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.
Lovely to hear some of your story , you are amazing ! And I can relate to it xo
It's great to hear that you didn't suffer from OCD your whole life. I also like the point about being thankful for you journey.
I've recently just started a blog to write about my experiences with agoraphobia, anxiety, hypochondria, and depression, as I am a huge sufferer of it.
Being home-ridden, it's really nice to hear about people with anxiety that are still having a meaningful life.
Thanks for that.
This is the first time I read this post…lots of common ground. JM
Interesting story and brave!
Anxiety is curable. We must constantly work on our self, to be positive and to stay positive.
I have just become your follower and it was because of your art. Your art touches something deep inside me. I too am an artist…a watercolorist. Seeing the art you produce is indescribable! Thank you.
Then I read your anxiety blog. YOU have touched me so deeply. My dear sweet mom also suffered from OCD and anxiety for 30+ years (she was released from "it" when she passed some 10 yrs ago). It was a devastating time for our entire family as it encompassed us all.
Both my sister and I suffered panic attacks as a result of her depths of despair with OCD. Even as she laid dying that OCD kept her in its control. We both have been able to recover from the panic attacks. From all this I have gained such empathy and compassion for those dealing with such mental health issues.
Bless you for sharing your struggles and know we are all better because you shared.
I will be your follower to the end of time!
Love you and wish the best for you and yours.
I have always been an admirer and lover of your art. Now I am an admirer and lover of your truth-telling soul, as well.
As someone who battled(s)anxiety and PTSD after almost dying while giving birth, I have just found another way we connect.
Your truth is inspiring. Keep telling it, girl:)
Thank you for sharing your story. Love the quote about releasing our stories to make room for new ones. Thank you for sharing your art with the world. You are an inspiration to me!
Hi Kelly, Thank you for sharing your story. Your art print spoke to me as I'm nervous and stressed right now. I've been anxious most of my life. I had a near nervous breakdown 4 years ago. General Anxiety Disorder. I grew up with a mom who has OCD and never has gotten over it. She now has Parkinson's and isn't really there. My mom never has really been there. We all have our stories. Thanks for the courage to share yours.
Kelly- this summer I visited Oregon [from Canada] and I found that your art speaks to me so much that over two days I bought 4 pieces, not to mention also your mug with the words Brave Girl. When I returned home I googled you and could not get enough of your images and writings. I just ordered one of your books. I am inspired by your work and stories. I am an inner city school teacher who finds most of my most meaningful activity is really more social work than education. This year our gov't made cuts to education and in defence of my students I wrote a letter to the media [and politicians] and also went on the radio. Suffice to say my district nearly fired me for privacy violations because they claimed my stories about teaching do not belong to me. Anyway, as a result I spent 3 months on anti-depressants, sleeping pills, and anxiety meds. Your inspirational messages have really helped me to believe in myself again, and to realize that it is important to heal oneself through the arts, and not only with meds. Thanks for being true to yourself!
Love you & wish you bluebirds!
Your story was very moving. You are so sensitive, talented and creative.
Its a double edged sword in a way.
Good luck for your next year. You are a beautiful person and your book is my favourite.
I love it and look at it often.
Kind Regards janet keen
from new Zeland. http://www.janetkeen.blogspot
You are an amazing, wonderful young woman, you show courage and honesty from you soul. I just wish I could give you a big hug and tell you personally how very special you are.
Thank you for your wonderful brave words.
What a beautiful, brave share. Thank you, Kelly Rae! I suffered from debilitating anxiety for many years, and it wasn't until I found alternative techniques, and particularly the realm of energy medicine and energy psychology, that I was able to feel free and safe in my own skin. I'm eternally grateful – so much so that I became specialized in alternative trauma treatments and had a private practice for several years. It was a huge blessing to be able to witness so many people healing from the intransigent, crippling effects of trauma. You are an inspiration – thanks again.
You helped people today by writing this. Good work.
(((((BIG HUGS))))) from across the pond, Kelly Rae! I've suffered from minor anxiety in the past, now almost completely under control after starting my spiritual journey and changing my way of thinking. I'm glad you gave alternative medicine a try- I was skeptical too in the beginning, then I've found out that homeopathy and alternative practices are super effective on me (and on my hubby as well, we use them all the time, together with traditional medicine if needed, but we try them first). I'm sure you'll be well, dear one. Trust the Abundance. Thanks for sharing your story for the benefit of others too, and thanks for your beautiful words that inspire. I hope we'll meet in person one day.
Brave. Thank you.
your truth, your sharing, your bravery, your determination, your gratitude …. enveloped me as i read your words.
Kelly, thanks for sharing your story. I too have suffered anxiety/panic/depression for years. Battled it alone because I was ashamed and I was suppose to be a strong person. I think sharing stories aloows those that may be suffering a security that they are not alone, others have the same issues and by talking it out will help. I know that has helped me. I look at myself as "recovering" because you never know when life may throw us something and we fall back to that "dark side" that never, never want to experience again. I'm doing a lot of self help, expressing with art and journaling, I still cannot drive on the highways with overpasses (not sure why?) for it puts me into a full blown panic attack !!!!! I won't give in, I will always keep fighting that darkness.
Wow, wow, wow!!! Thank you Kelly Rae for sharing your story!!
To be honest I'm totally blown away how similar your story is to my own concerning OCD, PTSD & anxiety &depression. I too suffered ups & downs with OCD after an eventful childhood which then also came back to haunt me in the form of PTSD after the birth of my 3rd child 3 years ago…. Unfortunately my struggle has moved into clinical depression after a further traumas in my life last yr.
I thank you for sharing your story so much, I think it's stories like yours ( & mine) help others to understand that such traumas can really break ones mind & the battle you endure to regain inner peace.
I haven't given the specific treatment you mentioned a try, but I will research it!.
Warm hugs & <3 , sally.
Can't tell you how much it meant to read this! I admired you before but know I admire you even more! I know what you have been through and you are so very brave to share your story! Thank you!
Very brave to share. I've dealt with much of the same, but have kept quiet. I love that you've shared. It helps me and others to feel freer to do the same.
And it's inspiring because I have bouts of being unable to create and it's so frustrating and I feel so alone … sorry you've struggled, but happy to know I'm not the only one.
I too suffer from anxiety and panic attacks. It is the worst feeling in the world to know that what you are thinking is crazy-talk, but you think it anyway. It got so bad that I had the bridge picked out that I could drive off of. (Yikes, did I just type that?) But thankfully through faith in God I made it through and didn't drive off that bridge. Thanks for sharing your story. I hope that it will be inspiring to others to know they are not alone…or crazy!
You are not alone Kelly Rae. So many people do suffer from these (me included, but a lil different than you). You admission is more helpful than you will ever know!
Thank you Kelly Rae and all the other courageous people who commented and shared their personal stories. My story is like so many of yours. The feelings of shame and anxiety come up as I think about sharing my vulnerability. Why have we all felt this a secret to be kept? Being a super sensitive person and experiencing many devastating traumatic events during my first 30 years turned out to be a challenging combination for me. At 30 I began the healing journey through meditation, whole foods, psychotherapy, yoga, kinesiology, and others. These gifts have been an enormous help to me, but it has never been easy. Some years were more challenging than others. At 41 I had my baby daughter, and all the stuff that hadn't been worked through came crashing in on me. Especially the early childhood and family issues. In fact, whatever age my daughter was, I felt myself experiencing my traumas from those years. I realized, however that i was healing these experiences. It's hard to raise a child and be dealing with all of that at the same time. Those were the toughest years in a way, except for the fact of how wonderful she was and how much I loved her. It did feel like we missed out on a lot together because of my depression,. And of course there were the guilt feelings. But the amazing thing is that we always had the most wonderful and closest relationship (she's now 23) and I think it was because I was usually able to observe my own actions, thoughts and feelings and to spiritually rise above them because of the great support I had through the practices I did and the wonderful new way of living and thinking that I had learned from others on the holistic and spiritual paths. In my late forties with peri menopause to complicate things I began taking antidepressants which I had resisted for a long time. I had begun to have flashbacks of my traumas and could hardly think of anything else and cried a lot. Even with all the natural stuff I was doing. Taking the medication turned out to be a great decision for me. I was able to do things that other people did, like go places, do some traveling, eat in a restaurant, start doing my artwork again, and get it out there. I had never known what it was like to be able to do these things without panicking, or even to do them at all. I didn't even know I was panicking. All of that anxiety, panic, PTSD was normal to me. My whole life. Things are not perfect, but I'm working on accepting myself and loving myself just the way I am, whenever I can remember to do that. I am not my limitations or my conditions. I am limitless, unconditional love, without beginning and without end. And I believe that's what we all are. I offer my love to you all, especially to those who have ever felt any of this pain. May we all find a way to replace our pain with love.
Thank you so very much for sharing your story. I love your description of how creating art and sending it out into the world makes room in your heart – so lovely and inspiring.
I too have struggled with anxiety and depression, in various forms, at various times in my life. It's lead me to a beautiful healing and awakening, and a much stronger happier self. That's the choice we have, in the midst of the pain and suffering and chaos, to get on a path that will lead us back to our whole selves, and we can choose this, again and again.
I experienced weight gain while I was taking anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication. It was a devastating side effect, and one that shifted once I came off the drug treatments.
In retrospect, I understand that I was also trying to ground myself with extra weight, literally weighing myself down, trying to be more solid, more stable, at a time when the earth was constantly shifting under my feet.
All the very best with your journey to health – your bravery and wisdom and love for life will continue to light the way X Katrina
As I scroll through this long list of comments, I hope you feel as I that we are not alone in this walk. I have suffered from the PTSD and anxiety at different times in my life and have taken antidepressants in very small doses for years (keeps me balanced). I'm so proud of you for sharing your story! Good news. Off zoloft the weight should come off easier! Hugs
I so appreciate your willingness to share your journey and also all the comments here. It is so easy to feel like we are flawed when we face these things. Then not only do we suffer the anxiety or depression, but also the guilt that happens because somehow this must be happening because I am not enough. It helps me to read about your experience and the others that were inspired to share in the comments. Thank you for being such an honest, lovely human being.
I am just happy you found your way through it all, both for yours and your family's sakes. Some do not seek or do not find relief, some find they cannot cope at all. It must be such a relief to know that if it does arrive at your door again, you will know exactly what to do to send it on it's way again.
TO ALL WHO SUFFER FROM ANXIETY – please learn from those of us who went the medication route that there is no shame in going on helpful medication! If you have other reasons for not wanting to use medication, fine, but if you aren't using it because you think you need to "tough it out," "be stronger," "fight this," etc. Please don't do this to yourself.
Many of us suffered needlessly for months and even years, thinking that going on medication would be a failure. You wouldn't say someone with diabetes was a failure for taking insulin, yet sometimes we say cruel things to ourselves.
I write this because I saw so many comments talking also about going off the medication, with the implication that it's a rush to do that, that the sooner you get off it, the better. If there is no shame in being on helpful drugs, then there is no rush to get off them! You won't get a badge of honor for "only being on Zoloft" for four months, or six months.
Please, take all the time you need. Many of us have chosen to stay on medication for life, or at least for the forseeable future. If you have minimal side effects, what's the harm?
I don't mean this to criticize. If being on Zoloft or another drug is wrecking your life, please ignore me. But if anxiety was wrecking your life and a drug is helping, I encourage you to think long and hard about why you would want to leave a course of treatment that is working. I worry that some of us are still carrying the "shame of being on the drug." And instead of chucking that shame out the window, we are trying to minimize it by tapering off as soon as possible.
Peace to all of you, and thank you to Kelly for her bravery in sharing.
What a story! Thank you so much for sharing!
Thanks for the courage and strength it took you to post this story. I have a similar story involving Lexapro which was prescribed to me after the VT shooting. It helped me tremendously, but it had its stifling effects as well and I went off of it about a year of use as well. I am so glad you found a naturopath to guide and release your PTSD- this sounds amazing. I've utilized yoga, talk therapy, art and deep soul work to gain stability since those events in 07 and my own tragedies just a year ago. Love to you and your family and know I am part of a tribe who hold you up to the light. Hugs…xoxo
It is not until we share these pains that we realise how many of those close to us have experienced something similar. We hide away our 'mental illness' like it is something to be ashamed of and that just compounds the problem. I was very sick with depression a few years ago and experienced what I guess can only be described as a 'breakdown' where I could barely function. We get through it, but need the help of others. Thank you for opening up and sharing this story Kelly Rae – you have probably helped more people than you will ever know by doing so.
Thank you so much for telling your story. You are right it helps us all to hear we are not alone in our struggles . It is hard to talk about but I do believe it is so healing. I have anxiety as well and experienced much more after having my son. When you said you still are sad about the first 7 months of your son's life i can so relate to that. I had a pretty tramatic birth experience as well and then a c section and then post partum. I still feel guilty about not being able to enjoy those first few months but i'm working on letting that go and living in the moment with him now. Thanks again for helping me to feel "normal". As always you inspire me. Hope all is well! Best wishes
How very courageous of you to share your story. I'm sure it will be an inspiration to others experiencing a similR situation. Your art, which i love, is an expression of these life experiences. Wishing you success in your journey to wellness.
Kelly, you are very brave to share your story. I've suffered both, like many others have, so I know your pain. I'm so happy that you are humble enough to seek out help when you need it. Another very brave act. Women truly amaze me with all of our trials, tribulations and getting right back up on the horse. Thank you for your bravery.
Hi Kelly, I just wanted to say what an inspiration your story is. Thank you for telling it. I also used to suffer from anxiety, OCD, and depression although I never was treated clinically for them. THEN I found out I was gluten intolerant (I was tested because my sister and father discovered that they had Celiac's) and ALL of my anxiety, etc. went away. (I had genetic testing done that found I do not have Celiac's but do have the genes for gluten intolerance.) Anyway, can I encourage you and anyone reading this to spend the $200 or such and get the tests done for this. It is so easy and it has changed my outlook of the world. Looking online I only now find out that anxiety and depression are common side effects of gluten. My doc. never put the two together and I had very few other symptoms of the disease.
Thank you so much Kelly Rae for sharing your story. I have taken your Flying class and the HSHB class and have put you on a high pedestal. And in doing that, I judge myself because I cannot reach the standard I think you set. I created this story in my mind of how extremely happy and joyful you are and must be all the time to achieve all that you have. When I do that, again the judgement comes to myself and I get stuck. Not that I don't think you are joyful, I just thought it was 24/7 and your life was perfect. Knowing about your struggles and how you conquer and manage them gives me so much hope. Thank you so much.
You rock, Kelly Rae. Your story will encourage countless women. Anxiety is a horrible thing as is PTSD. I have also battled both through medicine and therapy, and a ton of Grace.
I have learned so much from you in flying lessons and HSHB. I can't imagine what it took at times to continue these endeavors and face what you have been facing.
I wish you well as you continue on in such a positive direction!!!!
I started reading you blog shortly after True was born. My own son is about 6 months older than him so I recognized a lot of what you were going through. I didn't know anything about your tramatic birth experience or the anxiety but I did know how hard was to be a good mom, a good wife, have a career, manage a home, and still take care of yourself. My heart went out to you then, as it does now. You live your life with a strength and honesty that are inspiring. Thank you for sharing your story.
Thank you for sharing this.
"there is a candle in every soul!"
You remind us(all) that honesty is the light that will draw us out of our darkness and then heal us. I watched my sister go through Post pardom… it is like being crushed-that kind of pain… There is no shame in our 'brain chemistry' and not a single one of us are alone, when we share. Many Blessings and BIG love to you, dear heart. xo
Thank you for being so brave about telling us about your life, feelings and emotions.
I suffered from PTSD after suffering from the loss of a baby through miscarriage at the age of 40.
Being creative has helped me through my PTSD and my grief.
Big love and bear hugs to you and everyone else who is suffering…
Thank you for your beautiful honesty…and your beautiful spirit.
I'm so grateful for the gift of the journey…for all of us.
Much love and many blessings,
The comments above have said it all, so I'm just sending you a big and colorful butterfly with lots of compassion, understanding and admiration on its wings.
Thank you for sharing your story, Kelly. your journey, your struggle, your healing are something I think we can all relate to on one level or another…we all have our struggles and sharing them makes feel that we aren't so along. You are a brave warrior in the world!
Thanks for this post Kelly. I have been suffering from anxiety for over 2 years and am on a low dose anti-depressant. Eventually I would like to come off the medication, but at this stage that isn't a possibility. I like the look of the natural therapy for it. I've looked it up and it is offered where I live, so I will definitely be keeping it in mind! Paula 🙂
My name is also Kelly Rae, and I live near Portland — so already I feel a connection to you, even though I just started following your blog. I really appreciate that you've faced your challenges head on and have been kind enough to open yourself up to all of us.
Though I haven't suffered the anxiety, OCD or PSTD, my college-age daughter has. It is incredible difficult to watch your child suffer, knowing that there really is little you can do, especially when they are in another state. Fortunately, she knew something was wrong and sought therapy, which has taught her techniques to help cope.
Both of you have shown me that mental health disorders and illnesses are really just that — illnesses, not weaknesses. And that we shouldn't suffer through those illnesses without getting treatment. So glad that you have found a treatment that is working for you, and I looking forward to watching your progress.
Honesty is such a wonderful thing, when other honest people understand your story Kelly..
It's nice to know( though it's nice for you to go through ) that there are other women that are going through the same .
Some of us are too hard on ourselves, we are not all super women , just women with real feelings And sometimes our feelings can't be controlled .
Having a good cry helps some times .. We are all on a journey , but some times that journey is so hard..
Thanks for sharing Kelly.. X
Thanks for sharing. I have struggled with similar issues and have used zoloft to get through the really bad times. The brain zaps are the worst. I think it is important to share the hard stories too. It makes you more real and makes it easier for people to connect. I embrace my hard times and am grateful for the lessons learned from them. Big hugs to you, sweet girl.