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Hope

09/03/2012

Belle

As a child I was always told I was over reacting and that I needed to grow up, toughen up and push on. This is a GREAT pep talk if you kid is playing soccer and feeling like a weenie. This is not a great pep talk when you child is expressing problems with her breathing and you blow it off as trying to get attention. Throughout my childhood there were signs that something physically was not right. Absent periods, joint pain, crazy allergies at non-consistent times. When my cycles did start they were painful and heavy. When I spoke to my parents about this I was told I was over reacting and “this is just how it is.” When I talked about my crippling anxiety and depression I was told I was over reacting and I needed to rest more or drink more water (my family’s favorite solution to all aliments).

This mentality has stuck with me. “Surely all of this is in my head,” I’d remind myself as I pressed on matter how awful I felt physically or mentally. Asking for help last week was a huge step in so many ways. Not only was I admitting I had a problem, I was putting myself out there for more of the same criticism I grew up with. My biggest fear was that the counselor would look at me and say I was over reacting or that she would belittle my pain.

In the 60 minutes we spent together we went through my entire history: infertility, autoimmune, family problems, a unfulfilling job, feeling alienated in the city in which we live, depression, anxiety and more. I told her that I’m not sleeping well. Some nights I can’t fall asleep at all, other nights I can’t stay asleep. I’m always exhausted and miss having my characteristic “pep” that earned me the nickname Tigger many years ago.

At the end of the session we worked up a plan:

  • I would like to avoid daily medication if possible. I have taken medication in the past and while it helped with my anxiety it killed my ability to write and create. She agreed that we will first explore alternative treatments.
  • I WILL take medication to help me sleep. Right now I can’t manage through a panic attack because I’m too damned tired. I need sleep and if it takes some medication to make it happen then fine. I’m meeting with a nurse practitioner later this month to find the right medication for me (non habit-forming (I have an extensive family history of addiction), will not leave me hung over and is safe before and during pregnancy).
  • I ordered a pocket-sized bio feedback machine that will arrive tomorrow (super excited about this!) and will use it at least once a day.
  • I will join a stress reduction group and learn new meditation techniques.
  • I will continue seeing this counselor on a weekly basis.
  • I will make an appointment at Mayo or John Hopkins to let an expert attempt to diagnose me.

That last one really shocked me. My counselor explained that she has had numerous patients with disease that goes misdiagnosed for years in the health care system at THE BIG UNIVERSITY where I work. She explained that MDs in town all agree that Lexington is not the place to receive a diagnosis and that if there are signs of potentially serious disease, people should see an expert a.s.a.p. Scary as it is, I’ll look into this in the coming weeks and set an appointment.

Most importantly, my counselor agreed that I have been through two years of unbelievable shit. Not once did she say I was over reacting. Not once did she hint that my anxiety is all a ploy for attention. She was sympathetic, kind, and willing to work with me to reign in my anxiety and depression.

I feel such relief knowing that steps are being taken to make me feel better. I wish I could say that the Professor was just as supportive, but he was not.

I’m still trying to process his reaction, which included a blanch when I said I will be taking medication to sleep and that I will be going to see this woman once a week for a while. He seemed bothered that the counselor agreed that I need help and that I should see a specialty clinic regarding my autoimmune condition. Much like my parents, the Professor seems genuinely unwilling to admit that his wife has a problem and needs help. The only thing he did support was when I told him we also discussed my disordered thinking when it comes to food. Otherwise, he was shockingly cold to the entire plan.

After this conversation I retreated to the bathroom to cry. The bathroom is my safe spot – no one barges in on you when you are pants-less on the crapper, you know? I guess I’ll talk to the counselor about this next week. In the meantime, I’m eagerly awaiting my biofeedback machine and starting to take steps to healing, even if I’m taking them by myself.

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22 Comments

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  1. September 3, 2012

    I am so glad your first appointment went well. It looks like she helped you come up with some great goals. And I’m sorry you got that reaction from your husband. Perhaps you should talk to him about the way he responded. And definitely talk to your counselor about it in the next session.

  2. tchrgrl05 #
    September 3, 2012

    My husband wasn’t supportive when I started seeing a therapist either. He thought I should be able to handle everything myself. It was hard not talking to him about it and we still don’t talk about it. After my miscarriage I thought about going back and was met with the same resistance from my husband. I just knew that I was doing it for me, and that for some reason allowed this not to come between my husband and I. I hope you guys find at least a happy medium so that you can get the help you need.

  3. September 3, 2012

    I am so glad you are finding some hope, but sorry that your husband wasn’t supportive. Maybe he just isn’t sure how to deal with your hurt?

  4. September 3, 2012

    Feels great when someone takes you seriously, doesn’t it? Maybe your husband is not willing to see that you might really have a problem because he’s scared of what that would mean?

  5. September 3, 2012

    I’m soooo glad your session with the counselor validated your fears and anxieties AND gave you a plan. Especially to visit a specialist! I understand being judged and having your feelings marginalized. My mom told me to exercise to cure my endo!!!!! 😉 I wonder if your hubby just doesn’t want to believe there are things actually wrong with you? You know, the whole living in denial thing? Whatever the reason for his not being supportive, I’m sure your counselor will help with that. And maybe one day you can do some coupes counseling?! I’m really happy you have someone (besides us here in Blogland) to support you! Hugs!

  6. September 3, 2012

    I grew up in an environment where you pulled yourself up by your bootstraps, carried on and that things like “anxiety and depression” were for high maintenance poodle people. I even sort of believed it until I had my first anxiety attack that lasted over 8 hours. There are times when that is still the loudest voice in my head, but I know now that people that marginalize your feelings family or otherwise are not people who have your best interests at heart.

    Im really happy you got some validation and that hope you get some comfort out of that.

    About your husband and his on and off support, it seems somewhat similar to my husband who has a mild, albeit highly functioning case of aspergers. His mentality is, “I dont need it so why should anyone else”. He can be taugh, hes a really smart man, but its a concept we have to review over and over again.

    I wish you the very best this cycle, and though I have been absent for my own personal reasons. I will do my best to be a better supporter of yours.

    Jeanette

  7. September 3, 2012

    It sounds like you got a lot accomplished in that first hour! I’m so glad you have a plan in place, and while your husband may not be on board at the moment, I hope with time he’ll come to see that getting the help you need is the best thing for you. For both of you.

  8. September 3, 2012

    I’m sorry the professor’s reaction was less than positive. That must be extremely frustrating. My husband, a recovering alcoholic and drug addict, uses melatonin with great success for insomnia. He also uses trazodone in really low doses for insomnia. In high doses it is used for both depression and anxiety, but one of the major side effects is sleepiness. That’s why doctors started prescribing it insomnia. However, I don’t think it is safe for pregnancy and breastfeeding.

    I’m glad that you liked the therapist! It is so important.

  9. September 3, 2012

    I’ve found that people who are genuinely unfamiliar with mental illness (in themselves) – or not even mental illness but just extreme stress – have a very hard time empathizing with others. I once went through a bout of depression and one my roommates said “I just don’t get people who say they’re depressed. Just get over it! Go outside! Do something! You’ll feel better.” THANKS.

    I think you may have to start this healing journey on your own. HOWEVER. Please don’t let that discourage you. Once you start making progress and he sees that you are feeling better, it will hopefully make more sense.

    I’m also curious to see what effect the sleep aid will have on your overall mental health. I know someone who was diagnosed with bipolar 1, which is pretty severe, and they had her on all kinds of meds that weren’t working… then they took her off most of them and gave her a sleep aid. Miracle. She felt so much better so quickly. She still needed help with other things but was so much more able to cope with life and with her mental illness, just by getting consistently good sleep. Drinking enough water has also been shown to have an affect on anxiety and depression, so that’s not a totally silly response to something, although it’s certainly not going to fix anything on its own.

    I’m glad your first meeting went so well. I hope your future meetings are good – and that you finally get a diagnosis from a specialist for your autoimmune thing!!

  10. Jen #
    September 3, 2012

    These sound like great first steps, Belle. I’m glad you found an empathetic, proactive therapist to work with you.

    I’m sorry to hear about your husband’s reaction. Sadly, I get a similar reaction from my husband over things that I need to do for my physical and mental well-being. The one therapist I saw with him wondered if, like Jeannette’s husband, he might have Asperger’s. I don’t really know about that, but I do know that he’s just not able to “get it.” It’s frustrating and sad, but I’ve come to realize that there’s nothing I can do to change him and I just need to forge ahead on my own when it comes to seeking help.

    (The bathroom is my place to cry, too.)

  11. S #
    September 3, 2012

    Strange that he has a counselor of his own, but blanched at your good response to one? Maybe he worries that you will complain about him in your sessions, but it’ll be a mystery until you guys talk about it. “I was really enthusiastic about my session with the therapist, and when I told you about it, your reaction really stuck a pin in it for me. What was it that didn’t let you share my enthusiasm?”

  12. September 3, 2012

    Husbands are fix-it men, and the fact that you have him to love you and talk to when you are worried may seem to him like it should be more than enough. He may feel like your need for the pills and the therapy reflects badly on him, that he isn’t enough of a husband to keep you happy and well. He may feel guilty, or like he fails as a husband. Of course, we all know this is not true, and that reacting the way he is is actually making it worse, but that won’t stop him feeling guilty and reflecting that guilt as lack of acceptance. When I get frustrated with my man and tell him so he withdraws and acts all crabby. I will think he is mad at me, so I get mad at him because I had every reason to say what I said. Then in the end he admits he just felt bad coz I was right and he was mad at himself. His reaction is never the loving “I’m sorry, I love you” that I am seeking, its withdrawn anger at himself.

    Conversely, my partner is the one with an anxiety condition and it actually took ME a long time to accept that no matter how good a partner I might be, he needed help in therapy and that was NOT my fault, or a reflection that I had failed in my love for him.

  13. September 3, 2012

    My wife suffers from crippling anxiety and it did take a while to realize what was going on, but now that I do it makes perfect sense.

    She is this nice sweet woman who doesn’t like a lot of vulgar language. But when the anxiety takes over she could back a sailor into a corner. But I know she can’t help it. It’s just waiting for the moment to pass.

    Now the hardest part for me is not laughing at some of the phrases as they come out of her mouth. I know she can’t help it, but they are just so damn funny.

    Hopefully your husband will come around and realize this is a condition. Telling you to toughen up and just deal with it is the most harmful thing you can say to a person suffering with anxiety. If it was that easy, you still wouldn’t be suffering from anxiety.

  14. babyfeat #
    September 3, 2012

    I’m so glad you found such a helpful, support counselor. It sounds like she had great suggestions for you. It’s hard not to worry about what others think or how they react, but this is your health and well-being, and do what is best for you. I take sleeping medication and it helps tremendously to get enough sleep so that I can be proactive and cope better with the chronic pain I experience. When I don’t sleep, I am a complete wreck. I hope the appt with an expert can help. And I hope the biofeedback machine helps. Feel proud of yourself for taking control of your well-being, and hopefully your husband and others will come around and provide you with support and encouragement you deserve. Best wishes to you!

  15. September 4, 2012

    Your counselor sounds kickass. I understand how you feel. I have some family members who have had awesome charmed lives with lots of $$ and nary an illness or infertility who are always like: “Toughen up!” Easy for YOU to say. I’ve finally learned to drown out those voices, mostly because of the validation I received here, in the ALI community. Your husband will come around. He probably needs time to process it, and it probably seems scary to him 😦 Good luck with your journey forward.

  16. meggola #
    September 4, 2012

    Oh, I’m so glad your appointment went well! I hope it continues to be helpful and successful!

    As for your husband – mine had weird reactions to my anxiety and stuff too. For one thing it took him forever to come to understand what I was going through. I think if you’ve never suffered from major anxiety and panic attacks, it’s really hard to understand how debilitating they are and how they come to rule your life. Also, men are just weird in general when it comes to this kind of stuff and I don’t think they know instinctually how to support and comfort us. Men are protectors by nature, and there’s no way to protect us from this stuff.

    Kudos to you for reaching out and getting help! I know it’s hard to reach out time and time again only to get your hand smacked and told you don’t need it. But isn’t it great when you do reach out and actually find help? You go girl! 🙂

  17. September 4, 2012

    Parents, yeesh. My mom made an offhand comment to her gyno about endo and then tells me that I can’t know that I have it because I haven’t had a laparoscopy. Ignore laundry list of symptoms, there’s no way it feels that bad. *rolls eyes*

    The university with the big blue kitty-cats has a hospital that is better than the others in the state (except for ones in L’ville) which honestly is not saying much. My father-in-law has never been diagnosed with something that it is really obvious that he has it.

  18. September 4, 2012

    I’m glad you have layed out a plan together with your therapist, sounds like good steps to take. And I hope your husband can understand over time that this is what you need and why, sorry to hear he doesn’t give you the support for it. And getting another opinion/diagnose sounds important too, was surprised by that one myself.

  19. nobabiesyet #
    September 4, 2012

    I’m so happy that you found a counselor that is helpful and supportive of you and that you feel empowered or something because if your meeting with her (him?) I have seen a couple of counsleors in the past one for just more me stuff, family stuff, anxiety, depression, etc and then I saw a counselor who specializes in pregnancy loss, infertility, etc after I had a miscarriage and wasn’t dealing with it very well and I have to say even though my husband never attended a session and probably didn’t 100% get why it was so necessary for me talking with those counselors absolutely saved my marriage and me.

    It takes so much courage and strength to admit that you need help and even more to actually ask for so you Belle are amazingly strong. I wish I was closer to you because I would certainly hold your hand during your transfer. Much love!

  20. September 4, 2012

    I’m glad that your appt went well and that you have hope. Maybe your counselor could talk to your husband about what is going on so that he hears it from her? Maybe then he would be more supportive?

  21. ozifrog #
    September 4, 2012

    Ah belle, good that the counsellor is so supportive, and into action. Action helps. I used a counsellor all thru ivf, she even gave me Skype sessions whilst on bed rest she was so awesome. Shame about hubby, that’s really disappointing, however when I was depressed some of the least helpful family members became the most helpful with a bit of education from me. As you become more empowered with dealing with it, you can explain to him what is helpful and what is harmful, and with a toolkit men are always better. I am incredibly lucky my husband is SO understanding about my history with depression he’s like a guard dog watching for it coming back & protecting me. And he never questions the reality of it. Some people come around…my family were useless at first and now are my greatest mental health advocates.

  22. September 6, 2012

    I am so glad you had a great first appointment and are feeling some hope. Once the Professor sees you feeling and doing better maybe he will get on board. Obviously I don’t know him, but could he be less than supportive about the whole going to see a specialist and other things because he is scared for you and maybe doesn’t want there to be something wrong? I hope he gives you the support you need soon. Huge Hugz hon! I am so happy to see you taking care of you!

    Oh and sorry so late. I have been reading from my phone and finally got to a computer to comment!

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