September 29, 2016

The Waiting Game ("Life, Medicated." Part II)


After you tell the world that you're starting medication for depression and anxiety, and nearly two thousand people read all about it, what do you do for an encore? 

Simple. You keep telling the truth. Welcome to the next chapter in my new story, "Life, Medicated."

The Waiting Game

As promised, I met with my doctor last week and we talked medications. I had a lot of questions for her about her choice of meds, the recommended dosage, potential side effects, and what to expect as the drug began to work. She patiently listened to my concerns and addressed them directly and clearly. And we worked out a plan to move forward.

So here I am a week later, taking a daily pill as prescribed. It's too early to really tell if the meds are working, but just taking them has given me something that has been missing for as long as I can remember: hope that the chaos and stress in my head might start to ease.

Interestingly enough, the biggest indicator that the meds are working won't be what happens. It will be what doesn't happen. I'll know I'm on the right track when I can process the ups and downs of my day without kicking in to high gear or dropping in to low mode. I should still be able to feel happy about good stuff and concerned about bad things, but I don't have to feel all the things and do all the things all at once.

A Cautionary Note

Medication for anxiety and/or depression isn't a miracle cure-all. It will help, sure, but it's only one piece of a bigger puzzle. It's not unlike taking medication for high-blood pressure. It will help you, but you also need to eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly. Drugs alone aren't the fix.

That's where I am. I am taking the medication as prescribed, and I will continue to do so. But I am also scheduled to meet with my therapist and to follow-up with my doctor. In addition, I'm changing behaviors that were more likely to take me to dark places. I'm being more candid with friends. I'm asking for help when I need it. And I'm making it a point to surround myself with good, strong, loving people.

I have a responsibility to myself to do everything I can to get and stay mentally healthy. And I'm going to do that. My very life is riding on that. And I kind of like my life, actually. There's a lot of really good things happening.

Why So Public?

I'm a pretty open person, sharing a lot of myself across social media. I've always been like that, living a life on the skyline with everyone watching. I was an early target/victim/survivor of an anti-gay witch hunt in the Marine Corps and lived to tell the tale everywhere from my local Public Television station and newspaper to a multi-day story in the New York Daily News. My wedding photo was published in the New York Times. I'm in a documentary film about weight loss and running. And I've been a blogger for more than a decade.

In other words, my life has always been open to the public. And sharing personal and painful things is tough, but the rewards far outweigh the loss of privacy. When I blogged about my sexual assault and survival, I received thousands of private messages thanking me for sharing openly what others still felt the need to hide. And not surprisingly, my post last week about seeking out mental health care and medication generated many private messages itself.

I don't share all of that above to brag about myself. I share it to illustrate that I am used to being out in the open and living my life out loud. And the support and encouragement I receive makes it all worth it. But not everyone is in my position, and I feel an obligation to be a public face of what is a very personal struggle. Every part of my struggle that I share is a chance to speak for so many who are still unable to speak for themselves. And I take that obligation very seriously.

If you were one of those people who messaged, texted, or emailed, know this. I am so grateful for your support and I am committed to being open and upfront about this entire journey to health. I'm worth it. You're worth it. And we'll all make it if we just trust in each other and get the help we need.

I'm Still Here

One thing more I need to say. In last week's blog, I was painfully candid about my own sadness and my suicidal thoughts. That scared many of you, and I am sorry for that. But I'm not sorry I was honest. And now, I want to add to those thoughts from last week.

Yes, I have been overwhelmed by suicidal thoughts. I've felt so sad and broken that I thought I would literally just stop existing. But I'm still here. Nothing in my past was strong enough to truly break me. And now that I am releasing a lifetime of guilt and shame over my mental health struggles, I am even stronger.

I'm not going anywhere, friends. I have so much to do in this life that another hundred years won't be time enough. Thank you for worrying and thank you for caring. I'm still here.





"I'm Still Here"
Mindy McCready

I'm okay, I'm alright
Hurricanes and train wrecks only last one night
Would you believe all I've been through?
Had the hands of tempted fate, oh, if you only knew
What it costs, how I wait, what I got, what I gave

I'm still here, after the heartache
After the storm blew through, I kept me and it saved me
I'm still standin' right where you left me
On a cold dark cloud with nowhere to fall but down
Like a single, naked, unrelenting tear, I'm still here

There was darkness all around me
There were times that I was sure I was drowning
There were people, who tried to reach me
But no matter how they loved me, I kept sinking
I got tired of my own hell, I reached inside and I saved myself

I'm still here, after the heartache
After the storm blew through, I kept me and it saved me
I'm still standin' right where you left me
On a cold dark cloud with nowhere to fall but down
Like a single, naked, unrelenting tear, I'm still here

This time I can survive
I ain't dying on nobody else's cross
I ain't sufferin' no more unforgivin' loss, oh, no

I'm still here, after the heartache
After the storm blew through, I kept me and it saved me
I'm still standin' right where you left me
On a cold dark cloud with nowhere to fall but down
Like a single, naked, unrelenting tear, I'm still here, I'm still here


End On A High Note

I got my hair cut yesterday and now it's all standing up. It's got me feeling like this cat, Johnny Bravo. I don't have that body, but a little more gel and I'd totally have this hairstyle.

Johnny Bravo meets Captain Awesome.

I can dig it.