So many words that are taboo. These also happen to be some of my favorites. We must have the hard conversations in order to develop as humans. We must stand up and say, #metoo.
Been there, tried that. Dangling on the edge of life and death, testing the fates, was a hobby of mine you could say. I remember as a child placing myself in dangerous situations, and asking if it was my time yet. I was an “adrenaline junkie”; a “book worm”; a “napper”; and a “picky eater”. College. My twenties. Since then I have learned tools. I built a lifestyle of survival. I built a lifestyle around keeping the drops at bay. I know my early warning signs. I have tools to walk myself out of it.
I no longer consider suicide. I no longer hold myself at deaths door. I still occasional knock, and beg to be taken. I see the beauty in death. I don’t fear it. Also, it is no longer a hobby to pursue. Ultimately I have been largely in secret of my attempts. Never had the heart to make the messy attempts. Never wanted a loved one to have to do the clean up.
The closest calls for me look more like hanging from a tree branch at the grand canyon waiting for my grip to fail. That time I was rescued by a squirrel that sat with me. So much love and simplicity in it’s eyes. That squirrel helped me to see how silly my drama was. I have taken medications that I knew would bring the deep sleep, but alas the body had a stronger survival instinct than I. Waking up in your own vomit, is another great way to acknowledge the silly drama within for what it is. Life really isn’t that bad is it? Why can’t I hack it? What is wrong with me. So we get up off the floor, shower, drink more coffee. Add whiskey. Go to work.
I dangled off of the edge of a boat at sea. At night out there you could slip away, and crew would not notice until morning. By then you would be miles away, and already asleep. My first nervous break down with a panic attack was in 5th grade. I don’t mean to provoke, shock or whatever. These are just some of my stories.
Depression for me has a language that is not about sadness. It is not something I would even call being down, or sad. If anything it is more about an emotional intensity that grows into a physically painful state of exhaustion. It is an intensity of despair that takes hold. It takes so much strength to simply hold on, that the physical body becomes almost paralyzed. The body becomes numb. Inside the mind screams “get up”, “you need to eat”, “you need to keep going”, “what if someone sees you like this”, “you are going to loose your job again”. The heart constricts to the point where the muscles become actually sore to the touch. I can feel my bones. A quiet voice begs, I just don’t want to feel anymore. the dam breaks, tear flow and the body shakes. These are the good times, because 8 hours of dreamless sleep usually follows. When the dam is finally able to break. Some peace usually follows, but not always.
I have never been in a car accident. I have never broken a bone. I have had serious dental issues that hurt like hell. I have lost two pregnancies, and that felt like my body was literally being ripped in half. The pain in the states of depression, periods of which a professional may call catatonic, is the most intense lasting pain I have ever experienced. This is a type pain where the only real option is to ride it out. Next time you hope to avoid sliding back in there in the first place. Time is the primary medicine.
Knowing your patterns and prevention is key.
In 2008 I met a wonderful soul, Joey Pantalino. At the time he was starting a campaign called “Stop the Stigma”. He was speaking at high schools talking about how it is okay to see a therapist. Talking about how it was OK to go on medication. Getting help is not weak. It is strong. Those that struggle with depression are the strongest people I know. He lived near by, he saw me, and began to check on me with out my realizing his insight and care. He never bought anything. Would just come in, chat at a furious pace, coffee in hand. Always gave me a hug. Always shifted my mood.
I was a shop girl in a fantastically retro boutique. Spent a lot of time by myself, obsessively rearranging the displays, driving the owner crazy. I rearranged the place in nearly every shift. I would wear the party dresses while I worked. One such day, I was wearing a fabulously bedazzled gold disco frock, and shoes that were way to big. I was staring at the hats, debating feathers or felt. I was staring in space really. Just trying to stay busy. If I stopped moving I could break. I wasn’t high enough to be numb that day. He came in and announced that he was bi-polar. He asked me if I had help. He encouraged me to check out medication. Hugged me and left.
The owner was a pharmaceutical rep. When I saw her later, I asked what she knew. At the time, I had a life coach, and had already found yoga. The power of nutrition and food had already been a major part of my healing up to that point. The periods of despair were less frequent. By less frequent, I mean general lack of vitality all of the time, but crashes were down to once every few months. At times in my life it had been weekly. My life coach, Joey, the shop owner, and my partner at the time supported me and truly did most of the work to get me to my first psycho-pharmacologist appointment. I had an anxiety attack on the subway and got lost on the way. I was ready to check in. I just wanted a bed, and nurses to fix me, in a building where I had no more of this life stuff to participate in. I wanted out.
Generalized anxiety disorder. Labels felt good. Felt like we could have a plan.
He said I had very common progression of psychosis for people that have lived with PTSD for decades. He put me on Lexapro. I then proceeded to go through the most bizarre exorcism like “adjustment period”, as the meds took hold. It felt as if layers in me were battling for control. My skin felt like a container to some sort of mythical battle of wills. Parts of me became numb for the first time in my life. I could feel the spasms ricochet through my nervous system. These were called lightening storms. After a while… the sun came out.
Lexapro saved my life. I felt a range of positive emotions to their fullest. I had energy. I could think and colors seemed brighter. I felt alive, almost as if for the first time. Being on a medication, allowed me to start putting into practice the tools that my life coach had been teaching me. Before that it was impossible. It has been a very long journey.
I have created a lifestyle that keeps my head above the water. It does not mean that i still go there, but I have be thriving in my own way, medication free since 2010. The one medication worked, but until I had the tools, my doctor started stacking medications on me. Piles of prescriptions. I knew that wasn’t the way. My homeostasis was reset.
Western medicine got me to a point in my healing. I would not be here without it. To truly heal, I had to leave the system and explore through my own. I read all the books tried all of the things. This is my life study.
Mental disease is not just in your head. It is physical too. There is nothing that can be discounted. All things contribute to create your life in this moment. All of the details must be addressed. Every case is unique. Every case needs a team of support. At the end of the day, only you can walk yourself out of it.
I could write a thousand more pages about my healing process, what I have done to get to where I am now. But truly I write this article on the morning of the suicide of one of my beloved heroes, Anthony Bourdain. I write this because we need to talk about the hard things. I write this to tell you, I am here for you.
Hold on. White knuckle grip your way out. Find a friend that will hold space for you and let you have the same conversations over and over again. Let yourself break. I find the bathtub to be a wonder place.
My tools… meditation, yoga asana, a spiritual practice. Clean whole food eating, low carb, high fats. Fermented food, probiotics, bare feet in the dirt. A routine. A sleep schedule. FAITH, Friends, and free time. Play. Acceptance. Service to others.
There are no universal rules or how to’s that work for everyone. YET, alcohol always makes it worse long term. Sugar always makes it worse. Top allergens that trigger psychological response are foods with long chain proteins. Egg protein found in the whites; Cow’s milk protein casein & whey; and wheat proteins gluten, gliadin and zonulin are known and scientifically proven triggers to mental dis-ease.
I walked my self out. Now I help others to walk out of their discomforts. This is the foundation of Pickling Salt.
Email for more information, or support. firstname.lastname@example.org