I’ve written this post in my head countless times. I kept waiting to get to the other side of this particular struggle before I shared. And then the other side never came, even with lots of effort. I often wondered if I’d ever get to the other side at all. I *think* I’m there….and I want to tell the story…
This is my zoloft story. My OCD story. My anxiety story.
For most of my life I’ve struggled with some variance of anxiety – perhaps related to losing a parent at a young age, perhaps to genes, perhaps to early life trauma/drama, perhaps to life. Whatever the reason/root/cause – I’ve had it. Lots of it, especially before I started making art. All the women in my family seem to have it, too. And most of the men. For me my anxiety manifested itself all the way to the extreme of the spectrum when I had a run in with full-on OCD when I was 19 years old. I was in college, and totally completely utterly freaked out by what my brain was doing. I will spare you the details, but I will say that it was extreme, causing major interruption in my life (school, work, sleep, etc). Luckily, a nine month effort of counseling and a newish OCD drug at that time (called Luvox) helped me tremendously. Add in some amazing friends + family, a supportive (but equally freaked out by my compulsive/repetitive behavior) boyfriend, and a major reduction in stress (my course load was too much, work hours were too much, etc etc), I made it through and successfully weaned off the drug within a year.
I never forgot that experience and how on-my-knees-grateful I was to get through it without suffering my entire life with OCD. I wouldn’t wish it’s merciless grasp upon anyone and I have deep compassion for those who suffer. I also remember feeling grateful that modern medicine was able to help me, coupled with traditional counseling (cognitive). Even then, I was skeptical of popping a pill, but I was desperate and in big need. And I’m so glad I did it.
15 years later, I would find myself in that space again of desperate need, this time it wasn’t OCD, but rather PTSD.
I’ve shared a little bit about my birth trauma here in this space. The PTSD hit about two-three weeks following the birth and it was unrelenting – in the shower, in the car, in bed – could not escape it. A constant reliving of specific moments, a constant stream of phantom crying, a constant stream of awful visions of worry that something or someone (other than me) would harm my baby – all related to a specific moment during my labor where I felt my and True’s safety were in danger, a moment that pushed me over my physical capacities and sent me, truly, into a dissociative state. I talked about it over and over. I cried about it. I tried very hard to process, but I found it impossible to manage and process the symptoms while also managing a newborn and the lack of sleep and not a moment to one’s self that comes with being a new mom.
It was a very, very difficult time and in some ways, I am still grieving those first few months of new motherhood. True was everything to me, still is, but I just wish my heart wasn’t so broken at that time. I waited until True was 7 months old before I called my midwife. I was in our parked car, alone, in the driveway when I finally mustered up the courage to call. I got her voicemail. I sobbed on the voicemail. She called me back. I started zoloft the next day.
That was a little over a year ago. The relief came quickly, and I found myself in that place of on-my-knees-grateful for the gift of medicine. It gave me the relief I needed to distance myself from the sheer acuity of the symptoms so that I could find my way back to stability. It totally worked and I was incredibly, incredibly thankful to Zoloft. Eventually though, after about 7 months, I was ready to wean off of it. I felt like I had done the work, the soul work, the processing work and I was ready to wean. Not so simple! Every time I tried to wean off of it, I’d have major, debilitating fatigue, and uncomfortable zaps in my brain for what seemed like weeks. This went on/off for about six months – my trying to slowly wean, but without success due to the strange, overwhelming fatigue and brain zaps. Six months. Wow. It affected my work, my home life, my everything.
Depression starts to slowly step in. Helplessness starts to set in. Vicious circle.
Finally, I landed in the office of a naturopath earlier this year (Dr. Noel Thomas – can’t recommend her enough for those of you in the Portland area). Intuition told me this was the way, and I began LENS neurofeedback treatments. Having never sought out alternative practices, I was 1 part skeptical, 2 parts hopeful. Over the course of a a few weeks, I was 100% successful in weaning (quickly and without the side effect that came with previous efforts) off Zoloft. The neurofeedback also helped (tremendously) with general anxiety symptoms that lingered: sleep, motivation, mood. I am crazy grateful for this alternative method. Crazy grateful to be free of PTSD’s grasp and crazy grateful to be free of Zoloft weaning symptoms (arguably worse than the PTSD symptoms).
It’s been many weeks since my treatment completion. And I’m all good. The neurofeedback has unlocked some potential, some awakening, and I’m not looking back. Now that I have this particular PTSD/anxiety struggle under control, I can inch my way toward my next wellness goal which is losing my pregnancy weight (finally) and sustaining important diet changes to maximize my health – another thing Dr Thomas is helping me with. I’m on a bit of a wellness mission 🙂
I wanted to share this story because I believe in telling the truth of our stories. Not all stories we hold close need to be released, but some do, I believe. And this is one of those stories for me. With every piece of art I create, I release it out into the world in an effort to make more room in my heart spaces for more, new, fresh art. If I hold onto it, I can’t move forward – I need the mental space. Same is true for some stories – they need releasing so that we can make room for new, fresh, emerging experiences and new stories, so that we are no longer defined by a particular story by holding it too close.
Besides, our connections live inside our stories,
where we see ourselves mirrored in one another’s stories, where comfort
and belonging reside. Some of these stories are private and some are not. Either way, there is just so much, so much beauty in our brokenness and our wholeness. I believe in sharing both.
I know that anxiety will likely always be a close companion for me. Although I hope to never experience the extreme of it again, I’m also realistic that it’s a possibility. I am comforted that there are therapies if/when that time arrives – alternative therapies like neurofeedback are effective (for me) and traditional therapies are also effective (for me) as well as talking and sharing – all effective, all necessary for healing. I don’t believe in continued suffering (staying in a place of suffering vs reaching out for help). I don’t believe that one must stay in suffering to evolve or to reach divinity or to be more whole. I do believe that our sufferings bring us together, that they teach us something, that they mean something.
So in some ways I am grateful to this particular piece of my journey, this particular road of suffering. It wasn’t for nothing, and it was meaningful to the whole of my life.