Today’s #SameHere Hero: Allie Weeks (Due to how past Hero stories have discussed the power of healing through practices outside of medication alone, we really haven’t touched much on what can happen when you are put on a medication merry-go-round in the hopes of finding your “magic pill.” I focused on this topic in my own post back when I first came out of the misery period, after I learned what actually heals the CNS/body from these terrible conditions – brought about by various lived traumas and/or genetic predispositions. You can speak to 10 different experts and get 10 different answers, but after living through what I refer to as the role of “Western Medicine’s Guinea Pig” for a number of years, I certainly have strong opinions 😉. Medications can and often do need to be in the mix for those patients with strong genetic predispositions, and conditions like bipiolar and schizophrenia. These patients seem to at least improve some, when they find a med that agrees with them.
That said, for most of us out there, even having gone through or suppressed massive traumas, I believe medications are nothing more than bandaids that prevent our “cuts” from gushing out. And, unfortunately, if our cuts have already started to bleed profusely, medications do very little. This concept of a medicine “pooping out” chemically, after working for a number of years, just doesn’t sit well. Obviously just an opinion, but our life doesn’t stop as time goes on…and as a result, stress and traumas continue to pile up. If we do nothing to release and rewire the existing traumas as more is added on our plate, why would we expect that a drug would just make them disappear, along with the symptoms they cause? Thank you Allie for being brave enough to share your story of the some of the ups and downs of medications – even when genetically, it seems like one is needed to at least keep symptoms under control. Now in a better place, I look forward to staying in touch with Allie and hearing how other practices she adds, help to truly heal her system.)
“There are traces of mental health complications going back through several generations on both sides of my family – with both sides having had to endure the awful pain of losing loved ones to suicide. With that type of genealogy, I’m not so sure the odds were ever in my favor. The first panic attack I have a recollection of, goes all the way back to the age of 4. At the time, my mother was crying to my father, asking him why I was explaining to them that I was ‘scared of feeling like I’m dreaming,’ while I was actually awake, which was essentially my first up-close and personal experience with the symptom of derealization.
Phobias and compulsions were a common way of life in my world. I learned to make them easy to conceal for the most part, with small public episodes of fear or panic seeping through on a few occasions, embarrassing me in front of friends and even strangers. Compared to others, I was different, sensitive, and quirky, but never considered “sick.” I lived a purposefully: ‘strategically modified’ life and had distorted thoughts that made me experience a sheltered but wonderful childhood. I would worry about things like the earth’s rotation, how I was able to breathe while sleeping, and even checking and rechecking things until I hyperventilated (in private of course).
By 17, my unrelenting anxiety had tired me out. I withdrew from all extracurricular activities. I missed school, work, and even meals. Finally, I was put on a medication that seemed to work for a while; every few years being switched to a new one, due to what was phrased as drug ‘poop outs,’ leading to bouts of panic.
Fast forward 15 years, and at the age of 32, I settled down in a relationship, and I felt the best I ever had. I’d been kept on only one ssri for some time, and I couldn’t remember my last panic attack. At that time, I decided I wanted to finally become a mother, and took a chance at reducing my medication down to zero, to make the safest choice for our future baby. It was physically difficult, but over the course of 8 months I was finally medication free – and I actually felt proud about it.
I was proud, but then I hit (what I believe was) a chemical bottom. We were on a getaway to Maine when I started feeling “off.” This feeling continued until we returned home to New York. I began once again feeling depersonalized most of the days following our return, and had severe anxiety and panic each day. My heart rate would average about 115 bpm, leaving me physically and mentally exhausted, and severely malnourished. The constant terror I was in took away my appetite along with my ability to function ‘normally’ in regular society – let alone, in a super high-paced job. The doctor I was seeing was adjusting my medication at such a rapid pace that I had a complete (again what I believe) chemically-induced nervous breakdown. I couldn’t bear the sunlight, I couldn’t cross the street. I didn’t eat. But for some reason, by the grace of God, I could always sleep. I went from 125 lbs, to my lowest 98 lbs, in less than 2 months. This contributed to a spike in paranoia and cognitive decline. I was referred to a different psychiatrist who immediately put me back on the medication and dosage I was successfully taking years prior. But, he added a complementary medication, daily, to keep my panic at bay.
At least I can say that through it all, my sense of humor never went away. I would be on the edge of despair and still able to crack a joke at the situation. And I continue with that humor as a way to cope. I also began to learn to cope by taking up ceramics classes, listening to a myriad of YouTube videos of “panic talk downs” by Michael Sealey, and having friends make house visits to try to distract me from obsessively negative thoughts.
Looking back, it felt like a terrible defeat for me to put in all that effort to detox off of medication, only to end up on more medicine. Having lived through those first few months of the hell of adjusting, I threw myself back into work and crafting hobbies, and forced myself to readjust to being out and about. It has been harder than any words can do justice to.
Another 8 months has passed. I feel upset because, based on my expectations, at this point in my life: I should be pregnant. I should be off medicine. I should be the happiest I have ever been. But I’m none of those things. I’m medicated. I’m stable with small spikes of anxiety and irrational thinking. I’m with the one that I love, and am still surrounded by family and friends. I’m immensely grateful for coming through the other side despite the obstacle course of drug trials. I’ve come to terms with the fact that most people, even those closest to me, will never truly understand the way my mind functions. I am so hopeful to still become a mother…and not put such pressure on myself for a non-medicated pregnancy. I also promised that if I ever saw the other side of the tunnel, when I was at my worst, I would try my hardest to find people who felt broken, lost, and scared to death, and help them realize that they’re not alone. And…that’s a hard word to use/explain, ALONE; because I was never physically alone. I had tons of support 24/7. But in my head, the moments I was suffering, I was ALONE. That alone feeling came from the idea that no matter what anyone said to me, they weren’t feeling what I was feeling.
Candidly there have been some mixed reviews from those closest to me on my choice to focus a large part of my social media platform on destigmatizing mental health complications. Some people will just never be comfortable with it – at least until they can truly understand it. Others have privately thanked me for introducing them to my daily life, laughs and cries, combined. But, as an individual in this storm, I know that you just want hope. And, you want people who know what you’re feeling. You want the guilt and burden of the stress you put on your family and friends to be lifted for just a few moments, while you can cope by yourself. If I can provide that through videos of me poking fun at myself, or posting healthy coping methods that have worked for me, then I’ve succeeded. I’ll even add a funny filter, and make up songs. The saying on the wall in my picture means a lot to me. So #SameHere , and I’m happy I got to share my story with the “Crazy Community.” I hope you’ll check me out: @real_leigh_living on Instagram.”