Welcome to my new segment on this blog. It is a part of the big changes that i’ve had going on in my life the last little while.
As most of you know by now, the reason I started this blog is to grow the conversation around mental health and mental illness. I decided a couple of years ago that my final step in my own personal journey of healing was to share my story, so that it might help others on their own path towards healing and self care.
Mental health stigma is still very real, and due to my many personal situations of being confronted with said stigma, I realized the only reason it still exists is because many people don’t understand it. People are afraid of the things they do not understand. They put up their walls, they give it a name they can relate to, they make awkward jokes about it and then they pretend it doesn’t exist or affect anyone around them when it is not convenient. Until it doesn’t really exist any more in their own world. News flash- even the smallest, most unconscious micro aggression towards the mentally ill can be very hurtful. No matter if you didn’t mean it, or didn’t realize what you were saying. This is a time where it is most vital to not only listen intently to what the people around us are saying, but LISTEN and react to the things WE say in return.
As an example, I give the old adage ‘Happy Pills’.
Say, in response to someone appearing grumpier, or a little more ‘down in the dumps’ than usual on an otherwise seemingly average day.
“Whoa, SOMEONE forgot to take their happy pills this morning!”
…Why? Because they are human, feeling other naturally human emotions other than being constantly ‘happy’?? Because being anything other than ‘fine’ isn’t socially acceptable? So much so that we have to take something like a medically prescribed SSRI and turn it into a ‘diss’? A ‘gentle’ insult? We use it in a way and in a tone that portrays it to be a bad thing to have to take said quote on quote ‘happy pills’ to balance out ones brain chemistry- to otherwise function at “normal” level (whatever “normal” is).
I promise you, if there’s someone around you who is taking clinically prescribed medication for mental illness, and they hear you make a mockery of such things even in the SLIGHTEST or most casual way, they will automatically feel like the butt of that joke.
I bet you that’s not your intention right?? That’s fair. But i promise you then, it’s a lot like saying: “I’m not a racist, BUT….”
Like saying, “I don’t judge people based on their mental health or personal lives, BUT….”
It’s okay. We all do a little bit, we’re only human. What’s most important is that we hear ourselves before, during and after we speak. Especially when it relates to other people and ESPECIALLY when it related to things that we DON’T UNDERSTAND.
It has been about a month since I made the conscious, sober, uninfluenced, clear headed decision to start easing off of my meds (Cipralex prescribed going on 4 years), and tonight, I sit here wondering why.
So, I realized that I better write about this. I better capture this in everything that it is so I can continue growing this conversation. So I can continue reminding people why it’s important, and reassuring people that it’s okay to feel and share raw emotions. That we can learn so much from that, and grow so much as individuals. We can learn from each other, support each other, and be inspired by each other to keep going, and I don’t want to stop being a part of that.
The biggest thing i’ve learned so far, is that patience is a virtue.
I made my decision based on a few factors. One, being that i’ve been on Cipralex for about 4 years, and it has certainly helped to keep my seratonin levels in check and balance be out during the rough time, but i feel it may have plateaued for me. Two, I am in the best place ive ever been in in my life- more confident, more happy and inspired, a healthy relationship with a woman i love, a job i’m excited about, wonderful friends and family to share life with. Three, it’s not yet the dead of depressing winter. Four, I just felt…ready. My instinct told me it was time to try leaving the nest and the comforts it brings. However, it also reminded me to do it slowly.
I eased into taking 3/4 of a pill for about 2 weeks, and then 1/2 a pill for about 3 weeks. Now, I am on 1/4 of a pill and have been for about 2 weeks. I think I have about another 2 weeks to go. Easy does it, thats for sure! I can’t stress enough, that you should NEVER GO COLD TURKEY on ANY drug, especially a mind/body chemistry altering one. Unless otherwise noted by your doctor, of course. In my case, my doctor told me late last year that when i felt ready, I could try easing off, but to do it gradually. The idea was always that I wouldn’t be on Cipralex forever, just for awhile to readjust the way my brain produces the ‘happy juice’. I had one brief episode two years ago where in a fit of manic-ness I quit cold turkey, got super blue and depressed, tried switching to a new SSRI immediately, and then had vertigo and suicidal tendencies for a few weeks. So in my opinion, it’s extremely risky to do that- it could even be risking your life. I would never do it again, so this time- Patience is my GREATEST virtue, And so far… it’s basically worked!
I’ve had the odd blue day, and when stress hits me it hits me harder. My OCD tendencies have been flaring up. I have turned both my apartment, my girlfriends’ apartment and my desk at work into the place where to-do lists go to die. I have to constantly rearrange things to feel the sense of control that I need. And today, I heard familiar voices (not actually aurally for the record, when i speak of voices i mean more metaphorically and more of a FEELING inside than anything), making me feel less than, making me feel small, making me feel confused.
Luckily, I have 10+ years of living with mental illness under my belt, fighting the demons that thrive on it, and a ‘tool box’ full of techniques I have learned through experience and counselling to help me work through the tricky moments. I also have a wonderful support network, and they keep me strong and grounded.
Tomorrow is a new day friends, and I will feel refreshed and ready to take it on in the morning. Tonight, I acknowledge that it was a hard day, and I acknowledge everything I felt so deeply, and every scary thought I had.
I also acknowledge that this is temporary. It’s a transition back to the light, and back to myself. Although, I never left, and I’m not leaving now either.
It’s just a shadow dance in limbo, reminding me of how far I have come if anything.
But it’s a long dance, and I still have much to learn from it. This time, I have candlelight to face the shadows. I am prepared, I am willing to face it, and I more confident in myself that I can. I think my beautiful mind is feeling back to itself, even if it has the odd dark detour in this transition. So it keeps telling me to push forward and continue this journey- see what i’m really capable of this time.
Only time will tell! I am thankful… that I have so much of it.
Thank you lovelies, stay tuned for more posts like this and all the updates on this journey of adventuring off my meds for the first time in years. I hope it inspires you to say strong, and know you’re not alone in any of this- in any thing, ever!
Have an inspired day!
-Spirit Sister- Nicolle-