Monday, April 6, 2015

Mental Health: Facing my Monster

I was a child of the seventies and the first Sesame Street generation. One of my favorite books as a child was narrated by Grover, called “the Monster at the end of this Book.”

As you read through the book Grover begged you to stop turning pages, since he knew there was a monster at the end. He grew more and more upset as he tried to keep you from getting to the end. And what was there? Only "lovable, furry, old Grover." He sheepishly admitted the he was the monster at the end of the book. I loved this book so much that I bought it for my children, and it was a favorite of theirs as well.

mental health, depression, anxiety, healing

Recently I realized that my depression had returned. It had been growing for a while, and I had been ignoring and denying it. Finally I had to admit that three naps a day wasn’t normal behavior. (Of course, there were other symptoms as well.) I’m one of those people that likes to hide from life when I can’t cope with it. And I hate both admitting I need help and asking for it.

I've spent most of my adult years taking care of everyone else. The past few have been particularly challenging, and it's been easy to neglect my own mental and physical health while trying to make sure my children were safe and getting the help they needed. But suddenly I've found myself with more time alone since February, and less time caring for others, and the monster I had been shutting in the closet of my mind was ready to come out.

As I mentally prepared for the doctor appointment I had reluctantly made, I started thinking back into my childhood and adolescence. Although I had a loving family, my life was complicated and anxiety-ridden. When I was about four years old, I repressed all memories of a traumatic event resulting in post-traumatic stress disorder. These PTSD responses had been occurring for years without anyone realizing what was happening.

I was a master of hiding my emotions and created many ways to cope with my anxiety. Some were innocuous; some were self-harming. They were done to keep the monsters in the closet of my mind and had been successful for many years.

As I waited for the doctor, who was 40 minutes late, the monster started to forcefully break out of its prison. I had my first panic attack. Awful. At least I recognized what it was and was able to breathe my way through it.

Thankfully, my doctor listened with empathy and professionalism to my hurried description of years of anxiety, depression, PTSD symptoms, and self-harm. He thanked me for sharing and suggested that anxiety was causing the depression. I am now on new medication and am in the process of looking for a counselor. He requested I approach my healing both ways and I agree completely.

Like Grover, I have been approaching the monster at the end of the book with fear and trepidation. I have been holding it back, nailing the pages of my life story down, building walls, and looking for ways to avoid getting to the end.

Now it’s time to face the monster. Know what? It’s just me. Not so scary after all.

If you have a story to share about your journey, please tell me in the comments. 

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  1. I'm so glad that you were able to get help. Like you I was a master of hiding my emotions and no one even knew what was going on or how many times I slipped over the edge. Things will get better and I will keep you in my prayers, much love!

  2. Thanks, Rebecca! I'm glad things are getting better for you, and thanks for your prayers :)

  3. Natalie - So sorry, this sounds like it sneaks up and just takes you off your feet from time to time. I hope you'll find a therapist who listens, meds that work and never hurt, and a path to the sunny parts of life soon. <3 to you.

  4. Thanks, friend :) I appreciate all your support!!

  5. Oh, Natalie! I'm a) so proud of you for seeking help and b) so impressed at how brave you are. I've never had full anxiety the way many people have, but I've had snippets, and it's very, very frightening. I'm holding a glass up to you for doing everything you can and 'healing from both ways'.

    Love you! Thanks for being so brave :)

  6. Thank you Katie for all your support! Love you, too!