The Black Hole, Part Seven

I’d like to call this the “final” post of my series on The Black Hole.

But I also know that would be a big mistake.

It is ten months after the ordeal that was my spring, summer and part of fall of last year.

I have since found a new holistic gynecologist. He dropped obstetrics some years ago and his focus is on women and hormone balance.

You can check out his website. He has a lot of excellent information on the site. I found the “Resources” page very helpful and printed out a lot of reading material even before my first appointment. It has been a fresh starting point for me and you may find some information that could help you or someone you love.

Having a doctor who is proactive and orders blood work and actually schedules an appointment to go over the results is a welcome change. Sending a postcard or telling you “someone will call” if there is anything to discuss just doesn’t meet my needs.

A annual exam, a pat on the back and a bill to pay is no longer enough for me. Maybe it shouldn’t be enough for any of us.

I can tell you that having a doctor who sits down with you and goes over lab work with you personally and actually listens to you is a giant step in the right direction.

Yesterday was my third appointment with him since September. I will see him again in four months. It is an amazingly good feeling when you know you are headed in the right direction and you have a doctor on your side.

It’s like we’re managing my care together. Frankly, that is what is suppose to happen when you go to the doctor!

Some people might even refer to this as excellent customer service. What a rare thing to find in the medical industry these days.

I don’t have a solution or a cure. I know I’m still prone to depression especially if a boulder gets in my way. I’m not offering medical advice to anyone. You will have to do your own research and find treatment that works for you.

Key words: Don’t miss them – for you.

I’m just one woman who wants to tell the truth and stay real.

I’m feeling so much better. About once a month or so, The Black Hole calls my name and sometimes I still crawl into bed for the day. But it is nothing like last year.

I’m getting back “the me I used to know” which is not necessarily “the me before the head injury” but rather; it is “the me who is in a much better place.”

Depression is an insidious, real disease. It can creep into your life and try to slowly strangle you.

Maybe your family misses the signs.

Maybe your mother and father grew up in the generation where they weren’t allowed to “be depressed” and they were expected to “get over it” and you were taught the same thing.

Maybe you don’t have a Luci or Ann or a friend who will rescue you.

Maybe you think it’s a sign of weakness and you keep telling yourself you just have to “snap out of it.”

I’m here to tell you it is real. And sometimes you can’t just “snap out of it.”

I really want women to not feel so alone. I want them to know we are so much more alike than we are different. I want us to stop hiding from the truth about life and coping so we can help each other when one of us slips into The Black Hole.

Let’s help each other move boulders.

Let’s throw each other a rope.

Let’s save each other.

sdhsig1.gif

The End…for now.

P.S. My heartfelt thanks to all of you who have read through each post on this *depressing* subject and for all the comments and personal emails. It really means a lot to me. Stay tuned for a new series next week I’m calling “Little Lessons.” This series should be a lot more FUN than The Black Hole.

If you missed parts one through six here they are…

The Black Hole, Part One
The Black Hole, Part Two
The Black Hole, Part Three
The Black Hole, Part Four
The Black Hole, Part Five
The Black Hole, Part Six

I’m still considering condensing it all into an ebook 😉

The Black Hole, Part Six

I drove 14 hours and 1,000 miles and stopped once for gas and to go to the bathroom and once for a sandwich and to go to the bathroom.

This, I do not recommend. It was not my finest moment.

PhilBillPaul was frantic with worry. He had lived with my head injury emotional outbursts for almost all our years of marriage but I had never left. (Well, except that one time I caught the bumper of the car on the side of the garage and drove to the Kroger parking lot and sat for an hour.)

He called one friend to the north and one friend to the south. Apparently I have no friends to the east or west of me. Neither had heard from me because I was “enjoying” my quiet ride with my iPod playing and my cell phone turned off.

At about the six-hour mark, I decided to turn the phone on. I guess I decided I should check my voicemail. Soothing messages from Ann, friend in the north and Luci, friend in the south made me cry. They were worried and just wanted to help me.

I gathered what little composure I could find and called Ann first since she knew about my breakdown the night before.

Next, I called Luci because even in my mental state I was still worried about good manners. Luci owns an Alzheimer’s facility that she purchased so that her mother would have a place to live. This speaks volumes about her character and she is a caregiver extraordinaire. She asked exactly where I was and at that point I was approaching Louisville, Kentucky. Had I driven south I would have been almost to Tampa, where she lives.

She got on the internet and said she had a flight she would ticket immediately and I could go to the airport, leave my car there, fly to Tampa and she would get me any medical and professional help I needed and take care of me. It was all overwhelming me – this making decisions while I drove to nowhere. I hung up and wept.

It was beyond kind but I couldn’t get past my guilt about imposing on her life just because I couldn’t manage mine. I also knew, as Ann reminded me, that I would feel trapped if I didn’t have my car. (They were both nice enough to not point out that driving was probably not what I should be doing.)

So I declined Luci’s offer but I promised I would call her when I knew where I was going.

A few hours later, my friend Ann made the decision for me. She met me at midnight, three hours from her house, and got us a hotel room and took care of me. She opened her home and took care of me for 10 days while I slept and slept and slept. I did wake up to eat. (I wish I could say I lost my appetite…but no such luck.)

She gave PhilBillPaul updates. I talked to the kids almost every day.

I pulled my personal thing together. (Sort of.) We learned that the withdrawal from the medication I had been taking could be worse than heroine withdrawal for some people. I have no point of reference for that one. The doctors know very little or share very little. The patients, many times, continue to take low doses of this particular medication rather than suffer through the withdrawal.

This would have been helpful information before I started taking the drug. But then again, we didn’t know that I would have such a violent reaction to the medication and the withdrawal process.

All I can tell you is that I have never, ever felt so bad in my entire life.

I don’t name any of the drugs because I know everyone tolerates and responds to medications differently. My experience is just mine. Yours may be totally different. I tend to believe that my head injury plays a part in my inability to tolerate anti-depressants and they just don’t work for me.

What really saved me? Friends. Girlfriends, to be more specific. Lifelong friends who kept calling, emailing and checking on me. Friends who didn’t let me disappear into that Black Hole. They threw me a rope. Sometimes I threw it back and screamed I didn’t need it. They would just throw it to me again.

For the friends who read this and feel bad that they did not know…please release the guilt. I know that if I had picked up the phone, reached out for a moment to let you know, you would have helped me.

No code names for these friends who saved me. From my heart with all the love I can give, thank you…Ann, Luci, Toni, Kim, Colleen, Nancy…you are my heroes and you all really did save me.

sdhsig1.gif

To be continued…

If you missed part one, two, three, four or five…

The Black Hole, Part One
The Black Hole, Part Two
The Black Hole, Part Three
The Black Hole, Part Four
The Black Hole, Part Five

Or to read part seven (which is the last one!) and my personal congrats for getting this far…

The Black Hole, Part Seven

The Black Hole, Part Five

PhilBillPaul was on his way home–presumably to take me to the hospital or some facility that could help me. The kids were hiding somewhere in the house listening to me cry.

I called my friend Ann to tell her my passwords and important information she could take care of while I went away. Apparently, I was thinking I might be away for a while and someone should answer my emails and take care of other details I wouldn’t be able to while I was hospitalized. Because I’m a planner like that.

I still could not breathe.

I never, ever felt so out of control in my whole life.

Ann told me to take one of those new anti-anxiety pills right then while she was on the phone with me and she insisted she would stay on the phone with me until PhilBillPaul got home.

When she was sure PhilBillPaul was tending to me, Ann then called my OB/gyn and my therapist.

Have I mentioned that my friend Ann lives in Illinois? She was doing all this for me three states and 820 miles away–I hope you all have a friend like Ann in your life…

The OB/gyn offices said to take me to the emergency room. The therapist said to try to wait until Monday because the ER would do very little and might make it worse. It’s always helpful for the professionals to agree and make good decisions on your behalf when you are no longer able to. (sigh)

I had already screamed announced I was not going to the ER to be strapped down and sedated. I have BIG issues about being pinned down.

I took a shower. I crawled into bed and talked to Ann on the phone again because she seemed to be the only person who could calm me down. PhilBillPaul brought me something to eat. I fell asleep.

I slept fitfully and never really calmed down. The exhaustion was indescribable.

Maybe it was the rhythmic snoring that brought me to this place or maybe I just needed something to blame because no one could tell me why I felt this way. I do know that the snoring had become like nails on a chalkboard, or for me, like when someone scratches their jeans and I have to slap them to stop it.

Come to think of it, his breathing had become quite annoying too.

In the morning, PhilBillPaul left to take the girls to a basketball game and The Grunter was still sleeping.

All I remember thinking is this: I cannot stay in my own house another minute. I must find a quiet place where I can sleep. I must not be where dogs bark or kids say “Hey mama” or my husband asks me every half hour “Is there anything I can get you?”

I know that last one sounds really sweet and it was. If you weren’t me.

It was also smothering and infuriating. He just couldn’t fix me no matter how much he wanted to.

So I did what we’ve all threatened thought about but only in our head. Or shared privately with girlfriends but always with a little uneasy laughter because none of us would ever really act on those unspoken or private thoughts…

I ran away from home.

Literally.

I left a note that said I would call when I got to where I was going. I packed a bag of dirty clothes and left.

I had no idea where I was going.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I was pretty sure I was going…

CRAZY.

sdhsig1.gif

To be continued…

If you missed part one, two, three or four…

The Black Hole, Part One
The Black Hole, Part Two
The Black Hole, Part Three
The Black Hole, Part Four

Or to read more of the riveting story that I probably should just turn into a free ebook…

The Black Hole, Part Six
The Black Hole, Part Seven

The Black Hole, Part Four

The nurse at my doctor’s office encouraged me to see the midwife who is well-versed in women’s sleep deprivation, depression and hormone issues. I wholeheartedly agreed. I love the midwives. I delivered all four children with midwives. Sign me up. I need to see a midwife.

She listened. She empathized. She laughed. (I’m still funny even when I’m depressed.) She pointed out anyone would be depressed at the stage of life I’m at with the ages of my children. (That made me kind of sad.)

She sent me home with a NEW prescription that she was SURE would work for me. It was in a different family of drugs than the other two I had taken in the past. I had been properly weaned from the first med and could start the new med the very next day.

She also sent me home with a sleeping pill prescription. I was craving sleep in a giant way.

I took one and lay in bed all night waiting for it to work. No such luck.

Have I mentioned that PhilBillPaul snores like a stuck pig? He has done this for all 20 years of our marriage. I’ve been incredibly tolerant if I do say so and I am saying so now. But at this time in my life, his snoring, or more accurately, my newly developed extreme sensitivity to noise had wreaked more havoc on my sleep patterns.

12 weeks later. Still exhausted. Volatile. Witchy. I called the doctor’s office and talked to the nurse again. She said I should definitely be feeling better by now. Time to start weaning off this drug that wasn’t working and make another appointment. They wanted me to come in and talk to the midwife again.

She was baffled. She couldn’t believe that neither med worked. I asked about hormone levels and doing other blood work to test everything that seemed to be going wrong with my body (and mind). She thought it might be time for a pysch evaluation. I volunteered to check in to a facility where I could sleep for a week or two. She laughed…again.

I left with the names of two psychiatrists she recommended and a new anti-anxiety med that might help on the “really bad days” (until we could figure out what was wrong with me).

Two days later, I had The Grunter pinned to the wall and I was screaming till my throat hurt. I literally fell apart. I could not breathe. I called PhilBillPaul and through my hysterical sobbing I begged him to come home and take me to a hospital that would help me…

sdhsig1.gif

To be continued…

If you missed part one, two or three…

The Black Hole, Part One
The Black Hole, Part Two
The Black Hole, Part Three

Or to read more of the riveting story that I probably should just turn into a free ebook…

The Black Hole, Part Five
The Black Hole, Part Six
The Black Hole, Part Seven

The Black Hole, Part Three

I went home from that appointment and I’m pretty sure I crawled into bed and took a long nap. Sheesh, it was a big day for me–showering and driving to the doctor and all. I might have had to stop and put gas in the car. I can’t really remember.

I spent another month in bed considering taking the pills but knowing if I just got a little more quality sleep time, I would snap out of this and everything would be okay.

I made weekly appointments for some talk therapy. I went. The therapist gave me words of affirmation and quality time (my main love languages).

Side note: If you haven’t ever read Gary Chapman’s book, The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate I highly recommend it. It has been extremely helpful in all my relationships, not just marriage.

Okay, I do know she was getting paid to give me quality time and words of affirmation are really part of her job description. But I did feel better for at least an hour or two. She also thought I should seriously consider taking the medication.

I went home from those appointments and climbed back in bed to sleep because I was exhausted from actually going somewhere. And not sleeping at night.

Another month went by and nothing much had changed. So I made the decision to try the pills.

Please understand my hesitation in taking the pills was not because I am anti-meds. If it works, give me two! My hesitation was in my previous experience of taking a short six month ride on another anti-depressant when my dad was dying and Scary Baby was just 8 months old.

That prescription certainly took the edge off and kept me functioning at a time in my life that I really needed to be “present and accounted for.” But it also made me very, very flat. I am the first one to admit that I like to FEEL my emotions–I love to laugh and I’m not opposed to a good cry. With the drug, I did neither.

Side note: I was very, very agreeable and PhilBillPaul liked that a lot. He could barely get me to argue or squeal about anything. Very sad for me. I missed that part of me.

So I decided to make the commitment and started to take the pills as instructed. It takes at least 4 to 6 weeks to get the drugs into your system at the proper dosing.

Nothing…no change. Except I was more tired which seemed almost impossible. Not being able to sleep at night, I was staying up till the wee hours of the morning and then having vivid, 3D dreams that were not peaceful or soothing in any way.

That was the single most disturbing side effect because even though I’m aware that I have many, many issues–sleep was never one of them. I could get a job as a professional sleeper. It is a skill I have carefully honed. I know I need a minimum of eight hours with a nap or two if possible. I’m the person who can sleep standing up if there is no place to lie down.

Except then I was freaking out because I was not getting any uninterrupted sleep. It was much, much worse than the “new, crying baby, no sleep” mode. Why? Because I was a lot younger then. And my babies were put on an excellent sleep schedule and adhered to it. And because if there was one time I was a really good mother, it was when they were infants.

Ten weeks later. I’m not sleeping, I’m farther down in the black hole and it was time to call the doctor again.

sdhsig1.gif

To be continued…

If you missed part one or two…

The Black Hole, Part One
The Black Hole, Part Two

Or to read more of the riveting story that I probably should just turn into a free ebook…

The Black Hole, Part Four
The Black Hole, Part Five
The Black Hole, Part Six
The Black Hole, Part Seven

The Black Hole, Part Two

Back in 1988, my new friend, Mr. Psychologist, who was helping me cope with the side effects of the head injury recovery process, shared a word picture that helps me even today.

He said, “Everyone has a sack of pebbles they carry on their back. Some have larger pebbles than others. Some have more pebbles. Some have less.”

I then announced “if everyone has pebbles then I have BOULDERS in my sack.” Remember, head injury patients are prone to ill-timed emotional outbursts and I was a textbook case. These days when I act out I just yell “Coma” so everyone remembers it’s not my fault. It doesn’t really work all that often but can you blame me for trying?

Focus, Sherra, focus.

Okay, so the real lesson here is not that I have boulders and you don’t. I believe we all have pebbles, rocks and boulders and we all cope with them in very different ways.

Your boulders may be bigger and heavier than mine. They come in all shapes and sizes and weights. (Hey, just like people.) We’re not here to judge anyone’s boulders so please, let’s start by not judging mine. We are not in a boulder competition. I repeat, this is not a competition!

Rather, we need to look for ways to help each other see past the boulders, move them, chip them away – do whatever it takes to get that other human being around, over or out from behind the boulder.

Upon realizing that The Black Hole (TBH) was a giant boulder and it was getting in the way of my day-to-day life, I knew I had to do something.

The first thing I did was to make a doctor’s appointment with my OB/gyn. It conveniently coincided with that extra-special annual appointment that we all love so much. I did feel a tiny bit productive multi-tasking like that.

I’m pretty verbal (as if you haven’t already figured that out) and I know the importance of being my own medical advocate. I shared with my doctor who I had been seeing since just after the twins were born, that I was having a hard time “coping” at home and my PMS seemed to be lasting, on average, about 28 to 30 days every month.

I really believe that knowing the rhythm of our bodies is crucial for our health and well-being.

My doctor listened, nodded, and made some notes on his new hi-tech laptop that held my new paperless medical records.

Then he sent me home with the latest, greatest anti-depressant and patted me on the back and said to call if I needed anything else…

sdhsig1.gif

To be continued…

If you missed part one…

The Black Hole, Part One

Or to read more of the riveting story that I probably should just turn into a free ebook…

The Black Hole, Part Three
The Black Hole, Part Four
The Black Hole, Part Five
The Black Hole, Part Six
The Black Hole, Part Seven

The Black Hole, Part One

My journey into The Black Hole was not as easy to summarize as I first thought. Here is the beginning of the story that I will continue to share in the coming weeks. Not because I think the details are fascinating or I am trying to be more depressing, but because if my story can help just one woman who is going through something similar, I want to reach out to her…

I have discovered that I have the ability to muddle through even when life gets hard. It’s part of who I am. A stubborn, hardworking, Midwestern girl who knows bad things can happen to good people.

I have also discovered that it really takes a lot to send me spiraling into “The Black Hole” but spiral is what I do when faced with boulders. (More on boulders on another day.)

So far, three boulders have been put in front of me that have overwhelmed me enough to warrant intervention, professional counseling and/or drugs:

Boulder #1: The car crash, coma and learning to live with a head injury. May 1988

Boulder #2: Helping my mom take care of my dad when he was dying of multiple myeloma. February 2000

Boulder #3: An explosion with a flash fire at our house where PhilBillPaul and I suffered severe 2nd degree burns. September 2006

Lest you think I’m whining, I share these things with you to give you a bit more insight into who I am and let you know that I don’t typically fall apart when life gets hard.

I now realize that the fire was really a post-traumatic stress trigger. It brought up feelings so similar to the car crash “boulder” that it was almost eerie.

Except this time I had three teenagers and a 2nd grader and two dogs and I could barely function. It took all my strength to get out of bed and get cleaned up to “appear to be fine” at a school function or sporting event or anywhere in public.

My semi-rational brain knew that old adage of “surround yourself with positive people” is usually true.

Unfortunately, my irrational brain was working overtime. Positive people were the last people I wanted to be around. They can be very irritating to those of us who are not feeling so positive. Positive people were not invited into The Black Hole. This was a private party for one, thank you very much.

So I started avoiding doing anything that required me to get out of bed or get cleaned up or basically interact with other humans beyond my immediate family.

I was anti-social and preferred to be in my bedroom (in my bed) whenever possible. I answered the phone as little as possible.

I was a barrel of fun to live with.

To be continued…

To read more of the riveting story that I probably should just turn into a free ebook…

The Black Hole, Part Two
The Black Hole, Part Three
The Black Hole, Part Four
The Black Hole, Part Five
The Black Hole, Part Six
The Black Hole, Part Seven

Blog Widget by LinkWithin