After reading a post on Facebook a few days ago I began to think about the subtle ways that we throw stigmas around about our mental health. Someone stated that they were taking meds, but they were not narcotics so it was ok…Notice how subtle that was…not narcotics...ummmm.
This is the very mindset that we are trying to change…you could almost miss the undertones. So if the medicine had been a narcotic than what? I hear so many people talking this way about medicines that can help them through a multitude of mental health disorders.
When I was young, people needing to seek the help of a psychiatrist were considered “crazy as a loon” and many were placed in mental institutions whether they needed to be there or not. They simply did not know what to do with someone with a mental illness. If they were not insane when they went in they became that way.
Many religions teach that taking a pill is a clear lack of faith and therefore a sinful act against God. It was unheard of to seek the help of a psychiatrist; members would be removed from their churches for this behavior or “clear lack of faith”. There was so much shame connected to having a mental health condition and it was clearly seen as a sign of weakness. This brought great shame to the individuals that needed help and to their families.
I was asked once while facilitating a support group if I was a pill pusher. I definitely am not a pill pusher, but I do believe that our mental health is as important as our physical health. I know from my own experiences, and through many others that we aid, that medicine can save lives. I also believe that our spirituality is the basis of strength to overcome any obstacle.
My experiences, after the loss of my daughter, have taught me that without faith in God’s strength and love, and without medical attention; including a counselor, and medicine, I would not be able to keep up with the many challenges of our ministry, Messages For Hope.
After the loss of my daughter, Amber, God was the only source I knew to give me the necessary strength to get through each day. Everyone that was close was also devastated from our loss and they were having enough trouble managing themselves, and those that were friends or coworkers certainly did not know what to do to help.
I wanted God to comfort me and help me to get through each day one step at a time….along the way I had more questions than I had answers…I was talking to God every second I had a chance. I wanted to know about life? Why was I created? Why me? What did God want from me? Why were we made to experience such pain? I was very confused about everything-my life had been turned upside down.
I was taking an antidepressant and a sleeping pill which helped me tremendously. I was able to sleep a few hours each night and then upon waking I would experience her death all over again…I would forget temporarily you see, that she had died….that my world had changed.
I began to see a counselor after 8 months and the practical information we shared helped me in coping with the every day things, and the stigmas, but each time I saw her I had the same complaints…being nervous, lack of self control, feeling flushed, being nauseated. I did not think it was anxiety…why would I have anxiety??
These symptoms became much worse and eventually I had to question if I was becoming agoraphobic. I had no idea what was happening to me and my life seemed so out of control. I began to seek out medical attention thinking there was something physically wrong with me and every doctor I saw would tell me that I had anxiety. I think the more I heard the word anxiety the more certain that there was NO WAY that I had THAT - I was so frustrated. Then came the full blown panic attacks. If you have never experienced a panic attack it would be difficult to understand how debilitating they are…and it was not just the attacks –it was also the agoraphobia and anxiety.
I was afraid of everything, but did not know why. I was questioning God daily and praying for guidance, wisdom, knowledge, patience, self-control, and peace. I could not understand why I could not quiet my mind-it made no sense to me on an intellectual level-I knew that I should take deep breaths when upset or take a walk, pray, read, and yet, I could not remember any of those things when faced with an anxiety attack. The fear of losing self control was worse than when I experienced an attack. I would feel less of a person…I had let God down again…I could never measure up. I wanted to be a better person. I thought that if I never got angry at anyone, no matter what they did, or if I never cried that I would be a person that God could love. I knew it was sinful to lose my temper, or be angry…I thought everything I did was sinful. It would take me days to recover from an attack and yet I would go to work and try again and again and all the while refusing to take anymore meds.
That changed after leaving my job of ten years in the spring of 2010, and at about the same time I was trying to begin event planning for an upcoming walk for suicide prevention. I went to the Doctor and agreed to take an anti-anxiety medicine that changed my life. That was in July of 2010, just two years after losing Amber to suicide.
I did not realize there was anything wrong with my thinking process until I was able to quiet my mind. I realized that after the death of my daughter that I was grieving, and that some of what I was experiencing was normal, but there was a whole other level that I just could not explain.
I know now that I had always lived with anxiety until the fall of 2012. When my mind quit racing uncontrollably I was able to find peace…and understand what that really meant-I never knew what it had felt like in my 50+ years. It took a year and a half to really learn how to quiet my mind and understand the reasons for the anxiety, PTSD, agoraphobic, and panic attacks.
Spiritually I came alive! All those things that I had been asking of God began to be answered in many different ways. I have learned to “listen” to my inner voice and I have learned to forgive myself for EVERYTHING that God had already forgiven me for.
The teaching of fear religion in my youth had quite an effect on my life as an adult, and had everything to do with me healing after my great loss. The questions I needed answered had been in front of me the whole time, but my mind could not slow down long enough for me to hear.
For me, I am glad that I finally took the anxiety medicine that allowed me to come closer to God, to learn acceptance of my life and others, and to know that I am worthy of so much more that I ever knew…