So You Know You’re Not Alone

Otherwise known as: A Brief (But Actually Super Long ) History of My Mental Instability.

Looking back, I think I have always been…on the edge. I don’t carry a great deal of light inside myself. Does that make sense? Most of the time, I am ok, and things don’t turn dark on their own, but I am always closer to that edge than one would like. I don’t have a wide berth.  In my brain.  We’re talking about my brain here.  That other berth is a little wide, yes.

When Eli was born, almost six years ago, it was an explosion in the middle of my nice, neat, well ordered life. The life where I ran 35 miles a week and weighed 125 pounds and cleaned my house every Sunday and polished my spare change.  It was a good explosion, it was an explosion I would sign up for over and over and over again and never reconsider, but it took me a long time to get my bearings, especially because he was so small at birth (5 pounds) and so hard to nurse and so high spirited right from the beginning.

When we moved to Sacramento and took Eli for his 18 month Well Baby Check Up, I was nervous, because he’d been gaining less and less weight and moving down the charts and doctors visits had started to be really really stressful and unpleasant.  We had all the medical records transferred and his new pediatrician took a look and things went from unpleasant to “Woah There Nelly” because from 15 months to 18 months, Eli had lost three pounds, despite our near and constant efforts to count his calories and feed him donuts and to make him eat.

I truly do believe that in that moment, something in me broke.  It was no one one’s fault, but it was just too much for me.  Stress about my child’s health, cystic fibrosis tests, holding him down while people drew blood over and over again, being at home with him all day long writing down every bite he took, no one to talk to, all the well meaning advice about picky eaters and joining mom’s groups, it just crumpled me.

This blog saved me though. My readers saved me.  My husband held me while I cried but he didn’t know what do either and when I made that cry for help, I got help. And I made the phone call that I so did not want to make because it just hurt too much to be me, and because it’s one thing when the tears are something you do on your own in the dark but it’s another thing when they are falling on your toddler’s tiny head.

So I found a doctor, and the first thing she did was to tell me I was bi-polar and prescribe Seroquel, which was awful for me, and which made me even more depressed as I imagined a horrifying spiral of crushing side effects and a life not worth living because of my crazy screwed up angry sad on the edge brain.  But I only took that for three days.  When my doctor heard my symptoms she took me off of it immediately, we talked some more, and she took back the Bi-Polar diagnosis, and gave me some samples of Lexapro.

The Lexapro worked right away. I could sleep again, I stopped crying, I felt like things were not at Desperate Levels of Sadness.  I no longer wanted to throw plates.  After I took all the samples, though, my insurance wouldn’t pay for Lexapro, because there’s no generic, unless I proved I couldn’t just use Zoloft or Celexa, because they both have generics available. So I had to take both of those for six weeks each, to prove that they didn’t work as well (they didn’t), and then my doctor called and my insurance agreed to pay for the Lexapro.

I took Lexapro until I was pregnant with Katie.  I wasn’t thrilled to be on an anti depressant while I was pregnant, but I didn’t think it was the end of the world.  It didn’t really matter, though, because as soon as I was 8 weeks pregnant, 15 minutes after I’d take the Lexapro, I’d throw up ALL. NIGHT.LONG. I had to go to the emergency room twice for IV fluids, both times after taking my medication. So no more Lexapro for me.

Luckily, while I was pregnant, I felt great.  And I felt great for months afterwards, I really love the infant stage.  But something about my hormones or babies turning into toddlers or SOMETHING hit me and it happened again, and I found myself standing in the kitchen crying over nothing, while depression seeped into my bones, heavy and liquid and turning everything to mud.

So I went back to the doctor, we tried Lexapro again, it was fine, but I noticed that I got sick really really easily.  Every time I went to Vermont to see my parents, I’d get car sick to the point that I’d have to pull over and do deep breathing exercises, and I just couldn’t see living the rest of my life about to ralph in the car. So no more Lexapro.

This is when my doctor put me on Paxil, and yes, I am using all these brand names in this blog post because I want people to be able to find the hell out of this blog post and because I want people to know they are not alone.  Paxil Paxil Paxil. (Do not take Paxil.)

So I took Paxil for about two years, and I really liked it.  (Do not take Paxil.) It definitely gave me some emotional remove, but you know, my whole life, I have been feeling all the feelings all the time, and it was nice to just not give a shit sometimes.  It was really really nice. I felt like things had just been dialed down a notch and it was an amazing relief not to have every emotion cranked up to 11 at every minute of the day.

But then I started to get sick.

At first I thought it was because I couldn’t drink and take Paxil, so I stopped drinking.  Then I thought I was allergic to dairy, so I switched to almond milk and coconut milk ice cream.  Then I thought it sugar, or exhaustion, or god knows what I thought. I took about ten thousand pregnancy tests, but I was not pregnant. And nine times out of ten, 8 o’clock would roll around and I’d start to feel like hot garbage and have to go lie down.

I didn’t even realize what was happening. I was like a frog being boiled alive, or else just simply the least self aware person on the planet, because it NEVER occurred to me that this was Paxil related, all the while thinking “Oh, how nice for her. I guess others can do such things” whenever I’d hear someone’s social plans that involved doing something after 7 o’clock at night. I started making excuses not to go to to parties, or out to dinner.  And it just never occurred to me that this was the Paxil.

Fast forward to this October.  I woke up with a HORRIBLE pulled muscle in my neck, and after heating it and icing it all day, it was so bad I could barely move.  I went to Urgent Care and then my regular doctor because I was afraid I had meningitis after I was up all night going to the bathroom, but everyone thought I just had a pulled muscle and some kind of bug, and I went home with some muscle relaxers.  And then I started to Google.

It turns out when you enter “strained muscles + nausea + diarrhea”  into Google, one of the first responses you get is “This sounds like classic drug withdrawal to me.” And lo,  the lightbulb finally went off! I realized I hadn’t taken my Paxil for three days, and it was causing all hell to break loose.

I took my Paxil dose as soon as I figured it out, but things just kept getting worse.  I would start to feel sick at about 1 PM, I’d hold on as long as I could, and then I’d take a Paxil as close to 5 PM as I could wait, because I didn’t want to increase my dosage and I didn’t want to double dose and I didn’t know what else to do. It would help a little bit, and then I’d take some dramamine and some Unisom and I’d dry heave until I could fall asleep.  The hour before my husband got home and I could go shut myself in the room and rock back and forth over a bowl became the longest  hour anyone has ever known. (It was so horrible. Just so horrible. Do not take Paxil.)

You will also imagine that this did wonders for my marriage.

The day before Halloween, things got even worse. I was sick all day long, while taking care of two kids and trying to live my life. I couldn’t stop pooping.  I have literally never been so sick in my entire life.  I called my doctor, which I should have done four days earlier.  She didn’t call me back.

We have a party every Halloween.  I drove Eli to preschool and prayed I wouldn’t throw up in the parking lot. I drove to Rite Aid and bought beer and prayed I wouldn’t throw up in Rite Aid.  I lamaze breathed my way through Papa Murphys and threw five pizzas in my car and I went home and crawled in bed while my children watched all manner of unsuitable television.  Erik came home and I told myself that this was ridiculous and I just needed to GET MY SHIT TOGETHER and I spent five minutes upright before I crawled back in bed.  I missed one of the five or six Halloweens that there will be when my kids put on Halloween costumes and walk up and down this street.  It’s short and it’s fleeting and it’s one of my favorite memories of my childhood, and I missed it while I dry heaved in bed.

Halloween night was the worst it ever was. I paged my doctor twice, and she never called me back.  I would drink as much Emetrol as I  could get down without gagging, sleep for 15 minutes, and then wake up and writhe with nausea all over again. At 9 o’clock, trick or treaters rang the door, the dog barked, and I never went back to sleep.  I was up until 8 AM the next day, when I had to take Eli to school.

The Blathering was in seven days.

The next morning I called my doctor again, and left the message that if she didn’t call me back, I was going to the emergency room. I hadn’t eaten in 36 hours, I still hadn’t stopped pooping, and things were…not good.  I also finally made the decision to quit taking the Paxil, cold turkey, because I didn’t know what else to do.  It wasn’t helping at all to keep taking it, I’d been taking it the whole time and I was getting sicker and sicker.

Finally, finally, my doctor called back. She was shocked that I was having this reaction, shocked that I was so sick, shocked at my weight loss (11 pounds). Shocked shocked shocked. My case was “so unusual that she discussed it with all her colleagues.” (My case is not unusual. A metric buttload of people have sued or are suing this drug manufacturer. Do not take Paxil.) She wanted to know if I wanted to keep taking the Paxil (ha ha ha fuck no I did not) and told me to taper off it, which I agreed to do, and then did not do.  Because as God is my witness I’ll never put that drug in my body ever again. NEVER EVER AGAIN.

So then my mother in law showed up, and I could write ten thousand blog posts about how much I owe her,  how much gratitude I have, how amazing she was, how she SAVED me, and it would never be enough.  She did my laundry, she played with my kids, she cooked breakfast lunch and dinner, she went to the grocery store, she did EVERYTHING while I laid in bed and moaned and drank ice water and tried to flush the Paxil from my system as fast as I could.

I was very hopeful that things were going to get rapidly better as soon as I quit the Paxil, but they did not.  I had seven days to get well enough so that I could get on a plane and then get in a car and get to the Blathering, and I had worked my ass off for a year for this event and I look forward to it more than anything else all year long and I really didn’t think I was going to make it. Maggie and Jennie were trying to figure out how they’d decorate without me (beautifully, I am sure) and Arwen was praying and still, I was very unsure I was actually going to be able to get on that plane. Everything I read online listed two weeks as the recovery time for this event, and I wasn’t getting better very fast and I had to spend six hours in the emergency room one night with Eli while he had the croup (because of course) and it was just terrible.

So my symptoms, let’s see. I had: teeth grinding, confusion, inability to concentrate, nausea, loss of appetite, constant violent diarrhea,  terrible vertigo (it felt like someone was pushing me backwards), muscle and neck pain, exhaustion, and probably some other things I am forgetting. And every morning I’d wake up to 20 minutes of sheer terrifying heart pounding roller coaster anxiety. Every single morning. I was afraid to go to sleep at night because of how much I dreaded those first 20 minutes.

I finally started to feel a little better the morning I had to pack for the Blathering, the day before my flight.  My MIL was still here, so even though it took me all day to pack because I couldn’t focus on anything, she watched my kids and drove Eli to school and cooked for everyone.  Erik told me that I needed to use every force available to me to go, and I had a bag full of Zofran and Dramamine and Ginger Gum and if a bag of drugs doesn’t say “Girls Weekend” I don’t know what does.

So I went.  I had to say ten thousand Hail Marys in the check baggage line while sweat poured down me and I tried desperately not to poop in my pants. I didn’t eat dinner the entire time. I had to go to bed early every night instead of going out drinking or sitting up with my girls listening to them talk about their lives, but it was worth it to me.  These are the women who prayed for me, who scootch closer to me while I cry, who pull over six times in a half an hour without saying anything so I can run into Wendy’s and have diarrhea.  They mean the world to me. I needed to see them, I needed their hugs.

The bad news is that it took me at least six weeks before I started to feel better. It was not the intense badness of the first week, but it was bad.  I ended up losing 26 pounds, most of it because I just couldn’t eat anything and food disgusted me.  My family ate a lot of Pasta Roni.  A LOT.

The other bad news is that although this ASTONISHES everyone and “it just can’t be true” and I am a MEDICAL MYSTERY (except not really because you can find it on Google in two minutes), Paxil withdrawal is known to have a “wave like nature” and it can come and go for up to a year.  I had nausea and had to lie down before dinner five nights last week.  So that sucks actual immeasurable amounts, to still be dealing with this now when it started in August. (Do not take Paxil.)

The other bad news is that I have a raging case of PTSD.  If I so much hear about someone throwing up in my Twitter stream, I have to grab the hand sanitizer. I was just sick for three months, I seriously cannot emphasize how much that screws with your head. Or at least it screws with mine.  And I know we’ll get sick again and I still have my Zofran stash, but man, I am freaked out every single time one of my kids so much as coughs.  “Are you going to barf?” will be carved on my tombstone.

The other bad news is that I am flying blind, so far, because I don’t think I want to go back to my doctor, and although I am not currently depressed and I am not anxious any more than normal, I am also not medicated on anything more than fish oil and some strange vitamins, and I have been forced to realize that my sanity isn’t the trusty workhouse I always pictured it as, but instead a delicate shell-like thing that I have to protect at all costs.  It’s not a sturdy farm girl, it’s a pasty, sickly wastrel, and I have to remember to treat it as such.

There is good news, though, I promise.  There is some good news.

Because the thing is, that I struggle. I really really struggle. I struggle with so much. I struggle to be a good parent.  We are raising, if not a difficult child, one is who is certainly in a difficult phase.  We live in a tiny crowded house. I am often consumed with real estate envy.  Our weekends feel like battles, like we live in a war zone.  Everything is a fight, and there’s only so many instagrams you can see with everyone else’s fun weekends with the kiddos and magical days at the beach and kitchen islands and I don’t know, there are so many beautiful lives on the internet. And so you can’t help but wonder what you are doing wrong, and why your weekends feel like wars and if you should move and how to get a kitchen island just like that one.

But the thing is this.  The whole time I was struggling and sick and dry heaving, the whole time I was lying in bed just waiting to sleep, just waiting for the misery to end, the whole anxious sick awful frustrating horrible horrendous time, I had one thought. Just one. Over and over. And this thought was: “I just want to be able to lie on the couch with my husband and watch Homeland.  I just want my simple, wonderful, perfect life  back. I want nothing more than that.”

And it is. It is a simple, boring, wonderful, frustrating, war filled life. It’s not instagram worthy.  I don’t have a kitchen island.  We never go to the beach.  But when I was desperate, and truly wishing for just that one thing back? I didn’t think once about kitchen islands. I just thought about sitting on the couch, next to my husband, happy, watching Homeland, and the good news is that that small frustrating perfect simple unbeautiful life I wanted so badly? I have that. I have just that, and it’s just what I wanted, more than anything else.

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45 Responses

  1. Oh Elizabeth…I’m so glad you made it to the Blathering with all this going on. I had no idea you were going through quite this bad of things…I follow you on twitter, and I think I’ve seen one or two remarks but nothing that told me you were this bad off for so long. Obviously you don’t need to share every ugly detail of your life every day…but that reminded me of something. We all are guilty of only sharing the good sometimes. So when you’re looking at all those instagram photos…remember that they’ve most likely got something going on that they AREN’T sharing.

    I look forward to you having a much better time in Charleston next year, and I’m so thankful you shared this.

  2. You are wonderful and strong and brave, and I think this post will help so many people. As a family practice PA, I can say you ABSOLUTELY need a new doctor. Not that you’ll stop getting funny looks about the Paxil withdrawl, because I had no idea about that either. But the not calling you back multiple times? And you didn’t mention that she PROFUSELY appologized for not immediately calling you back. That is unacceptable. You need a less busy doctor. Or maybe a PA. 😉
    But aside from that… I’m so so so glad that you’re doing ok now. I’m so so so so sorry that you had to go through that mess to be ok now. Boring, kitchen island-less, child-full lives are so under-rated. I love boring. Boring is THE BOMB.

  3. You REALLY are an AMAZING person! Thank you for writing this! One of my doctors recently mentioned Paxil, and, thanks to YOU, I now know to stay away from it.

    I’m so sorry that you’ve had to go through this =(. Along with being hard physically, it is mentally draining to be so sick for so long. I hope life eases up on you soon!

  4. You don’t know me and I rarely comment, but I just want to say that this was lovely. Well, not lovely all that you went through (OMG – i might have been committed with all those GI issues), but just lovely that you wrote it all out, was willing to share and came to such a nice realization at the end. You are so brave for putting it all out there and although I personally don’t battle the same demons (we all have our own!) i have no doubt that you have helped someone immensely. Also – i just want to note that i hate people who only post nice shiny pictures of their perfect world. Come on, they are just lying. My weekends (3 kids – oldest will be 6 in 2 weeks, 2 1/2 and 7 months) and well, lets just say that i proclaimed to my husband this weekend that i just wasnt finding any joy in my time at home and he said that was the saddest thing he ever heard. Everything is a f’ing battle, nothing seems worth it, not to mention it is 0 degrees out and we are all going stir crazy. But, this too shall pass….right?!

  5. Yikes! I am sorry that this was such a terrible thing. I hope that you are feeling all the way better soon. Virtual hugs from me to you.

    I have been contemplating taking the happy pills but I think you have talked me out of it.

  6. I love when you write posts like this – not because I want to read that you’ve been living a nightmare for going on seven months, oh no, but because it really does help to know that I’m not alone when my meds that have been working just fine for two years suddenly stop working and all of a sudden I’m crazy and can’t figure out why. It helps to know that the inconsistency and trial-and-error of it all isn’t just MY brain being broken. It’s the doctors and all the different meds and life and weather and the stars lining up or WHATEVER but it’s not just me.

  7. Thank you for your honesty. I’m so sorry you’ve been through such hell. And sorry that you suffered from misinformed, unhelpful medical professionals. It takes so much effort to reach out for mental health, and when the people paid to care for you screw up? It sets you back so much further/ruins any trust in the system. I’m glad that you have your online and real-life support system–reach out to one or both of them at any time, and I guarantee they/we will have your back. And to echo what others have said, the shiny, happy people? Are editing, filtering, photoshopping, selecting what they present to the world. I promise. You are a strong lady, I admire your endurance (I’ve struggled with my own mental issues, so I can at least somewhat relate), and I want good things for you despite not knowing you beyond the words you present on this screen. Take care, be well, and keep writing.

  8. Thank you for this. I cannot describe how much I relate to these words.

  9. Thank you for sharing your story. Women need to know they are not the only ones having symptoms or problems like this. I have a friend who went through Paxil withdrawal and thought she had the flu for weeks. Like you, she will never take it again. I agree with the other comment, Please find a new Dr.. Unreturned phone calls about anything are unprofessional. Unreturned phone calls about something so serious are inexcusable.

  10. You are a brave woman. Your honesty just hits home with me in this post and others of yours. I like your style, lady.

  11. What a fighter you are. Your courage, both in going through all of that and in putting it all out there to share with the world, is amazing, inspiring, and a ton of other adjectives that spell out how much you blow me away. Thank you.

  12. Sorry you had to go through all that … but thank you for sharing your story and letting us know we’re not alone. I was put on Zoloft last fall and had about 2 weeks of intense gastrointestinal side effects that were just horrible. Not the same as what you went through, and no where near as long as you suffered, but I can relate a little after that experience. It’s so hard when you’re trying to feel better and the thing that is to help does more damage.

    Your husband and mother-in-law are angels — how wonderful to have them there to help you when you need it most!

    Oh, and I’m making a note right now: no Paxil.

  13. I’m so sorry you had to go through all that, and so glad you made it through to tell us.

    Also, I often feel like an ungrateful asshole, myself, because my kids are 9, 6, and 3 and the weekends feel like a complete war zone. I have a big enough house, we live where it is warm enough to go outside year round, and yet everything is trashed, everyone is fighting, and I feel like the maid/cook. I don’t even LIKE to take my kids to the beach because all I think about it how much work it will be, both while there and later, the endless cleanup.

    I think (hope?) it will get better when the youngest is a little older. Until then, I think we ALL just try to soldier through.

  14. E, I am so proud of you. You wrote this. You made it (and are making it!) through this! I love you dearly, and you know you are in my daily prayers. Keep fighting. You are so, so worth it. xo

  15. I cannot believe that drug DID this to you. I am SO SORRY. And I am also sorry that it sounds like your doctor basically abandoned you. WHY did it take her SO LONG TO CALL YOU BACK in those first days? Holy crap. I had no idea- NONE- that you were going through this at The Blathering. I feel awful, because that just SUCKS for you.

    I am glad you made it through the worst part onto this side. And I hope things improve for you. I’m thankful you have an amazing husband and MIL (A MOTHER IN LAW!) who are there for you. And hey- sitting on the couch and watching tv? THAT IS MY DREAM LIFE, yo. It’s the simple things, right? 🙂 Hang in there, lady. You are worth the fight.

  16. I admire you so much for talking about this and trying to help others in the midst of everything you’re going through. You deserve to catch a break, and I sincerely hope it happens soon. HUGS.

    We, too, have weekends that are often battles, a difficult oldest child, real estate envy and a small, crowded house. So even though I’m not on medication, your words make me feel so normal for having an often un-magical life and thinking it’s just… really hard, at times. THANK YOU.

  17. That is all truly awful. I’m sorry. You know, when we moved I gave up a kitchen island AND the beach, they aren’t all they are cracked up to be. And anyone with kids who says they aren’t beaten down by weekends – well, I can’t be sure they are telling the truth. Hang in there.

  18. I just love you, is what.

  19. You are amazing. Your support system sounds amazing too. Your blog is good for me. Thanks.

  20. I still feel terrible for not knowing what to do. I’m so sorry.

  21. Here is the problem I have run into: I feel like psychiatric medication has the potential to dramatically improve my quality of life. But for every psychiatric medication (EVERY PSYCHIATRIC MEDICATION) there are a million people saying “NEVER TAKE THIS ONE. NO ONE SHOULD EVER TAKE IT.” So that leaves nothing that’s okay to take, so I’m stuck.

    I’ve tried a few anyway, always weaning off them as soon as I feel better, because as soon as I feel better, it no longer seems worth the NO ONE SHOULD EVER TAKE THIS risks. I took Paxil and weaned off it fine. I was scared about that one because I heard a LOT of stories about never ever ever ever go off it cold turkey because people end up committing suicide when they do that. So I was very careful and slow, and it was fine. I add this story in case people on Paxil are reading this post and freaking out that they can never go off it ever.

    • Oh I know! And I really hope I didn’t give the impression that one should never take something ever because taking the Lexapro saved me. It saved me. After I wrote this and people said “Now I’m never taking anything” I felt that I wrote it wrong to give a bad impression, but I wasn’t sure how to fix it without making it longer and I hope people understand that if things are BAD, you need to get help, and sometimes that’s medication. I do think Paxil is a horrible drug and should never be prescribed, even though I know some people don’t have any problems with it whatsoever. I just think there’s too much bad stuff out there about it. All the horror stories really freaked me out too, though, which is why I decided to write this, to let people know you CAN get off it and you can recover and it will be ok, because I was reading all those horror stories and I didn’t have any choice, I couldn’t taper off of it, despite the HUNDREDS of posts saying “NEVER EVER EVER EVER go off this cold turkey” and it was awful. And there was very little information about going cold turkey off of it, just all those “never ever do this” posts, and I didn’t have a choice, and I wanted to know if you had to go off it cold turkey, how would it go, how long would it take to get better, etc. so that’s why I wrote this. But yes. I agree with you, of course, wise Swistle, that sometimes one needs drugs, and sometimes one goes off them and usually it’s fine.

  22. I think you need a new doctor. This one wasn’t responsive to your calls or concerns, and it’s someone you don’t trust. You need more than that. You need a doctor who listens. You obviously have a metabolism that handles drugs differently and that needs to be taken into consideration with any prescription you receive. There are still things a doctor could do to lessen the effects now and help your body recover. Because you felt horribly both on and off the drug, a doctor owes it to you do fully examine you to see if there is another physiological cause that is perhaps even aggravated by the drug.

    I also quit Paxil cold turkey, under supervision. It was awful awful awful. There is a reason they do the taper, it really does minimize the symptoms. In my case, I was reacting very poorly to it so it needed to stop quickly. It is not an experience I would wish on anyone. The tapers really do prevent these side effects. They do. You are supposed to be tapered on and then tapered off when it’s time to stop. The tapering makes a huge difference. Huge. And if the tapering isn’t going well, they can also help your brain wean off of the SSRI by substituting a different one temporarily. It’s an imprecise science, but it is science. If you’re having these symptoms, you need to see a psychiatrist (not general physician) who knows exactly what to do with this stuff.

    The thing is, our experiences with this drug were not typical. Paxil is a heavily prescribed drug and even adding up all of the anecdotal information online of adverse effects (which often aren’t reported to the FDA or aren’t deemed correlated), they don’t make a dent in the statistical advantages of the drug. And it’s hard, especially when it hits so close to home.

    I know I’ve given my rant before on internet diagnostics but here it is again: internet diagnostics go backward. People search symptoms to rule in disorders where a clinician observes and rules out disorders. I did it today. I went to the doctor for a routine exam and asked to check my thyroid. We went over my symptoms. He pointed out that I’m breathing through my mouth and that with my allergies as bad as they’ve been, perhaps my exhaustion comes from sleeping terribly because of snoring and a low quality of sleep. Uh. I never would have guessed that. He’s still running the thyroid panel, but I also gained a nice little ticket to a sleep study. No amount of googling for information and reading other people’s anecdotes of self-diagnosis would have helped, and he’s probably right. A trusted physician is invaluable. Untrained internet anecdotes might actually be doing you a disservice.

    You’ve come so far, but to still be suffering isn’t right. You don’t deserve that. At all.

  23. I love your brutal honesty. I’m scared to be this honest on the Internet, but I’m trying. As for your battle wounds, holy hell you’ve been through a lot. This is like when I finally got diagnosed with a wonky thyroid and I didn’t want to go to sleep all the time and I didn’t want to wear my winter coat in May when it was 70 out? It was a dream come true. Like: I had no idea life could be like this! Warmth? In my fingers? What is this world? That is to say, I cannot relate to your level of suffering on this, but I *can* relate to wanting something simple.

    And I don’t have instagram, and I’m a shitty, shitty photographer, but if I did have one, you’d see a badly decorated, dirty house with rat traps in the attic and no insulation and dog hair tumbleweeds. And no kitchen island, either. But that’s ok (with me, anyway).

  24. I’m sorry that you’ve been going through such a tough time: medications and withdrawals from them can be miserable, for sure. I hope the waves stop coming and things improve for you soon. Being sick, it’s like … you can’t even explain it to other people, how isolating and frightening it is to be at the mercy of a body you used to trust and now seems to be playing for a different team. It’s scary. So I hope your experiences here will help somebody will make them think “Holy shit: it’s not just me!” and I hope you – and they – find the answers you need to feel better.

  25. oh man. I’m sorry you had all that, and i’m glad you’re (mostly) through it. I hope you have some luck in finding a better new doctor.

  26. Elizabeth, I wish I could just hug you right now and sit by you on the couch and watch some TV. I’m so very sorry you’ve been dealing with all of this.

  27. I’m so sorry you had to go through all that/are going through all this. This is a nightmare. I agree with everyone who said that your doctor is no good – you should not have had to call her three times. I have no experience with SSRIs at all, so I can’t speak to that, but certainly you need a doctor you can trust and who makes you feel comfortable and who will call you BACK. But whatever the case, good for you for clawing your way back out of that nightmare.

  28. I cannot even imagine what you have gone through. It sounds terrible and horrible and awful and I am so so so glad you are on this side of it. I want to hug you and sit and watch TV with you!

  29. Dear Elizabeth, I cannot believe how much you have suffered. I am so sorry. I am going to pray right now it leaves you completely very very soon. I have been going through some pretty major shifts in my life this year, and I always read your blog b/c you have been too. I want you to know that I think about you a lot and try to be brave like you and try to make sense of things like you are and also try to find myself beautiful like you are finding yourself to be. I will add finding joy in my humdrum, lovely, hard life to the list! 🙂 Love, Rosemary

  30. Elizabeth, I know I rarely comment here, but I love you. That was my thought as I finished reading. I love you. I’m so sorry you’ve had to go through all of this.

  31. How can a post about barfing and pooping end with me crying? Because you are the most beautiful writer ever, even when it’s about how life can be messy. The Internet is so weird though, because I can’t tell you how many times I looked at your beautifully decorated house and adorable kids and read about your supportive husband and thought about what a beautiful life YOU have. I am SO SORRY that you had to go through this, I really am. I am also really excited for next year’s Blathering (the one where we become good friends), because we will both be well rested and healthy and fabulous. Also skinny and super hot.

  32. E, we aren’t the closest of friends but know that I’ll pull over for you to poop anytime. It’s the least I can do for you my friend.
    Also, that Instagram life? It’s sometimes used to cover up the bad parts (I’m guilty of that especially of late). If I post a glowing awesome photo of me and my boys have a great day at the lake it’s only because I can’t handle sitting around the house thinking about hos my oldest son is in a pit of despair and I can’t fix it for him. So we go to the lake and I take photos just to have a nice day where I’m not yelling or crying about his lack of desire in life.
    Uh, sorry about that verbal vomit. Love ya lady! You’re gonna be A OK.

  33. Oh, Elizabeth.

    You had me in tears. At work. Because I cannot even imagine what a dark place you were in. It makes me cry to think about how hard that was for you. How much you had to suffer. No one should ever ever ever ever have to experience that. I don’t know who to blame – the drug manufacturer? your doctor? I just want to blame SOMEONE because I am so heartbroken and angry on your behalf.

    For what it’s worth, I don’t think anyone has an “Instagram-worthy” life. Or maybe I do Instagram wrong because I put pictures of Gabe’s messy face on there.

    You are in my thoughts and prayers. I hope some lazy, fun weekends are in your future, my dear.

  34. The internet has saved me so many times. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  35. Oh, I am so sorry you are still dealing with this. Add mine to the voices that appreciate the honesty with which you put stuff out there.

    Also, my husband is chronically ill. A lot of his symptoms arise is horrible GI issues. As the caretaker in the situation, there is something profoundly debilitating in the helplessness you feel when your loved one is clearly suffering and there is nothing you can do to make it better. Props to your husband and MIL for helping you out. I can’t imagine the darkness that overwhelmed them during this time, not knowing how to help or what to do.

    Feel better soon.

  36. Damn. I am so sorry you went through all that agony, but I also feel grateful to you for writing about it with such brutal honesty. This post is going to help people.

  37. What utter, unrelenting hell you have been through. I cannot even imagine the powerlessness you must have been feeling about this whole process you have NO control over beyond stopping taking the medication. Thank goodness for family, and hopefully you also have some IRL friends you can lean on. In my opinion, there is nothing scarier than the knowledge that you are not physically capable of caring for your children. I’ve been there a couple of times without anyone around to help and it was the most alone I’ve ever felt.

    I think you’re so brave to share it all and so strong to have found light in the situation. If that which does not kill us makes us stronger, you’re the freaking HULK!

  38. Oh my goodness, do you ever need a new doctor. All of the stuff you went through was HORRIFIC (and my god, that you went through this at the Blathering? You put on an amazing face, I never would have guessed), but having a doctor just ignore you while you went through it? No. No.

  39. So sorry you had to go through this, but thank you for sharing your experience. Hope that you never have to experience anything like that again!

  40. Oh Elizabeth. I have many times been struck by your strength, but oh how strong you must be to have gone through this – to still struggle. And the strength to put it out here so that your story can help… I just…

    Thank you for writing it all out.

  41. Thank you for writing this. I’ve been feeling not myself. Overwhelmed and quick to cry or be angry or frustrated and after reading this I decided to take my husbands advice and go see my doctor (who I’m confident will listen to me and care!) Thank you for putting this out there Elizabeth.

  42. I’ve come back to this a few times since I first read it and every time I wish things were different and that we had a different system of care in this country. That we didn’t have to call doctors multiple times to get through to them, that changing our medication dosages would be supported, that drug companies wouldn’t produce and advertise such unsafe medication.

    I just finished reading Robert Whitaker’s book, Anatomy of an Epidemic, and it makes a strong case for the ineffectiveness and poor testing of the effectiveness of all psych meds on the market. I’d recommend the book to anyone who’s interested in learning more about how these meds are approved by the FDA, what evidence of their effectiveness is required, and how they influence the trajectory of mental illness over the life course. It’s a lot to think about and has serious implications for anyone on meds or thinking about medicating their child.

    I don’t mean to make this about a book recommendation, but I think, for me, your account and the book I mentioned highlight how risky changing meds or coming off of meds can be.

  43. Oh Elizabeth- I am so glad this sat in my feed reader for a few days, because I needed it today. I just spent the last 45min having an emotional melt down over all the struggles in my life.

    There are days where I want nothing more than to lie in bed next to my husband with a good book- that simple moment in times is the bees knees for me.

    Thank you for your bravery….and your honesty.

  44. I don’t know how to respond to this with all the things I want to say. I want to tell you how beautiful this writing is and give your big, retroactive hugs and send you coloring books for your kids a few months ago and make Halloween happen all over again. I am happy that you are better, I’m praying for more answers for you and I think you’re incredible. XO

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