Praise From the Pit

1 August 2016

“I am so grateful for the Jennifer Rothschild bible study. Her words, in “Missing Pieces,” have brought me so much hope and healing. The lesson today brought up not being thankful FOR something but being thankful IN something. Not just enduring something BUT thriving in it.

That is the meaningful transition that I have been on the cusp of. I am so grateful for her words that remind me I am on track. I am learning to praise him, not inspire of Hunter’s death, actually IN Hunter’s death and the aftermath. 

This has been such a challenging journey. The trip home allowed my mother to love on me, which she did flawlessly. My father told me over and over again how important I was to him. This was coupled with feeling like I was a burden and disrupting the order that had developed in my home between my parents, my sister-in-law, and her daughter. I didn’t see the misunderstanding on confusion surrounding my illness to change how family saw me. It did, though. I am grateful that I don’t just experience the good things anymore, but I experience the hard things. That I get to see both sides of people. They are getting to see both sides of me.”

Exposing people to my illness continued to be challenging. When you are mentally ill and grieving, your world seems to hit pause. Honestly, thinking back to those two years, if I hadn’t journaled, I wouldn’t remember any of this. My memories are garbled, faded, and misconstrued. I, honestly, barely remember my youngest first two years. I had snapshots, bits and pieces. It was all a blur of pain and emotion. However, at some point, I began to come up out of the darkness, the pit seemed less and less deep. I began to see the light of day. When I looked back at where I had been, the light began to pierce these places too. I began to see the good and the bad. The more I looked back, and as I got healthier, the more good I could see. I was not so alone. At the time, it seemed like the worst things that could be happening to me. There was no good, no light. When people tried shining light into my pain, I recoiled. I didn’t want to hear their Bible verses, or words on encouragement. They seemed so shallow, and like they were coming out of the mouths of people that couldn’t possibly understand. Those moments, those positive moments, did stick somewhere in the darkness. The truths were ignored at the time, but they made an impression. When I began to see light again, it was if a veil began to lift. I stopped seeing myself as a victim. I started to see the positive that could come from my illness. They ways that it could be used to glorify the Lord. I began to hope. And a little hope could change a life.

Nature’s Gift

Romans 8:22-39

23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

More Than Conquerors

31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;

we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”[b]

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[c] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

I have missed you all so much. My little kiddos are heading back to school, and I can finally take a breath and connect with you again. I have been in a mixed season the last few weeks. I am weaning off medications, I am almost done. I have gained weight because of it and it has been hard on me mentally. I am sending my kids off to school and the crazy is slowing a little. We are getting back to a routine. I have missed blogging and reaching out from my daily grind to interact with you all. I had really been mentally low until I read this passage the other day. It was water to my soul. It was a good reminder that we are all spiritually groaning. I am not alone. the world is groaning with me. I sometimes feel impatient in my longing, ready to feel like I have arrived. That is where my God comes in. He steps in an intercedes for me. Nothing can separate me from his love. Did you catch that? NOTHING! Let’s shout it out. NOTHING! What a relief, what a blessing. These words, I have overlooked so many times before, in my defeat. Mental illness can feel like that. Like defeat. It takes all we know and love. It skews out reality. BUT GOD, he swoops in and intercedes, he swoops in and saves, he swoops in and loves. Through him I am more than a conquerer. That is a good word. I encourage you to let that penetrate your heart today.

In the midst of this time, God has been gracious. He introduced something new to help me in this season. As a nurse practitioner, I cling to medication. I have had it drilled into my head that it is what can heal, that it is what can save. Others have suggested other things but I so often cast them aside. I want you to bear with me. To here my story, even though it may have been suggested before. I don’t offer this as medical advice, but as hope. Hope that something else may offer healing, that even as we come off or change medications, that there may be something to stand in the gap. 

I have tried essential oils before, well, not really tried. I may have put them on once, thought I was even more crazy than had already been confirmed and walked away. As I weaned off my psychiatric medications, I wanted to have something to stand in that void. The slow to weaning process. To offer support. I decided to give these “crazy oils” a try. I had heard stories about their success, but thought they were for the naieve. I assumed it was the positive thinking that was really the culprit. However, I started reading. I got on pubmed, listening to some actual medical doctors, and realized they are real. These plants, trees, and roots have been used for thousands of years. They are potent, natural, and even the medical community is using them. They are studying their effects. You can log on PubMed, a medical journal database, and research currents studies utilizing them to help manage symptoms. So, I decided this time, I was not just going to try. I found a reputable brand., Young Living. They follow their source from the seed to the bottle. They control every ounce of planning, extracting, and bottling. That was important to me, I didn’t want to use a product that left room for error or short cuts. Then, I listened to others stories. Finally, I jumped in head first. I got a starter kit with the most commonly used oils. I joined a group of women near where I live that is called The Oily Sisterhood. There are 6,000 members, and they are lead by a medical doctor. This was so important to me, I wanted to learn from someone who didn’t buy in because others told her to. I wanted facts, cold hard information, on bioavilability, neurotransmitters, absorption. I, also, committed. I was not going to rub them on once and stop, if I didn’t see results. This is where I missed out before. Oils take time to absorb into the body and build up to a therapeutic level in the blood. The results were powerful.

Panaway and Copaiba – I use it in a roller with carrier oil, fractionated coconut oil, and rub it on my foot. I have an injury that was so painful, I was limping. I was going to go to the orthopedic specialist and consider a boot or surgery. It was taking me 1000 mg of ibuprofen just to walk. Within two weeks of rolling this on the injury sit, I noticed that I could reduce my intake of ibuprofen. Today, I rolled it on before and after the gym and didn’t need any ibuprofen.

Progessence Plus and Lady Sclerol – I use this in a roller with carrier oil and use it on my abdomen and inner thighs. My periods have normalized, my acne decreased, and my hair stopped falling out after a month of use. Last period I still had severe cramping and heavy bleeding. I will let you know if this improves.

Any citrus – Used for mood boosting. I use it in a roller and I diffuse with lavender during the day. It boosts m mood and calms me during anxiety attacks.

Lavendar, Tranquil, and Release – used at night before bed in a diffuser and I roll it on to help with sleep. Immupro is a supplement I have had recommended to help me with sleep that I will try in a month or so. 

Peppermint – under my nose and on my wrists in the morning to wake me up. My sleep meds make it hard for me to get up in the morning, this has been a huge help. I recommend putting it in a carrier oil.

Endoflex, myrrh, and geranium – I use these in a roller bottle with carrier oil and rub it on my thyroid in the morning. My sin has been less dry, less constipation, less foggy brain. All side effects of having autoimmune thyroid disease.

Slique products – These are from Young Living to help curb appetite and promote weight loss. I have been using them a week and notice significant decrease in my appetite. As well, the supplements and tea have helped my stomach. I have had debilitating pain almost daily after eating, no matter if I am gluten free or only on whole foods. This has helped with digestion and I am usually pain free. I will likely stay on these to promote digestive healing, no matter if I need them to help with the weight I have gained from my medications.

Ningxia Red – a super food drink that is comprised of wolfberries. This has been super helpful with my stomach and digestion as well. I may be having some improvement in overall health from this, but I cant be sure whether it is the drink or my improvement from the other supplements. Regardless, it is packed with nutrients and promotes over all wellness.

I can’t say enough good about the oils that I have used so far. I am glad I gave them another try. They are not to be used in place of medical advice and care but are a great adjunct. Please message me if you have any personal questions. I would love to help you get started and give any advice I can. More of my story to come in future posts.

Cut Down

July 30, 2016

“I just finished week 2 of Jennifer Rothschild’s “Missing Pieces” bible study. I just love resting in the word. Trusting more and leaning on him to give me my daily manna. Not just this, but I need to be content with the manna for the day, not seeking the next thing. 

This is a major trend of mine. “The Next Thing,” not the humble heart of contentedness and trust in God. I do feel God slowing me down, so I can step into a place of healing and growth. God has not abandoned me. He knows my hurt and my weakness. This is no surprise.”

August, 1, 2016

“I am so grateful for the bible study I am doing. It has brought so much hope and healing. The lesson today brought up not being thankful FOR something but being thankful IN something. Not just enduring it but thriving in it. 

That is the meaningful transition I have been on the cusp of. I am so grateful for her words that remind me that I am on track. I am learning to praise him, not in spite of Hunter’s death but actually praising him IN Hunter’s death and  the aftermath. 

This has been such a challenging journey. My trip home allowed my mom to love on me, which she did flawlessly. My father told me over and over how important I was to him….

There was a lot of pain that I documented during this time related to the terrible things my brother’s wife did and said to me after Hunter died and while I was sick. To respect her, I am not going to post the details, but my entry glazes over this and I want you to know what it is referencing…..

My family’s parenting of my sister in law and her daughter left me feeling like a big mean step sister. I wasn’t expecting that. I wasn’t expecting to feel like I was invading and ruining her perfect life. I didn’t expect my family to misunderstand my suffering, suicide attempts, and hospital stay with anything but compassion. But I am grateful to have gone through that and to see both sides of people. 

My northern family understands my loss of Hunter but don’t see how sick I was, when I attempted suicide. In the south, they saw my sickness but didn’t realize the amount of loss I experienced.”

Contendedness was so hard during my season of suffering. When life is falling apart, you long for something to be stable, to be good. When it feels like multiple areas are falling apart. It becomes too overwhelming. I strove to stabilize my faith, my husband’s job, my accumulation of more. It just wasn’t within my grasp. The harder I fought, the deeper the lows became. It would not be until I began to surrender my expectations and loosen my grip on how I thought my life should go that peace began to invade my life again. Time in the word and restoration of my faith was the crux of this. When I began to see the good in my suffering, that God was good in the seemingly bad times as well as the good, life began to fall back into place. I had to stop being thankful FOR things and start to be thankful IN things. 

Seeing family was hard in the beginning. My sister in law and her daughter lived with my parents. Going home seemed strange. It didn’t feel like my house anymore. It felt like someone had stepped in and taken my spot. However, my parents were very good at sharing their love for me and being more intentional. My relationship with my sister in law became very harmful. She ended up becoming a horrible trigger. When  I would go home, it was as if she was competing for attention with my parents. I had never experienced this before. My brother and I didn’t compete. We wanted the best for each other in everything. At first the relationship was cordial, even friendly. As I became sick, the attacks began. She began to mock my illness and my suffering. She would say things like, “You didn’t really try to commit suicide, because if you wanted to die you would have cut yourself differently.” It was crippling. All I wanted to do was go home to a safe place, and it didn’t feel safe anymore. 

I, however, wanted her to change. To stop behaving in a way that would trigger me. I felt powerless against her attacks and blows. In the end, this was not what helped lead to my healing. It was typical to my personality, I wanted difficult things to stop or I wanted to run away. I didn’t have fight in me. It wasn’t until I began to work on myself and see her brokenness that the claws of this trigger would loosen their grip. I had to see who I was in Christ and step into my true identity. I had to stop allowing others brokenness to define me. I had to see my parents relationship with my and remember my brother’s relationship with me separate from my relationship with her. I want to encourage you, if you have someone in your life that tears you down and seems to cripple you. That is not your identity. You are not trapped or defined by that person. You can be free. You can stop running and find the strength within. Ask God to show you who you are in him. Recite these truths to yourself and hide them in your heart. Then, walk in this freedom.

The World kept on Turning

June 27, 2016

“I have been in Pennsylvania with  my family for four days. I did not bring any of the kids but Judah. It has been so hard. My family both here and away has been so supportive. I just continue to feel like a failure. Taking care of Judah twenty four hours a day has been so hard. I have not taken care of any of my children for a full twenty four hours since Judah was born. I went to see my best friend from high school on my second day here. Their new house was amazing. My friend was adorable and pregnant with her first baby. Life looked good for them. When I left, I began to cry and called her to apologize for not acting like myself. She was so wonderfully understanding. I cried the entire way home. I hate being sick and I hate being reminded that I am.

Yesterday we went to my aunt and uncle’s pool. It was lovely, my aunt didn’t know I had tried to commit suicide until I was there. Afterwards, she told me she heard a pastor say that suicide was the most selfish thing you could ever do. It hurt me to the core. I just never thought anyone could ever think that about what I did. Her friend was there. She was such a blessing. She lost a sister, had depression , and had contemplated suicide. She defended me. What a praise! 

Today, I woke up feeling depressed and like a failure.”

The road to recovery is rocky. You never know what each day will bring. Some are easy and smooth, others harder. Even when the meds are working, there will be bad days. Bad days were so hard for me. They scared me. I was constantly worried about a replace. Never knowing what the next five minutes would hold or where triggers would come from was paralyzing. 

Seeing my friends and family moving forward with their lives was crippling. It wasn’t their fault. They were just living their lives, but when you experience trauma, your world stops.  You go into survival mode and the world keeps turning. People get married, have babies, buy houses, graduate college, get raises, go on vacations. It feels like punch to the gut to see others blossoming when you are falling into the pit. Those two years, are almost completely lost in my mind. If it wasn’t for my journal, I wouldn’t even remember them. I even lost the first two years of my baby’s life. Someone just asked me yesterday whether he was a good baby, an easy baby. I can’t remember. It was as if time froze for two years, and when I opened my eyes, everything had changed. It was almost as if I was living someone else’s life, when I got back into the real world. My friends babies were now two, jobs had changed, people got married, people moved, people were pregnant. 

It was so hard to know how to plug back in. People didn’t understand what I was feeling. They didn’t know how to react. They some kind things and some cruel things. It was hard. I felt outcast, like I didn’t fit in anymore. Though, I couldn’t remember if I ever really had. My life had changed, I had changed, but the world had kept on moving without me.

Martha

June 6, 2016

“We just returned from a weekend together at Dollywood Dreammore Resort. We spent three nights and it was great. We went to Splash Country twice and Dollywood once. The kids had a blast! We had sitters come along to help. It was much needed. With all four, Brian and I got little to no sleep at all. That is par for the course. Having these little ones so close together can be a little chaotic. Extra hands are always welcome. 

I used to enjoy that people said, “I don’t know how she does it, or, You’re supermom.” I have learned that while it takes great stamina and a “go getter” personality to achieve being able to do things alone, what’s the payout? I had accumulated physical, emotional, and psychological exhaustion. Being placed in a mental health facility. It takes courage and humility to admit you need help. I am learning there is nothing wrong with it. I know God designed us for community and raising our families should be in community.”

This was one of the bigger lessons I learned from being sick. I am grateful that the Lord let me hit rock bottom, so I would no squander the rest of my life. I had bought into the lie that so many women do. “You have to do it all, do it alone, and look good doing it.” Almost all of the women in the facility with me had the same problem, we were overachievers. This is not biblical, it is from the enemy. Without margin in our lives, Satan traps us. He isolates us, takes our time away from focusing on the Lord, and leaves us utterly exhausted. Unfortunately, with social media, it is easier than ever before to believe that this is what normal should look like, believing we are not fulfilling our duty as a woman unless we are maxed out.

Luke 10: 38-42 is a beautiful picture of this. It is the biblical history of Jesus meeting with Mary and Martha. Martha was busy preparing the house, cleaning, cooking, etc. She was doing it all on her own. She even believed that what she was doing was the best choice. Performance was the stick with which she measured her success. She, however, was tired. She needed help. She was so consumed with what she was doing she didn’t stop to rest with Jesus, she wanted to push through and for Mary to join her. At the feet of Jesus she found her truth. 

 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Don’t we often do what Martha did? We are overwhelmed and weary. We are consuming ourselves with doing. When we need help, we don’t ask for help so we can take a step back, we ask for help to bring someone else into our overwhelming circumstances. 

The Lord showed me what he revealed to Martha. What Mary already knew. If we consume ourselves with the doing, and the island mentality, we will miss out on the Savior of the universe. We will push through our days. We will not stop and cling to him in every moment of our lives, we will not be surrendering to him. We will begin to believe that we need him less than we do. We will begin to slide ourselves onto the throne of our lives and push Christ aside. Martha was in Jesus’s presence and all she could think of was duty. The next thing. She was more concerned with impressing the Savior of the world than learning from him, than resting in him. 

I wonder what happened next. The Bible doesn’t tell us. Did Martha fall at Jesus’s feet? Did she change her ways? Did she repent? We don’t know. But the question is not as much about Martha as it is about us. What will you do? Will you hear the call of your Savior to created margin in your life? Will you say “no” to more and “yes” to less? Will you sit and snuggle with your kids, turn off the TV, listen to the silence, enjoy your child’s birthday rather than trying to impress the guests, play more games, throw away the “to-do” list, observe the beauty God created? When people ask what you are doing, will you be content to say, “nothing?” Will you stop today and rest at the feet of your Savior. Not just for ten minutes during your quiet time, but as a discipline? There is a more full, better life waiting at the feet of Jesus, waiting in the margin, the quiet still moments. It is filled with rest, peace, and joy. When did you last feel these things? If you don’t know, maybe you are being like Martha. Pray and ask God to reveal to you what resting at his feet looks like. Don’t miss it.

The Canaanite Woman

May 8, 2016

“Today was Mother’s Day! My gift was some friends of ours coming over and giving our back deck a makeover. They put pads on our chairs and bench, added flowers and planters, and an outdoor rug. It is gorgeous! This morning we went to church and dedicated Judah. It was wonderful. Church was on the Cannanite woman. She begged Jesus to just give her the tinniest amount of attention, though she did not deserve it. I have been her. I have begged God for help and desired just the scraps of his healing love. I felt the pull on my heart, as I approached the altar to weep and pray. I felt God say, “That is why the journey had to be so long and so painful. I needed the pain and severity to be so great that event the greatest doubter wouldn’t be able to explain the restoration of your life. It is complete and now begins the healing.” I believe. I believe that now restoration will come.”

It was such a blessing to have friends draw around me and give me something I couldn’t give myself. Having this gift of a nice outdoor space to go and get away was wonderful. So many people, during this season, just abandon us. They didn’t call and check in. They weren’t in the messy days. They simply went back to their own lives, when our lives became messy. It really broke my heart and made me angry with The Church as a whole. Christians were supposed to emulate Christ and get down in the trenches with the broken and hurting. However, we so often want to stay in the comfortable. We don’t want to be inconvenienced by other people’s struggles. We want to stay in our ivory towers where things look easier and prettier. Those, however, weren’t the people that brought healing to my life. They weren’t the people who showed me the love of Christ. The people who saw my pain and responded with authentic love. Those were the hands and feet of Christ that reached into the dark places of my heart and shined light. They were the ones that gave me hope that I wasn’t broken beyond repair. They were the ones who helped bring me out of the pit. To them, I am grateful.

Mother’s Day was, also, a hard day. I felt like such a failure. I was sick and making life harder for my own mother and my children. I felt unbelievable guilt. But I tried to push it aside, to go to church and truly hear the message that day. I could relate to the Canaanite woman. She believed in Jesus’s power. She didn’t come front and center demanding it. She was humble, begging for even the crumbs. She knew that anything Jesus could give would heal her demon possessed daughter. I have been there. In the hopeless state of illness, believing there would never be healing. However, the crumbs gave me hope. I knew it wouldn’t take a lot to heal me, even Jesus crumbs would be enough. I would sit and wait for the crumbs of his light and love to fall down upon me. He gave them to me that day. Hope. I would forget about this day, overtime. As he didn’t tell me he had healed me that day. That day was later. Much later. There would be more struggle to come before being released from my pain. It would be almost two years to the day before the healing came. But that day, I was given hope that this might now last forever. I held onto my crumbs, grateful for every one.

Goodbye Hospital

Leaving the psychiatric facility was relatively uneventful. After I started Risperdal, I started progressing towards stability more rapidly. In the first forty eight hours, I started to see glimpses of myself again. The side effects from Risperdal were overwhelming initially. The tremors, instability, and muscle weakness were terrifying. I, also, had cogwheeling. This is where your muscles grind and bounce like gears moving, rather than a smooth motion. I knew that these side effects had potential to be permanent. However, I started Benztropine and my symptoms improved within five days. As well, the physical tremors and muscle weakness began to dissipate within a few weeks. Initially, walking down stairs was difficult, but it improved as time passed. As soon as my symptoms were stable, I was able to leave the unit and return home. We stopped locally to make sure we had all of my prescriptions and, then, came home. 

April 27, 2016

“Transition to home has been smooth until now. Today was hard. I was experiencing fatigue, overwhelmed by little kids all talking at once, not feeling hungry. There are so many things to think about and do. The end of school is a very busy time. The yoga has really helped with my ability to relax. I am glad to be doing things with Brian. I became overwhelmed, which normally leads to anxiety but I transitioned to depression. I took a three hour nap and was refreshed. I think that how I was feeling before could have been hypomania. I was wanting to stop thinking about going to Disney world, but I couldn’t. As the depressive symptoms came in, I had no more energy. I didn’t think suicide felt as crazy. I wanted to curl up and sleep.”

Coming home was more difficult than I expected. I had improvement in the hospital, but there were no outside factors to impact my health. Now, I was back in the role of mother and wife. I had daytime babysitters, so that I could focus on my coping skills. It involved me sleeping all night, eating three meals a day, journaling, coloring the mandalas, having a quiet time with the Lord, and exercising. I had to stop exercising so intensely, as this often lead to increasing my mental intensity. I had to try as hard as possible to maintain a clam environment that was low stress. I would often do yoga, do ballet, or go swim laps. 

I found a local yoga studio and my husband and I began to go together. It was such a quiet and peaceful form of yoga. Power yoga and hot yoga were not in the realm of yoga types that helped with my anxiety. So, I devoted myself to a new form of exercise. Swimming was also helpful. Getting in the water and swimming without hearing anything else was so soothing. I would use the time to process my life and pray. It started to become a really sweet time. 

I started noticing myself becoming obsessed with activities or future goals. For me, Disney became a big focus. My family’s trip to Disney World had been one of the happiest weeks of my life. I found myself longing to feel those emotions again. Unfortunately, I became unable to let the idea go. It was neither financially feasible or physically possible at the time.  However, I had laser like focus and would speak of it all of the time. It felt as if the trip was vital to my survival. I couldn’t bear to hear from any detractors and this became a sour of pain and stress for myself and my family.

My marriage would also be affected by my illness. My relationship with my husband would change. It would be hard.

Where Did I Go – Part 2

You may have noticed that I have been missing. It has been an eventful few weeks. A day I had barely imagined three years ago finally arrived. My psychiatrist and I decided I was ready to wean off of my medications. I had first approached the subject with my husband. I thought I sounded a little crazy even suggesting it. I had just had some relapse symptoms two weeks before. I just had a feeling in my gut. I had never felt it before. As I sat in church three weeks ago, I felt the Lord speak to my heart. He told me this was the end. He spoke to me, told me I was ready to heal. It was the end of this suffering. When something like that happens, it is hard to process. I had resigned to my illness, stopped praying for healing. I had decided this was my cross to bear for the rest of my life. I had accepted it. Along with medication, a psychiatrist, and a counselor, I could do this forever. There would be good times and bad, but I was strong. I could survive it.

Then, it happened. That healing miracle moment. I can’t describe how it felt. In fact, I didn’t want to believe it. I felt silly, but empowered all at the same time. So, I decided to ask my psychiatrist if I could begin weaning off one medication in a few weeks, my Latuda. She suggested we start now. It was a surreal moment. I thought she would want to do it down the line. I even gave her that out, suggested that we start in a few months. She suggested I start now, if I was comfortable. I was excited but nervous. So, the plan was to come off 40 mg per month until I am completely Latuda free. Then, wean off the Zoloft. The thought being that my Latuda is an adjunct to my antidepressant. So, stepwise makes sense. Then, two weeks into my weaning I had another moment with the Lord.

I was sitting in church. It was a normal Sunday. Weaning off of the Latuda was going well, without any withdraw symptoms or psychiatric symptoms returning. Then, I felt that same feeling I had felt weeks before. The voice spoke to my heart and told me it was time to wean off of Zoloft cold turkey. I had trusted the Lord the first time and decided it was time to trust again. Unwisely, I did not contact my psychiatrist for fear she would tell me I had lost it. I highly recommend that anyone considering changing their medications consult with their doctors first. However, taking my own medical advice isn’t my strong suit. So, I began the weaning process. It was already Sunday. I had run out of my medication on Friday and my psychiatrist wasn’t responding to my refill request. After doing some reading about Zoloft, it has a rapid half-life. So, by day three, I was already down to a 12.5% blood level. I decided to not refill my prescription and one was never called in.

Weaning off Zoloft was much more difficult than weaning off Latuda. I now believe that some medication form a dependency similar to drugs. I didn’t realize, that after three years, I had become so dependent on this medication. My body literally depended on it to function normally. I began having severe dizziness and light headedness. It was so severe it was hard for me to drive or take care of my children. Then, my heart began to beat very weakly. I couldn’t feel my pulse in my wrist. It was barely palpable in my neck. It was nearly impossible for me to exercise due to an increasing strain on my heart. Then, there was lightening like pulsations that went through my body, accompanied by dizziness and a pounding in my ears. At first, these symptoms would strike every few seconds. With time, all but the lightening and pounding would resolve. By the end of the first week, the pounding was barely noticeable. I will say, on the other side, it was worth it. However, if I had to do it again, I would highly recommend weaning slowly. If I hadn’t felt like the Lord was telling me to wean cold turkey, I would have weaned in a tapered fashion to lessen the symptoms.

What I didn’t expect was the return of my emotions. I thought that I was so feeling while I was on my medication. I didn’t believe myself to be emotionally blunted in any way. I just described myself as calmer. Once the medication weaning began, I began to notice small changes. First, I began to become tearful over simple things. A mom started crying at school after he son received an award. After seeing her beaming with pride, I began to cry. This hadn’t happened in three years. Then, I began to experience joy again. I thought I had been feeling happiness but I realized it was as if I was joyful behind a fog. All my feelings were there, but they were just a shadow of the real thing. Something so simple as hugging my child or taking them to the zoo now brought a flow of emotion. I could actually feel the surge of feel good hormones that came from positive experiences with those I loved. What I was feeling before wasn’t reciprocal. I would interact and perform the act of hugging or loving but there was nothing after. I was living off feelings from my past experiences. There wasn’t any new serotonin or dopamine being released. I believe this to be why I was always striving towards the next experience to bring me joy but could never be satisfied in an experience. The positive feelings would last only moments. It didn’t matter what the size of the experience. A trip to Disney would have given me the same satisfaction that a hug from my child would. I would loose the warm fuzzy feelings within minutes. I would then go seeking those feelings again. I was insatiable. I have felt more satisfaction in one hug from my child now than in almost the entirety of my mental illness on my medications. I see now why some patients refuse to go back on their medications. The loss of emotion and feeling was greater than I had expected. There is definitely a sacrifice of self and personality that comes from taking medications like these.

All of this to say. I wouldn’t recommend that anyone go off of their medications early or without a doctor’s supervision. I will say, however, that I knew when I was ready. It was the first time I had ever even considered the possibility. I was deeply physical and mental attached to my medication regimen. I liked the stability that they offered. I feared that I would crash immediately upon weaning. This just wasn’t the case. The reason I am sharing this, is for the person who is ready to wean off medication but scared. I want to give you hope that there is good to be found in the moving forward. I am still not off all of my medication, I am not certain I will never need it again. What I can say is that it has served me well. All of my medications were needed and helpful. However, it is not good to be dependent on these medications forever. There is definitely a physical dependence that forms. As well, there is opportunity for joy and pleasure without the medications. I didn’t realize what I was missing. I didn’t realize the life and feelings that awaited me on my path to healing. I am so grateful for both.

I will say that my family, as a whole has been accepting and encouraging. However, my spouse does not share my joy and excitement. I didn’t see this coming. I expected to see me improving and rejoice. However, he has been through so much. He has watched me hanging over the side of the cliff and pulled me back. He has walked in both the darkness and light of mental illness with me. This emotional rollercoaster has proved too much. It is hard for him to hope in a future where I am well. He had lost hope that day would come. It has not been hard for him to see my joy and celebration of my new self as a euphoric episode. When we fight, he tells me to go back on my meds. When I am angry about something, he tells me to go back on my meds. Life without meds is scary. It represents another unknown future. We had come to know the future. The future was mental illness and medication. It was a future we were prepared for. This is a new beginning, another unknown. Remember the family members and loved ones of those with mental illness. This journey affects them too. They need help, they need support. They need encouragement. These changes are life altering for them as well. Even though his words hurt, I know that he will begin to see the light again. He will begin to let down his walls and let in our new life. A life with all of our feelings and emotions. It will take time. I need to be patient with him, as he has been patient with me, I need to see his suffering. It has been measurable and it matters. I can’t wait to share more of my story with you. I can’t wait to see what the future holds. The Lord has spoken to me about some other adventures that may lay ahead. The good news is I now believe there is a good future for me again. I am allowing myself to walking in the light of day and celebrate where I have been and where I am going. The Lord is and has been good in both the storm and the laughter. He is here.

Where Did I Go

Where did I go when I started my meds

My feelings, my emotions, myself

I didn’t know

I couldn’t see

I thought I was me

But I wasn’t

I was gone, absent, missing

I was numb, couldn’t feel

I saw but wasn’t present

I heard but couldn’t experience

My life, floating by like a dream

Then they were gone

The meds weaned away

The symptoms severe, the price barely worth paying

They held me in their grip

My body threatening me to go back

I couldn’t, I stayed strong, resisted

I could imagine, taste the other side

Vision blurred, mind scrambled, the meds clawing their way out

Then the storm broke

I felt it, like for the first time

Love, anger, joy, sadness

The emotions came strong and swift
I celebrated, couldn’t get enough

Then I was back

The part of me thought lost

I had been in their all along,

Hiding, now feeling, arriving back again

The Walls Came Tumbling Down

John 11:25 – “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

I was pregnant with my fourth baby, Johnathan Judah. I was on heparin injections, weekly ultrasound appointments, and progesterone. The baby grew well and, besides precipitous labor, it was a smooth pregnancy. I had decided to take a year off to have my fourth child, as of November 1st. This was something my work had approved. Resting was helping reduce the preterm labor symptoms. I was progressing well. I was laying on the couch resting at 36 weeks, when I got a call from my sister-in law. Hunter was in critical condition at the hospital.

Rewind a couple of days, my brother had gone into the hospital two days prior for an elective tonsillectomy. I had warned him that this was a bad idea. All surgery has risks, there is no such thing as a minor surgery. He had assured me that the tonsil stones he had warranted the surgery. He was willing to accept this risk and write me off as an overprotective sister. I would hold onto the warning for the rest of my life, wishing he had listened. The surgery did not go well. They stopped taking out his adenoids because there was too much bleeding. Why you take out adenoids, when tonsils are the source of the problem, I will never understand. He had been in serious pain after surgery and they were keeping him for twenty four hours to observe him. I had called that day and he had written a note, “I <3 U.” That would be the last communication I would ever have with my brother. His voice was too strained to speak and the next day, he was too out of it to call. We would, later, find out why.

My sister-in law was hysterical. I immediately went into triage mode. This was going to be fine, Hunter was going to be fine. He was fine just the day before, and was supposed to have left the hospital. They would have transferred him to another hospital, if his symptoms were really severe. He had just texted me earlier that day, they were odd texts, but responses none the less. I would later find out he was texting me “I can’t text and drive, it is not worth a life,” because he was almost completely incapacitated. But for now, that was unacceptable, he was okay. He had to be okay.

I got a call from my dad forty five minutes later. “He’s dead,” was all he said. I became hysterical, screaming “No,” over and over again. Then, “This is not real life, this is not my life.” My dad has no recollection of that phone call. I was in shock, he was in shock. After that, I called my doctor to get medication to help me sleep. I was sure I wasn’t going to survive this. Brian wanted me to go to Montgomery that night, but I wasn’t ready. I would regret not seeing Hunter in the hospital that night, not being there amongst his friends. I regret not seeing him for every minute that I could. My mom sent me an image of him lying dead in the bed. This image was traumatizing and would haunt me for awhile. It would be one of the first components of PTSD that would consume me for months.

That night, we still had to assemble my daughters bike for her birthday, the next day. My sweet father-in law came over to help. As they assembled, I walked outside. I am not typically a hyper spiritual person. I don’t believe in the paranormal or ghosts. But something wrapped its arms around me that night. I don’t know if it was an angel, the holy spirit, or my brother. I will say it felt like him. It felt like one of his warm bear hugs, and to this day it brings me comfort to reflect on those moments, after he died. I wasn’t alone.

The next morning, we threw a quick birthday celebration for my four year old daughter and flew out the door. That was the last time I would be home for over nine days. It would take us nine days to view him, autopsy him, fly him home and bury his body. It would take almost a year for us to find out what really happened that night.

We drove to Birmingham, Alabama to meet up with my Uncle, Aunt, Cousin, and my parents. Seeing my parents was one of the most difficult parts. That first time you all make eye contact, and the unspoken loss hangs in the air like thick fog. It took my breath away. I almost collapsed into their arms and cried. My dad wanted to see my brother’s body as soon as possible. So, we went to the morgue. My brother was Air Force. So, his body was set up for autopsy, before we even were able to request it. His body was being transferred from the local coroner, who we later found out was on his first day as coroner. Hunter would have been his first autopsy. Instead, he was being transferred to the University of Alabama Birmingham for autopsy by an actual M.D. The Air Force like F.B.I. (I will call them the FBI from here on out, to make it easier to explain) was in charge of Hunter’s case and was opening a criminal investigation.

We arrived at the funeral home to view my brother’s body. Nothing could have prepared me for that. My parents were in there as they removed the body bag, but I was didn’t see him until he was fully exposed. This was the best he would look until his interment. He just looked like my handsome, strong brother but asleep. I found it concerning that his shirt was not ripped open, he didn’t have any bruising from CPR type movement. He looked like he was sleeping, but he was cold to the touch. That wasn’t the most alarming part.

I didn’t know exactly what happens to a body after death. I now know the bodily fluids start to seep out. He was surrounded by a puddle of yellow liquid mixed with blood. This image would prevent me from eating steak for awhile. I developed a PTSD effect from seeing liquid blood on a plate and would fall into anxiety attacks in restaurants. As well, he had blood and vomit draining from his mouth. It was my brother but a broken shell of him. I collapsed under the weight and pain of him being gone. I fell down on the table and sat on the floor. I cried so hard, I couldn’t even breathe. I talked to my brother in my mind and asked him to help me get back up.

I couldn’t explain it, if I tried, but something said, “Look up.” Now, my brother was a joker. He loved to make people laugh and would definitely be cracking a joke, had he been in the room. I opened my eyes, and screamed. There, inches from me, was another dead person. No bag, just laying there. This person was old and, as my sister-in law joked through her pain, ready to go. I jumped back and everyone rushed to make sure I was okay. I told them what I saw, and we all looked down. We laughed so hard. We said Hunter had to have been there too. He would have been tickled to death to make us laugh though our pain. We could feel his presence. We were grateful to the Lord for his grace in helping us laugh in our agony. It gave us the strength to leave the morgue that night, and for me to get up off that floor.