately I was doing better and I was back to being more like myself, only a better, healthier version. I’m proud to say today that I am happier than I’ve ever been. It’s only been a little over three months since I started going to the psychologist, but I am already down to going once every two weeks, and I’ve been holding my ground pretty well. I’ve stopped caring what people say about me or what they think. I’ve got rid of people I didn’t need in my life – the ones that were causing unnecessary drama. I left the past behind me and became grateful for what I’ve been put through, because now I know myself better than I ever have.

Some days I still slip up and find myself in my room crying, or having a panic attack, but the days are so few and far between, and they’re part of life. No one gets better overnight. This may be something I struggle with for the rest of my life, or it may be something that goes away in a year. I’m careful to know when I’m losing my ground now, and not so careless and reckless with my heart. Those times when I’m falling down, I stop and take care of me now, instead of putting on a facade of makeup and fake smiles. I can deal with this on my own now, but keep up with my psychologist so I can make sure I stay on solid ground and that I keep going with my head held high. And I’m not ashamed to admit this now, but, rather, I am proud of how far I’ve come in such a short period of time and where I am now.

I know myself better than I ever have, and I’m working on getting back out there and becoming a part of society, getting into a little bit of life. I’ve learned a thing or two about dating, but mostly chalk it up to a comedic experience that leaves me none too eager to be a little fish in that large sea. When the right person comes along, I’ll know like I’ve known before, and I’ll give it a shot. (I’ll also soon share the stories of the dating mishaps on here, and hopefully you will all find them as funny as I do.) I’m not shutting down completely, but focusing on me, which is something I’ve never done before. But I have to say, I find that I kind of like it.

This Thanksgiving, while everyone is going around the table saying what they are thankful for, I can honestly say that I am just thankful to be here. There were times this year, more often than I’d like to admit, when I was taking a mix of pills just to sleep and another just to stay awake, that I didn’t think I’d be making it to see another birthday or holiday. I didn’t much care if I did or not, to tell you the truth. But I did make it. I’m here. I’m alive. I’m okay. And that’s as much as any woman can ask for.

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