My children were preschool and elementary age and had struggles. The kind that keeps you up at night. That drains you. That most people don’t get. The behavior kind. The invisible special needs-kind which gives way to more judgement from others, even if just perceived. It had been years and was taking a toll on me.
Looking though my family history now, it didn’t come out of nowhere. There was some significant mental illness in my extended family. But no one really talked about that or even recognized it. Still don’t. I went to therapy a few years before to work through some things, so I decided I needed to do it again. I told my therapist of my struggles that was now leading to my doubts and fears about God. Very normal thoughts for anyone who is struggling emotionally.
What wasn’t normal however, was my new coping mechanism. I hesitate saying it here to add more judgement from others. But I don’t think I’m alone. And so if I can help someone else work through their struggles, then I believe hiding behind shame is wrong at this point in my life. So here it goes…
I visualized cutting myself. A lot. All day. Everyday. Anytime something happened that made me stress or doubt myself, the vivid imagery was there. And it was natural. It wasn’t something I manufactured on my own. I had to do it. It didn’t make sense to me why I did it. I just did it.
But I was still healthy enough to know this wasn’t right. So I braved telling my therapist one day in spite of the fear of what she would say or do. And to my surprise and HUGE relief, she wasn’t shocked at all. She just explained how our brains try to find a release for the pain and the stress, and actually feeling the physical pain of cutting brings peace to the part of our brain that is feeling the emotional pain, bringing relief. The way she explained it was so right. That IS why I did it even though I didn’t know. And yes, it did bring some relief even in just visualizing it.
Thankfully, I was able to get the help I needed before it got worse. My therapist recommended seeing a psychiatrist, and I started on a low dose of anxiety medication.
Now I will tell you, I’m a firm believer in going to the specialist for these things and not a general practitioner. It’s always best when dealing with any medical problem to go to a specialist. There are many GPs who will prescribe all kinds of medications. But this is one area I think should always be dealt with by a psychiatrist who knows these kind of medications and how to prescribe them. And they will follow you closely to monitor their effects, and has the knowledge to know how and when to change them if needed.
He started me on a 1/2 a dose for a few days, raised me to still a low dose to allow my body to adapt, and then told me it would take up to 6 weeks for it to take a full effect. This is where I think many doctors err and just give meds, not instructing well and causing an exaggerated response too quickly. In us and our kids.
Within a week, I began to feel numb emotionally. Didn’t feel sad anymore. But didn’t feel joy either. I just existed. It was a very weird sensation actually. And I can see why people quit taking them. But I was told not to quit abruptly because people can have negative effects from this. Because I was terrified of this for my family, I followed the instructions. After about 2 weeks on the medication, I began to feel normal. My circumstances hadn’t changed. Still had to deal with stressful situations, but I felt happiness again. I found pleasure in life in spite of the crazy going on around me. And most importantly, the desire to cut myself went away. Completely. It was the strangest thing because it was what I had done for so long. But it stopped. Just like that.
And again the doctor explained that now the chemicals in my brain were balanced, allowing my brain to function properly. My personality wasn’t altered one bit. I was just able to find pleasure in life again.
I am grateful I decided to take anxiety mediation. I am grateful for doctors who specialize in this and are able to help in this way. It has helped me to heal. It has helped our home to heal. It has also helped me to feel more comfortable in giving my children this same kind of medication. I know (at least in part) how it made me feel, how it helped me and now can help my children find this same kind of healing through this one tool.
We needs lots of tools in life. This might be one you need too. Don’t be afraid of what you heard happened to someone else. Don’t hide behind the shame. We’re all on our own journey. And there IS still joy to be found on this journey regardless of our circumstances. Hope and healing can be found for our children. And it can be found for us too.
Have you gone through something similar, or wondered if it were time to consider medication? Share your story with us in the comment section below this post.