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It’s been on my mind for a while to blog about what happened during the 1st breakthrough. I’ve no longer decided to call it a breakdown because to me there is a negative connotation in using the term “breakdown”.

Writing about my experiences has been a sort of therapy for me. Being able to write about my life and press “publish” is freeing. And of course my hope is always to use my experiences to normalize the struggles we face in life because if we don’t talk about them, then they continue to fester in shame and secrecy.

2005. I can’t believe it was 16 years ago. I had graduated from community college the year prior.

I suppose it was like the perfect storm.

I was primarily working for 2 residential agencies. Working erratic shifts, thinking my value was based on the amount on my paystub. Trying to “get ahead” and pay down my student loans. Trying to build my seniority. Trying to do it all.

I didn’t know that I could say “no”. I didn’t have to work myself into oblivion. I had only seen the puritan work ethic my whole life.

There was chronic anxiety and critical self talk in the background. I had started to recognize this. Baby steps.

Fear was the motivator. That I wouldn’t be enough. That I wouldn’t be “successful”.

I had just finished a night shift and spent the entire night at the hospital with a young boy who was suicidal. I still remember this name.

I got home from the shift and tried to sleep. I couldn’t. My heart was racing and it felt like it was going to beat out of my chest.

It quickly went downhill from there. I couldn’t focus, couldn’t concentrate and couldn’t sleep.

What the hell was going on? It was scary.

I couldn’t handle being around people. The mere thought of it and I would start crying.

When “you just need to relax” was so absolutely disconnected from what I was feeling inside my body.

In desperation, I called my family doctor who did a referral to a psychiatrist and prescribed me Ativan with specific instructions. Taking Ativan increased my anxiety. Tell someone with an anxiety disorder that the could become addicted to the medication they were supposed to take to calm down.

The Ativan helped to take the edge off at night, for which I was thankful for but not enough to actually sleep.

Thankfully, in 2005 it only took a couple of weeks to see a psychiatrist. I was prescribed Effexor. I remember being afraid to take it at the time but also being so desperate to feel better.

What if I didn’t get better? What would happen to me? The thought of not being able to sleep was maddening to me.

I also went to see a homeopathic doctor and was prescribed a number of supplements, tinctures and tea.

I was instructed to steadily increase my anti-depressant. And then it happened at 150mg after approximately 4 weeks of taking it.

I slept.

I was so exhausted, at this point I probably hadn’t slept for about 6 weeks. It was early morning and I was about to get ready for a workshop on mothers with mental illness. (I have no idea why I was even going looking back). In my exhaustion, I laid back down on my bed and feel asleep. I actually feel asleep.

As that night rolled around, the anxiety of having to fall asleep again kicked in but I slept. Night after night came and went and I was sleeping like a baby.

In fact, I had never slept so well in my entire life. I didn’t need the Ativan. The Effexor was doing its job and I am sure that the natural remedies were assisting me as well.

At the time, I remember thinking “holy shit, is what it’s like to NOT live with anxiety?” How wonderful. How amazing. How absolutely great I felt.

My psychiatrist said I was “cured”. Now, I don’t go that far with it but medication was one HUGE piece of the puzzle for me.

I was able to go back to work. I was able to laugh and enjoy and love life and the people I had in it.

I was able to get my undergraduate degree.

I was able to have a fairly healthy pregnancy.

I was able to respond to my baby’s needs.

My diagnosis doesn’t define me. It’s a small part of who I am, but it’s not who I am.

The longer I get on my journey, the more I appreciate that there is nothing wrong with me. I, like many other people are simply reacting to the society I live in and the way that I have been conditioned.

There are also patterns to be unlearned and traumas to be heard.

Anyone that knows the dark night of the soul and has been back to tell about it…I salute you.

And for anyone that hasn’t made it back…I wish you peace in this life or the next.

Karla xx