Friday, October 31, 2014

The power of conversation, Celexa and Jesus

This month I have opened up about my personal journey and struggle with anxiety and depression. For some, the battle has been a long, hard road that is seemingly endless. While I always have struggled with anxiety, it didn't completely spill over into an uncontrollable danger zone until I was 26 years old. In my research I found that statistically most American adults see an uprising of anxiety and depression in their late twenties and early thirties.

Is a quarter-life crisis epidemic happening in our country?

It's possible, but obviously so many factors play into these numbers. I don't want to go too into that; rather, I would like to focus more on how prevalent mental illness is. While the journey down the road to recovery feels extremely lonely and dead-end, there are millions of others facing the same battle.

A conversation
In my recovery, I broke down and called my brother, who is an emergency room physician. This was an extremely humbling step in my personal journey. I had shared my situation with a few individuals, but sharing with my family was hard for me. I didn't want them to think that I was "weak."

When I shared this with my brother, he explained some things to me that really opened my eyes and helped me feel better:
First, he explained that he sees numerous cases like my own in the ER. People of all ages show up thinking they are having heart attacks or some other ailment, and think they are dying. After a full body check, the doctors determine the individual is completely healthy and the conclusion is that they are suffering symptoms of anxiety. When my brother said, "Vikki, you are not alone," it really opened my eyes that this is something more "normal" than I had realized.
 Second, he explained to me that if you take any "normal", "sound" individual and you deprive them of sleep, "and you deprive them of sleep, and the next day you deprive them of sleep," JUST sleep, it will have an affect on their mental state of being. Never mind incorporating layers of trauma and negative thinking and a history of abuse, etc. This was a powerful revelation to me because I was stuck on the thought that something was wrong with me and I was abnormal, and feeling guilty while my focus needed to be on refocusing on how to help myself get better by reestablishing basic needs. 
Maslow's hierarchy of needs. When basic, foundational needs are shaken, more complex needs (safety, security, self-esteem) will suffer as well. 
The last thing my brother helped me realize was that perhaps I needed some medication to help me feel better. He explained that since I had been battling with my depression for a while, and it was progressively getting worse (based on what I told him), this might be the next best option. Nothing I was doing, even natural remedies or keeping a positive journal, was helping me feel better at this point. He suggested that I get on a small dose of anti-depressant and see a psychiatrist. Hearing this from someone I trusted was extremely helpful because in no way was he making me feel crazy. In fact, mental illness is just that, an illness. It is just like diabetes or heart disease. I realized that I was sick, my mind had the "flu", and I needed some help to feel better.
To medicate or not to medicate
Doctors and psychiatrists have a bad reputation when it comes to over medicating individuals with mental illness. While I do believe this bears much truth, I also believe that the other extreme, in the church (in particular), is that medication for mental illness is bad and wrong (even sinful!). I do not believe that is true, either. Some of my worries included:

  • Am I going to get addicted to this medication? 
  • Will I have to be on this medication for the rest of my life? 
  • Is it really going to help me? 

As horrible as I was feeling, I was willing to do anything but go on medication. It's a taboo and stigma that you need to mentally overcome before you can take this route. Is this option for everyone? Absolutely not. I believe you need to know yourself. Even as "out of it" as I felt, I knew that I had tried everything in my power — teas, vitamins, healthy eating, exercise — and I still did not feel better.

I decided to try medication.

A close friend had confided that she was taking an antidepressant to control her anxiety. I love this friend and sister in Christ and knew of her battle with anxiety, and had shared my struggle as well. When she confided in me that she was deciding, on her own, to start medicating, I did not fully understand why she would choose this. Now, a few years later, I was on the phone getting her advice. She told me what medication she was on and her experience.

The same week, I was listening to a Christian radio program, which happened to be on depression in the church and how medication is looked to be sinful --- forcing many Christians to suffer depression in silence. The contributors were well-known Christian psychiatrists that advocated for medicating depending on the symptoms. After having a conversation with my therapist, I visited a psychiatrist and received a low dose antidepressant called citalopram, the generic version of Celexa.

Why am I sharing this with you?

Because, this was the turning point in my recovery. I was trying so hard to feel better on my own. I was doing all that I could to feel better, and nothing was working. For some, even medication does not help. I don't necessarily think that there is ONE cure for this, but a combination of healthy choices and actions. This recovery was vigorous! Although it took six months for a full recovery, it felt like an eternity. As you read in my past posts, I did a combination of therapy -- which focused on cognitive behavioral therapy, psychiatrist/medication, journaling, positive lists, healthy eating, vitamins, wise guidance and lots of prayer and pushing forward.

I am sharing my story because even if I help one person, it's worth it. I don't want to diagnose, suggest, or advocate that what I did and what I am suggesting is the only right way. I do want to say that a lot of the steps I took helped me feel better and were all important in my recovery.

Other helpful sources
This workbook was extremely effective in my recovery:

This workbook is amazing. It was proven that doing this workbook helped many individuals recover WITHOUT medication. You can find this book on I highly recommend it, as it taught me a lot about changing my thinking.

Moody Radio has some great programs on depression:  Dr. Gary Chapman's show

I really love Jamie the Very Worst Missionary. Mainly because of her extreme honesty, that tends to offend lots of people (not that I admire that she offends people, more that I admire her ability to be THAT honest). Although I do not necessarily agree with everything she says or the way she says it, she is definitely a different voice in the wilderness. One of her most powerful blog posts was Jesus or Zoloft?

Relevant Magazine has some great dialogue from time to time on depression in the church. Especially since this mag's target audience are those in their late 20s and 30s, it has much to say on the subject — as their audience is the hardest demographic being hit by mental illness right now. Here are some posts that I found helpful/uplifting:

I truly pray that this series has touched your heart in some way, that you have been able to take something from it and apply it to your own walk. We will be continuing this theme for the rest of 2014, but will be welcoming other individual's testimony's and stories to shine light on it.

Stay tuned for Testimony Tuesdays!


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