Thursday, March 31, 2016

My mental illness journey

I have been wanting to write this post for a long time. I have started is so many times but never followed through. Mostly because I wasn't ready to share this story with the world yet, and mostly because I am still struggling as we speak. Yes life got way better and yes I am much happier now then I ever have been. Getting to this point has been hard and at one point in time I didn't think it would ever happen.
Most of the therapists I have seen in the last 10 years have said that I have had depression my whole life. They call this kind of depression Major Depressive Disorder. Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is defined as a mental disorder characterized by a pervasive and persistent low mood that is accompanied by low self-esteem and by a loss of interest or pleasure in normally enjoyable activities. The most common age that MDD is seen in individuals is ages 20-30. This makes complete sense to me. During this stage of life so many big life challenges happen. Most of us move out of our parents house out on our own, attend college, perhaps serve missions if you are LDS, perhaps join the army, go on adventures, etc. We have so many life decisions thrown at us, getting married, having kids, finishing our education and the expectations can be really high. Those expectations are what ended up making my depression flare up.
I noticed the change in my overall mood start to happen while I was on my mission. A mission should be a happy time, a time where we feel connected to God and a time where we can come to know ourselves. Many people leave a mission knowing exactly what they want to do in life, I left mine feeling more confused about what to do next. I got staff infection when I had about 5 months left of my mission. The doctors in California misdiagnosed it at first and so I had it a lot longer than necessary. I finally ended up back in an area of my mission I had already served in and there was a doctor in that area who helped me figure out what was truly wrong. Before that happened though I was really upset all the time, grumpy, sad, I broke down about everything my poor companions dealt with so much from me. My moods would switch so fast, I had a hard time getting motivated to go out, I didn't want to be around people, etc. I had no idea what was happening to me and even though I followed mission rules things weren't progressing, we had no investigators wanting to be baptized and basically I felt like this terrible horrible person the entire time. Finally my companion called up the mission president and said I don't know what to do, so we went over and talked to his wife. She brought up depression, her daughter had it and she immediately clued in that could possibly be why I was feeling this way. I had about three weeks left of my mission at this point so she gave me a few things to work on with my remaining time and encouraged me to get help for my depression when I got home.
 Even though I was struggling I still had a smile on my face, and I am so glad for all future sister missionaries that they don't make you wear nylons. 

Well I didn't really get help for my depression for about 9 months. I got home in September and started getting ready to go back to school. I ended up feeling like I needed to go to UVU and I am glad I did. I was really struggling though before school started. I had two jobs which basically I had just to keep me busy and keep me from doing and thinking terrible things about myself. I would go to church and do normal life things but I just felt numb to everything. I constantly was thinking about how much better off the world would be without me in it. I thought how no one would even notice I was gone, what was the point. I thought this way for 9 months. I remember driving down to my grandparents one weekend and on the way it's just a huge landscape of desert. I thought what if I drove off the road and kept driving and driving until I ran out of gas or ran into something and then no one would find me. I seriously thought it would be possible and I seriously thought that no one would care. Anyway back to two jobs, I had two jobs until January when my first semester at UVU started. When it started I quit one job and had classes in the morning and work in the evening. I worked all through my college education.
During school I stressed out to much about being a straight A student. I would freak out if I got a B and I ended up with two A's and one B that semester. I would stress about homework so much that I would physically make myself sick. I worked myself so hard just trying to be the perfectionist everyone thought I was and it was slowly killing me. Because I was so obsessive it consumed to the point that I couldn't live and function properly. Every waking moment was a struggle.  When the semester ended was when I made that road trip and thought all those things about how "easy" it would have been to just disappear. I knew I was in trouble then. I went to my primary care doctor and just told her what was going on. She had me take a few tests and said she thought it would be best, for my own safety, to go on medication for a while. I did and was put on Prozac which worked wonders. Seriously I felt better within a week. She encouraged me to also seek out a therapist and I decided to see the ones at school because it cost a lot less for me to do that. It was $10.00 a session and I went for about two months but learned so much about myself.
By the end of the summer I was feeling so much better. I started a new semester in August and finally found a major: Anthropology. I met my husband in October and we started dating in November of that year (2011). When I first met Zack I was kind of clingy. I didn't really know why but I just latched on to him and it scared me at first. But then after dating him for 2 weeks, I knew why I was clingy. It was because he made me feel different. After feeling so unwanted for so long he made me feel loved again. He brought hope back into my life and I didn't want that to leave. Luckily I guess he didn't want it to either and he proposed to me three months after we met, and three months after that we got married. Zack was so good to me. He put up with so much while I was still figuring this whole depression thing out.
 our honeymoon

At first I didn't want him to know I was taking medication for it, but once I told him he just said it's fine I'll help you to. It was amazing, he wanted to help me. He always has seen a better version of myself than I have ever seen in me. I didn't see therapists anymore but I took medication for two more years after we got married. In 2014 I felt like I finally had a grasp on my world and I stopped taking it. I found some tools that helped me work through my issues. Through this time I had 3 miscarriages still and it didn't get easier. But I got better at handling it all. Some days were rough, but I let myself have those days. If those days became too frequent or last for two weeks then I knew I needed to go see the doctor again. It never came to that and I am grateful that I was able to handle it on my own.

Now I am dealing with a whole different type of mental illness which is anxiety, panic attacks and social anxiety. Most of it has to do with postpartum effects of being a new mom. That is for another post at another time but I wanted to say that I am still struggling and even had to go back on medication after Claire was born to help get through it.


As much as I didn't want to share this whole side of me I figured that so many people are struggling with mental illness these days it helps to read that other people got through it to. If you have to see a therapist and take medication do it, don't let fear of what people think about you get you to a place where you want to "disappear" as I did. Don't let it stop you from getting the help you really need. I wish I had gotten help sooner, sooner than before my mission. When I was 19 and living on my own for the first time. It would have made handling life so much better.
Please remember that we all struggle, no one is perfect. The internet is this crazy place that makes everyone's life look pinterest perfect all the time and guess what the truth is no ones life is that way. We are all just too scared of what other people would say about our messy lives. I hope one day that will change. So now you all know, I am not perfect.
I am going to do more follow up posts about the specific tools I learned to combat depression and  my dealings with anxiety/ more specifically social anxiety now. I don't know when but sometime.
Thanks for reading
XO
Caitlin


1 comment:

  1. We love you so much! Thanks for sharing! If you ever think that you wouldn't be missed if you went missing, remind yourself that is a big lie! Your family, our family and your sweet friends treasure the time we have with you! You are an amazing young mother, wife, daughter, daughter-in-law, sister, friend, grand-daughter! So much to give, so much to live, so much to love! You're doing awesome! Love you so much!

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