YES, it’s POSSIBLE! I only ask that you have an open mind and heart while you read this article. It might help if you start off by reading MY HEALING STORY and Life Saving Surgery to get a background on what I’ve experienced.
My goal is to help people by giving them hope through sharing my journey and what turned my life around!
You’ll see from my history of accepting abusive behaviors that I was welcoming pain and dysfunction into my life. I explain this to you so that you can see that when you choose to have hope, over and over, you choose well being. I just KNEW that there had to be something better than what I was experiencing.
I know that Depression is an extremely dark place. I experienced it twice in my life, each for about 6 months in 1998 and 2003. Once after a failed Heart Surgery attempt, and once before the second successful one. While I experienced Anxiety and PTSD daily from the years of severe abuse and neglect, (I discuss the freedom from those here: Forgiveness Requires Two.), the Depression led me to be seconds away from suicide. I was upset that my heart surgery failed after going through a horrible surgery experience where I nearly bled out waiting for the nurse to answer my call button. (I will post on Supraventricular Tachycardia in the future.) I was upset that my first husband called me a Medical Misfit. I was upset that he hit me, close fisted, in the head for the first (and only) time not long before this attempt. This brought back severe trauma from my childhood. I had never fully dealt with the Sexual Abuse by both of my parents (during the beatings, they forced me to bend over their bed in a way that exposed my genitals for attack), or my mother allowing my pediatrician to molest me right in front of her. I got married to get away from my parents’ continued abuse. I had never mourned what I lost during rape. I had always thrown myself into my work as an escape and I had to resign from many jobs, repeatedly, due to my heart condition (and what I now know are several Autoimmune Diseases). So, I was faced with all of this and didn’t see a way out at the time. I thought that taking my newly refilled, 90 Beta Blocker pills would make it all go away. I had them in one hand, and a glass of water in the other. I tried to get those pills in my mouth, but something stopped me. I realized that I wanted RELIEF, not DEATH! I put those 90 pills on the kitchen counter and started to spell out HELP, but couldn’t finish the “P”. I put them back in the bottle and went to wake up my husband at the time up and asked for help. He just said, “Oh, hear we go!”, which made me realize that I needed a divorce. I started to secretly plan my escape. He was active duty military and was sent away for a few months. I was almost free, but I met my second husband during the transition.
When we found out that he got orders to Okinawa, I told him that I would wait for him. He said “Marry me, and come with me?” So, I did what any naive, 23 year old girl perpetuating the cycle of abuse would do…I married him within less than a month of my divorce being final, and only having known him for less than four months. Was he a predator that smelled weakness? ABSOLUTELY! When we went back to meet his family before the wedding, I tried to leave in the middle of the night because of how abusive he was being to me there. He talked me into trying marijuana for the first time when we got back into his hometown and his sources were nearby. He had already talked me into a pack a day cigarette smoking habit. I truly believe that the marijuana was laced with something. As we were driving around in his car, I asked if we were near the ocean. He said, “No, why?” I said, “What are those boat masts, then?” They were TELEPHONE POLES! I ended up throwing up and in tachycardia in the basement of his mother’s house because he was trying to hide this issue. He wouldn’t take me to the hospital. I felt like I was dying. I made it through that. A few days later, his sister offered to take me to get my tattoo modified. One that my ex-husband and I shared. He was all upset that I altered my body without asking him, even though he told me before we got there that he was sick of the tattoo and that I should get work done on it. He kept telling me that I was making a mockery out of him in front of his family. So, I tried to sneak out and call a cab. He picked me up and body slammed me onto the wooden Futon arm. I yelled out in pain and he began to hold me down with his hand covering my nose and mouth. I yielded to him. The next day, I was getting changed and he asked about the bruises all over me. I told them they were from him. He said that I bruised too easily. I was controlled by complete fear at this point and mostly just did whatever he said from 1999 to 2006. When I crossed him, I surely paid for it. I’ll go into Domestic Violence, including the abusers desire of ownership, more in another post.
My ill health caused me to lose more jobs. (Looking back, I believe that it was undiagnosed Lupus, Celiac Disease, and the like, too.) In 2003, when I first applied for SSDI (and gave up after the first denial), the Depression creeped back in. I had also been on a shoebox of pills. The Beta Blocker lowers the blood pressure, then you need a blood pressure stabilizer that causes stomach spasms, and you need something else. Varioius doctors tried me on all kinds of different psychiatric prescriptions because they believed that it was all in my head. They even tried to take me off of my heart pills. The psychiatric medications didn’t do ANYTHING for my symptoms and just made me feel agitated, shaky, irrational, and I couldn’t find the person that I once was. Nothing made sense to me. I ended up stopping everything but the Beta Blocker and Blood Pressure medication right before my second heart surgery.
My mother-in-law would call my ex-husband and because he couldn’t hear well, he would have the phone turned way up. She would tell him how I was lazy and faking it and just didn’t WANT to work. Of course, he didn’t stick up for me, even when I confronted her with it and she lied about ever saying it. When my surgery was a success right before Christmas 2003, she did buy me a heart pendant bracelet that could be engraved with the date of my surgery on it. I took that as a peace offering.
After the surgery, I had a new lease on life! Nearly all of the tachycardia symptoms were gone! I started a job the next month. I found myself falling a lot and needing to sleep in my office with the door closed on my lunch (Now I know that this is from Arnold Chiari Malformation of my brain, and possibly the Postural Hypotension as well). My doctor again told me that it was Depression. I tried to convince her that I wasn’t depressed anymore, something was physically wrong. I explained that I didn’t have a hopeless feeling, or lack of interest in life, or anything that I experienced during those two deep depressions. (You could have waived tickets to France in front of my face and I would have pulled the covers back over my head.) I explained to her that the second deep depression didn’t even budge with the medication that I supposedly needed to be on. So, against my better judgement I tried a whole slew of other prescriptions. All making me feel on the edge of losing my mind, something that I didn’t feel off of the medication. No matter how sad, lonely, or hopeless that I felt, I still had my wits about me until they introduced these drugs. I don’t have an accurate count yet, as I’m getting ready to organize all of my records, but I believe that I tried at least 12-15 different psychiatric medications.
I had a few little blips of counseling right before I left my first husband. However, I started to see a counselor regularly in 2004 and was making good progress on the Anxiety and PTSD. I could feel myself healing a little at a time with every “Ah Ha” moment. (I don’t think that it’s necessary forever, though. I had one try to tell me that I was feeling something that I wasn’t because I was getting to the point of not needing her anymore. She saw $ walking away and wanted to keep being able to bill insurance.)
When my doctor convinced me to go back on the medication again, I found myself unable to use my brain properly. The medication changed my thought process in such a huge way. I kept telling my doctor that the pills made me feel like I was losing my mind. When I stopped them, everything in my mind returned to normal. I still wasn’t depressed, but I was still exhausted and falling a lot, with intestinal issues and heat intolerance, the lists goes on. Yet, every time that I went to my doctor she told me that it was just stress and that I needed a pill. I write about this negligence in Misdiagnosis is Too Common. Doctors really need to test for diseases to rule them out BEFORE jumping to the conclusion that it is “All in your head.” I stopped going to the doctor, unless I had one of my repeated infections.
I worked with my counselor and got strong enough to leave my second husband. That was a battle for sure, but standing up to someone that threatened to kill me was easier than even the side effects of those pills. Within a year, the Anxiety and PTSD were hardly noticeable.
However, I still complained of my physical symptoms to my doctor again, as they kept getting more and more severe over time. She told me that I just needed to work out, so I took up that old hobby of mine again and truly suffered. Most times, I nearly passed out during my workouts. I found myself sleeping on my lunches again and took up a coffee habit that would make Columbia worry about supply!
I found myself getting worse and worse physically after this. I kept running out of sick time at my job and had to leave or face getting fired, so I resigned. This wasn’t anything new for me. The next employer laid me off during their third round of layoffs before eventually selling off the company.
While going through all of this, I was trying to be a “Step Mom” to the 4 children that I loved, and still love, so dearly. Their father kept getting upset with me and telling me that I wasn’t trying to get better. This relationship became abusive as well and he eventually told me to leave, which I did. I miss those kids terribly and will always love them, but their father wanted hired help (without pay), not a life partner. His 5 year old boy told his mom, “Mom, Dad is mean to every woman he knows.” How sad, but amazing how they pick up on these things! His 7 year old clung to me on the couch the night that he told me to leave and we cried after she said, “I don’t think that I will ever see you again.” She was right in knowing that her father would cut me out of their lives. I told her that it wouldn’t change the fact that I love her and her siblings.
I moved back in with my abusive parents after this. I mourned and healed from this huge loss. Now, I’m filled with only beautiful memories of the children. I had to realize that my “Man Picker” was still broken. It was broken when I dated the next creep, too. He bailed when I needed to resign from my career and apply for SSDI. Unfortunately, I was no longer the Accounting Manager that this fellow Accounting Manager wanted. I picked myself up, and dusted myself off, and I was thankful that I hadn’t moved in with him when he suggested it.
When I went into my doctor’s office crying because I finally realized that I just couldn’t work anymore, she again told me that I needed pills. I explained all of my physical symptoms. How I was sleeping in my car at lunch, feeling excruciating pain, burning eyes, bladder problems, back to back infections, etc. Yet, this was all in my head, still. She gave me the horrible concoction that put me into Serotonin Syndrome. It wasn’t until I went in to her afterwards to demand in writing to see the Rheumatologist (who she KNEW diagnosed my father with Lupus a year and a half before), that she actually did the RIGHT thing. In order to justify her lack of attention in this matter, she tried to say that she was just trying to help my SSDI case by “proving” that I was mentally ill.
During the Serotonin Syndrome, my mother called all of my “friends”, including the boyfriend, and told them that I had a nervous breakdown and to stay away from me while I got the help that I needed. (I had left my cell phone with her before I went to the hospital with Serotonin Syndrome and asked her to text my friends to let them know what was going on.) When I came back from 2 1/2 days in the ER, my parents told me that I had to shower up and be ready to leave the house because a realtor was coming and they were moving to Florida. I could hardly even walk. (My father told me that I was being foolish when I bought my cane with a credit card a few days later, because there was nothing wrong with me.) I was urinating every 30 minutes, having trouble not falling, and my father was furious that I was keeping him up at night, even though he suffered with the same issues early in his diagnosis before treatment. He told me that I couldn’t wear the rubber sandals that I used for house shoes to keep myself from falling in my socks anymore. He told me to wear his slippers, which were too big and made falling almost ensured. I didn’t expect my parents to react in a healthy manner, but this was brutal!
I found myself disowned and kicked out by my parents very shortly after and they told me that they didn’t care if I went to the local homeless shelter. Facing this, along with them trying to take my aging dog (who they had abused in front of me) with them to Florida, I had to do something. A “friend” allowed me to stay on her couch for a week. She then gave me her spare room but asked for money. I took out a cash advance on my credit card to give her $100. In the one month that I was there, I saved her a few hundred dollars on snow days by watching her son in my weakened physical condition. I paid for Chinese take out for them. The diagnoses were pouring in and I was making chocolate milk in the middle of throwing up. I applied for assistance at her town as well, but she said that $200 a month was not enough to cover electric, heat, and water. Living on my own, I know this is ridiculous! I only paid $23 a month in electric in my own apartment. She kept reminding me that she was putting a roof over my head. She received assistance from a local church, as well. She then tried to pin 3 months of retro electric bills on me and told me that it was my fault, when I could clearly see that she had “Estimated” on her bills because she didn’t shovel the snow away from her meter. When one of my procedures prevented me from picking up her son so that she could go to Happy Hour, she told me to be out in 3 days. This is when complete strangers took me in.
The 6 months that I was with them, I was able to convalesce as much as I could. I was able to look at the poor relationship choices and see that I was choosing to associate with disrespectful people. I was able to see where the abuse stemmed from and how my choice of not dealing with the past led to inviting users into my life. I didn’t respect myself enough to require respect from others. The 6 months that I spent with these kind people made more of an impact than 7 years of “on and off” counseling.
I was able to see that I was pretty awesome, even with a disability. Instead of my parents refusing to visit me after my heart surgery that was only 45 minutes away, this kind woman was with me at every appointment that was an hour away. When I needed a Protection From Abuse order, I had an entourage of 3 people. This love was more than I ever received in my entire life! I finally knew love!
Different family members were able to help me to see that even though my negative choices brought me much pain, my positive choices impacted my healing. I chose not to allow addictions to take over my life. I chose to leave both abusive marriages no matter how foolish I felt for making the mistakes in the first place. I chose to know better than my doctor when the medications weren’t helping, but harming me. I could go on and on about the choices that I made to get out from under the negativity, but that doesn’t mean that the negativity didn’t take it’s toll. I truly believe that stress is a partial cause of Lupus (just like it is for heart disease, or whatever someone is predisposed to). I know that my food choices helped to cause Lupus as well. The rest, I chalk up to genetics and environmental degradation.
EVERY ACTION IN YOUR LIFE REQUIRES A CHOICE! Saying that a Mental Illness doesn’t give you a choice is an excuse to not do the hard work that it takes to pull yourself up out of bad situations. I had to spend nearly all of my waking hours changing my thoughts and actions. I was willing to do that for happiness. While I believe that a small percentage of people with Mental Illness don’t know right from wrong, I believe the everyday sufferer does. If you know right from wrong and choose wrong, you’re at fault, plain and simple. How many times did I say, “I know that it’s bad for me, but I’m in pain, so I deserve this cigarette, drink, joint, etc.” I can see (now that I’m on the other side) how much of a cop out that is.
I’ve had people tell me that it’s pure luck to overcome Depression and Anxiety. They say that some people are lucky to overcome it, others aren’t. This is ridiculous! Luck has NOTHING to do with it!
I’ve had people tell me that they don’t want to be in their situation. If you don’t want something, you CHANGE it! Their excuse is that Depression “won’t let them”. If you give Depression that much power over your choices, that’s exactly the result that you’ll get.
Now, there are other aspects of Mental Illness that are more severe. I didn’t have Depression all of my life. It’s probably the difference between a 20 year smoker, and a 1 year smoker, quitting smoking. The process of change will be THAT much harder!
There are more severe diseases as well. However, I know someone personally that has completely healed from Schizophrenia. He actually told me: “Don’t refer to Lupus, as “My Lupus.” He said that disconnecting from any illness will help in battling it. It’s true. This one change in thought pattern made a huge difference for me. This was hard to change for sure! I still slip up sometimes, but for the most part I’ve rid myself of owning any illness. If I own an illness, it will OWN ME!
My message to others is that there’s hope out there. My request is that you choose to keep the option for healing someday open. Instead of saying that you can’t, say “Maybe someday, I CAN heal from this.” These little changes are LIFE ALTERING!
I’ve had people tell me that this isn’t what a person suffering with Mental Illness wants to hear. I was even recently called a drill sergeant by someone telling me that my words can hurt people. Someone might not want to hear the truth, but it could save them heartache, pain, and suicide if they do the work to apply what I’ve done.
Here’s the type of advice that I give others: “Respect yourself enough to realize that no other human being deserves more than you do!” “Stop telling yourself that you’ll try! Tell yourself that YOU WILL!” I know that we might not believe it at first and it’s awkward, but it will change your life. When someone tells you that you have changed their life by giving them tools to manage their thoughts better, you can’t help but want to do a cheesy, happy dance.
Remember this: I CAN’T = I WON’T.
Why give yourself that kind of prediction?
I’ve been told that my advice lacks compassion and love. My message of hope comes from a place of DEEP compassion and love.
There are other things within our control that we can change to affect our overall health and mental health. Personally, I believe that doctors throw around the term “Chemical Imbalance” to scare you into thinking there’s no way out, and then the drug company has a customer for life. (I’m not suggesting to stop taking medication.) If there’s a “Chemical Imbalance” in our body, could it be due to Aspartame, Fluoride, etc. How much Formaldehyde in Febreeze do we need to inhale before the chemicals cause a wide variety of health problems. Can we function well neurologically this way? We can (and should) remove these chemicals, and many more, from our lives.
I’ve always wondered how physicians can claim a chemical imbalance without a test, though? That’s because it’s not scientifically proven, only a hypothesis. The encyclopedia says this:
“Chemical imbalance is one hypothesis about the cause of mental illness. Other causes that are debated include psychological and social causes. One criticism while not outright rejecting the theory is that it has been scientifically proven that things other than drugs can influence brain chemistry. Exercise releases endorphins. Even our own thoughts change our brain chemistry. These natural methods of changing brain chemicals are claimed by critics to be preferable to drugs since drugs have side effects. Furthermore, some psychiatric drugs might alter the mind by disabling moods and emotions not just in circumstances where they’re a problem but in circumstances where they’re appropriate or even beneficial as well while natural ways to change brain chemistry can be used as needed.”
I’ll write more on this subject in the future. But, think about it… If I’m stressed and turn to alcohol, cigarettes, or marijuana, they’ll change the chemical balance in my brain, temporarily raising Dopamine or other things. If we’re overloaded with stress and take a drug that changes the amount of our “feel good” chemicals, we’re masking the cause of the original symptoms. We’re then distracted from dealing with the root cause because in some ways we feel better, but as the encyclopedia explains, we’re left with whatever downside there is to those drugs. (Muscle twitching, personality changes, the feeling of dependency, or whatever scary side effect that they rush through at the end of their money hungry add – including death.) Personally, I think that the brain can only deal with a certain amount of stress, and if we’re put into overload because of life experiences, our body’s ability to handle it will be exceeded. We can alter how we feel with street drugs, or prescriptions, to increase our Dopamine or Serotonin respectively (our natural “feel good” chemicals), but either way we’re just masking, and not dealing with, the root of the problem.
If we can find ways to boost endorphins, while healing stressful memories and creating better approaches to new stressors, we can naturally get our body off of “OVERLOAD”, and into a place of peace. We also need to embrace the fact that we can protect ourselves from preventable new stressors. Negative stress will continue to produce Cortisol, which leads to disease, obesity, and a whole slew of problems. We need to find a good balance in our lives. Laughter releases endorphins, pet bonding releases endorphins, getting out in nature releases endorphins, and experiencing love releases endorphins. Try to find ways to bring these experiences into your life. You’re in control of your endorphin levels by the experiences that you choose to take part in, or walk away from. We’ll always have stress in our lives. Even good stress is hard on my medical conditions and requires periods of bed rest after fun activities. On the flip side, there are unavoidable evils, but if you have control over keeping happy brain chemicals floating around, why not do it? Why avoid these things, take a pill to synthetically mask the issue, but still carry around all your underlying issues? Who wants to carry that baggage with you everywhere you go? Now don’t go chuck your pills tomorrow saying that Tamara told you to. I’m not saying that. Just research both sides of the issue and find ways to make your life as comfortable as it can be.
Keep a symptom journal. This really helps. I’ll post a sample at some point of the one that I created and use daily that has helped me tremendously to see how weather, water intake, food choices, and exertion all affect the Autoimmune Illnesses that I’m fighting.
We also need to remember that most physician’s main goal is to get you on a prescription, or give you a vaccine. (I’m not telling you to stop your medications or vaccines, let’s be clear on that. But it’s important to research both sides of every issue and not believe everything that we’re fed.) Thankfully, the doctor that one of my friends has had for years originally told him that he should only take a prescription for his Mental Illnesses temporarily until he deals with the root cause of his issues. She even told him to read “Wheat Belly” and how Gluten is not good for us. An M.D. that has done research? A wonderful thing, indeed!
I want to talk about suicide for a minute:
- Suicide requires an action
- An action requires a choice
- A choice requires reacting to a thought
- A thought can be revised
- A revised thought brings about a better emotional state
There’s too much involved to say that one doesn’t have control over suicide. Certainly, like I said before, there are the cases where you just don’t know right from wrong, but how often is that?
Our thoughts are key in this. A lot of thoughts can go by completely unnoticed and wreck havoc on us, if we aren’t self aware. If you have a thought come into your head, evaluate it to see if it’s “Trash” or “Keep”, instead of hearing a self destructive thought and subconsciously choosing to embrace it. “You’re a loser. There you go again.” That’s GARBAGE and needs to be handled in just that manner! Throw it away! We have to really uncover that subconscious and see what kind of job it’s doing. Is it on the same defective autopilot that was created when you were mistreated as a helpless child? You believed what they told you back then, do you realize that you’re choosing to embrace the same unkind words years later?
Say, “No, you’re WRONG!” Learn to be the person to stick up for yourself! THAT’S how we love ourselves. Would you like to have hope, peace and joy? This is the way to do it.
I used to have crippling Anxiety and want to run away from situations. Sometimes, I did just that and looked foolish (probably like “Mr. Bean” running!). The PTSD that I suffered with had SO many triggers that are now gone. If you read Inner Dialogue and Anger is Like Acid, they will explain things further.
Some of you might think that healing from major Mental Illness is impossible. My mind was changed when my friend with Schizophrenia told me about his complete deliverance from it. The freedom of conquering something so huge and knowing that it’s gone must be incredible. I began to hear more and more people talk about how they know that they WON the battle. I know that I celebrate the complete peace that I have knowing that I’ll never have to fight to keep my mind from going to such a dark, worrisome place again! VICTORY!
When someone explained to me that disease is dis-ease, I realized that finding the root cause of the lack of ease in our lives is the starting point. Whether that’s an unhealthy diet or an unhealthy way of thinking, those need to be completely renovated. There are diseases that will kill you because they have destroyed your body. Personally, I believe that Mental Illness is a dis-ease of our emotional health, but there is Neurological Illness, too. I think they all get lumped into Mental Illness with the stigma that they can’t be overcome. Our brains can definitely be neurologically defective beyond repair, without a miracle. Our emotional health is separate and has many factors that have made it the way that it is. Saying that we can’t change the state of our emotional health, I believe, is false. If a “disease” that we have been diagnosed with has a possibility of regaining health, there’s much more hope of eradication. That put it into perspective for me.
Because of my Faith, I believe that there are evil forces in this world. 1 Peter 5:8 says that the “adversary, the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour” . That battle will never change. I learned to differentiate between my own negative thinking and the battle of “good and evil” that I believe we all face. I’ve learned to see the difference between the devil’s urgings and my own thought process:
Devil: You can’t do that.
Me: Yes, I can! With, my God’s help.
Devil: You’re worthless.
Me: No! My Creator sees my value, and so do I.
If my responses were, “Right, I can’t do that.” or “Yeah, I AM worthless.”, those are my own thoughts that need adjusting.
I think that we tend to own too much of evil’s game. It’s how we react to evil’s game that matters. We have to get those reactions healthy. We have to know that those urgings will never stop as long as we’re alive and there’s a soul at stake. But, we have a loving God that will give us the strength that we need for the battle. Choosing to follow our Heavenly Father was the best choice of my life. I have an ally now, whose power is limitless. A healthy mind is one that’s free from our own negative beliefs that cause us to get stuck in feelings of hopelessness and the inability to see a way out. Our mind will be even healthier if we choose not to embrace the devil’s urgings as our own thoughts. If we think those urgings are our own thoughts, we’re degrading ourselves for no reason. My beliefs might not work for everyone, but they sure changed my life.
I’m cheering you on to take the first steps in this:
- The first one is to treat yourself with respect by talking to yourself kindly. (This includes Inner Dialogue and Verbal Affirmations.)
- The second one is to allow yourself room for mistakes.
- The third one is to take time to ask yourself if what you’re feeling is going to help or hurt you in your recovery.
RECOVERY needs to be your primary focus! Envision making a difference in your life!