Wednesday, September 30, 2020

A Disjointed Update on my Mental Health

I went off my antidepressants in January. 

My psychiatrist and I had been talking about weaning myself off of them for the last 2 years. When I finally did it, I will admit it wasn't because I reduced them to half... then to a third... then to a quarter... I just stopped. 

It was financial. It was inconvenient to make another appointment. 

This is a HUGE no-no in the mental health world! You never go off of meds without a plan. You never miss appointments or don't make them. But I did. I couldn't really admit this to anyone (let alone, myself) until about a month, ago, because I knew I did something reckless. (And let me be clear: I do NOT recommend this method. I really don't. No matter how well it's worked out for me, I will never recommend stopping meds without a clear plan in front of you!)

I did well for the first two months. I couldn't really feel a difference, although PMS time certainly was more pronounced, emotionally. And then the Pandemic hit. I thought that maybe I would crash and burn mentally, but... I didn't! 

Truthfully, the Pandemic meant life halted and it was a silver lining for me! The stress of getting 10 people everywhere for everything was gone. School was on hiatus for several weeks and church assignments were canceled. Piano lessons were canceled. All sports were canceled. You know this, dear reader, because you live this, too. And because everything was canceled, my stress practically disappeared overnight... 

Oh, don't get me wrong! Pandemic stress was difficult, too. But for a few months, the stress was just not nearly as pronounced. We worried about hygiene and groceries and we were sad about isolation... but it just wasn't as stressful on my mind and body. Here's why: 

1. My kids were all home. Even our college-aged daughter! I knew where they were at all times and so I wasn't worried about where they were or who they were with or what they could have been doing... 
2. I didn't have to spend my time driving everyone everywhere and coordinate how to do this while teaching piano lessons and working with Brandon's schedule. 
3. My church responsibilities got significantly easier
4. The weather was phenomenal! It was the BEST Spring I had ever experienced in Kansas (our 5th Spring) and so we spent so much time outdoors. Gardening, walking in our local wilderness park, and Brandon and I would take daily walks around our yard. We also went camping! Being outside so much was good for my soul. 
5. There weren't any upcoming vacations to stress over (even though I love traveling). 
6. We had movie nights and game days and the kids learned to build really great blanket forts. 

In essence, life came to a grinding halt. 

But then... the weather turned hot, life started picking up, again... and this election year... and my stress levels have risen significantly. School started and our kids keep getting sick (mono and colds and now we're awaiting a covid test for our daughter). We were prepping our oldest for her mission and doing Home MTC, and the stress of making sure all of our kids were practicing safety in public (masks, etc.) started to wear me down. 

(I lost some significant relationships, this year, too. That was brutal and I'll write about it, later.)

I started to notice that it was really hard for about 10 days, every month. That's like half the month! But it was at PMS/Menstruation time. This makes so much sense! I've always struggled with my cycle emotionally. I don't get very many physical ailments or symptoms during my cycle --they have always been mental and emotional. I get so moody! Angry, frustrated, sad --and I cry a lot. But as my bleeding winds down, and the hormones are flushed out (literally!), I feel myself recovering. 

Which brings me to another subject that I will write about: How We Need to Stop Hating Periods (trust me, it'll be good!)

Realizing that menstruation time is when my Depression is at it's most vulnerable, I've been trying to track my period and be aware of what is happening. Knowledge is power! And having this knowledge allows me to take the time I need to be kind to myself during those weeks. 

I remember back in May, though. I had been having a rough time, and so I thought maybe I should get the antidepressants, again. I called my psychiatrist's office and they told me that because it had been a year since I had seen him, they had closed my account. WHAT THE!? Closed my account? I would have to start over by paying them money to have a consultation appointment, a paperwork appointment, and then the actual appointment. I can't afford that! It made me angry that a health service, which is supposed to help people prevent self-harm, couldn't keep a person's file open for longer than a year. I was only seeing my psychiatrist once a year as it was! Who was running this!? I was frustrated, but instead of making another appointment, I chose to carry on. 

Wise? Perhaps not. But I seem to be doing okay. In fact, I would say that the main reason I'm doing better than I would have is because of the years of therapy in my arsenal. Therapy is so invaluable! I've been able to use a lot of the things I've learned, and even though it doesn't always eradicate my anger or bad thoughts, it definitely helps me to derail the train and re-direct me to better things. I also try and practice some self-care to make sure I don't overwhelm myself.

Here are some things I do to keep my mental health in check:
1. Read the scriptures and pray daily 
2. Read books that make me happy
3. Breathe deeply
4. Give myself time-outs
5. Play the piano (for fun!)
6. Take long showers
7. Talk with good friends 
8. Date night with my husband (and some good sex ;) ) 
9. Go outside (walking when I can, although this has tapered off. I need to get back into the habit of regular exercise!)
10. Listening to good music

So, there you go. I'm not 100%, but I'm certainly not as depressed and anxious as I used to be! I'm moving forward. I might still go back on meds, one day (I will never rule them out), but for now, I'm good. 

What do you do to keep yourself mentally and emotionally healthy? 

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