The Elephant Left The Building

The other week I owned up to the elephant in the room. Announcing to the world there was a colossal beast crammed into my living room made it magically seem smaller and much more manageable, even though pushing the publish button made me want to crawl under my desk, assume the fetal position, and not poke my head out until Spring. La la la la la.

I needn’t have worried. Once it was out there the flood of virtual support I got from strangers all over the world made me wish I had outed that pesky pachyderm earlier. I hesitated for quite a while before I typed ‘strangers’ in that last sentence because I don’t think of you as strangers at all – I think of you as friends. It’s just that we don’t know each other in person, so stranger seems the most accurate word, although really not the most appropriate. My point is that a whole tanker-load of lovely people the globe over – most of who I have never met – sent emails and comments galore, full of love and support and all good things. You made this thing so much easier. The relief that washed over me for the next several days after I unloaded the burden was immense. THANK YOU.

So many of you have written since, wanting to hear that I am OK, that I am alive, safe, and on my way back. Thank you for asking. I am! As evidenced by my recent writings, weekend road trips gallivanting around the extraordinary Pacific Northwest, the dusting off of my big girl camera, pictures of my feet, and Big Breakfast Adventures galore, the elephant has all but skulked out of the room.

The cure? In my case, an anti-epileptic. A tiny amount of 6-(2,3-dichloro phenyl)-1,2,4 triazine-3, 5 diamine pressed into a little white tablet and swallowed whole every morning. I don’t even need water to get it down. Who knew?

It was like one of those new-fangled light bulbs – you flip the switch and for a few seconds it slowly gets brighter, then shazam! full-on glorious light. Yep, just like that. Almost overnight I was back to being the real Carrie Brown – the passion, the get-up-and-go, the loving of life, the humor, and the energy. I wanted to race out and do all the things that had brought me so much joy in the past – I had the desire to shoot, to write, to cook, to travel, to help and inspire those around me.

For 8 scary, tortuous months I wondered if I would ever feel joy again – because for those 8 months I felt nothing. I was numb and empty and every single day I wanted my life to end. I longed for the sweet relief that death would bring to my tormented conscience. Every day I went into battle to fend off the waves of suicidal thoughts that crashed upon the shores of my mind. Like a hurricane bearing down – unwelcomed and unrelenting – battering me slowly to death, no shelter in sight and nowhere to run to to get out of the storm. Oh how thankful I am for the miracles of modern medicine! After a couple of weeks taking small white pills the suicidal thoughts stopped just as quickly as they had started raining down on me back in January. There were other things, too, that helped while I was in the slowly-getting-brighter phase, but in the end my brain just needed a little dose of chemical to get everything hooked back up again.

I am sure there are those who will criticize and condemn my choice to medicate. I don’t give a damn – because I am not risking my life to keep a handful of anti-pill-poppers quiet. There may be people out there who think that my brain hiccup was caused by my hardcore *SANE diet. Let me assure you that I embarked on my hardcore SANE diet in response to both my adrenal glands and my brain going offline, not the other way around. I can only imagine the additional chaos that would have ensued had I been pumping my body full of edible product instead of real, fresh, whole foods. *SANEity may well have saved my life by not putting additional stress on my system. On the other hand there may be people out there who think all suicidal depression is simply a matter of eating the right foods. If someone would please let me know what food contains 6-(2,3-dichloro phenyl)-1,2,4 triazine-3, 5 diamine – or has the same effect on brain chemistry – I will happily munch on it until the cows come home, because heaven knows my diet was as perfect as it could be during the 8 long months that my brain wanted to kill me. Until such a food shows up I’ll merrily keep taking my little white pill – for the rest of my life if need be – because I DO NOT WANT TO SPEND EVEN ONE. MORE. HOUR. FEELING THE WAY I DID FOR THE FIRST 8 MONTHS OF THIS YEAR. It was just in the nick of time when they suggested an anti-epileptic. I was right at the end of my rope.  Yes I am taking a pill every day, but guess what?  I’M ALIVE.

Depression is extremely complex. Some people are able to control it with diet – I’ve had emails up the ying-yang from people whose depression has lifted since they started a SANE lifestyle. Oh how I wish that was the answer for everyone. An anti-epileptic won’t work for everyone either, although I am grateful beyond words that it is working for me. For 7 months we tried all sorts of other drugs in varying amounts and combinations to try and flip that switch. Regrettably, with depression, it typically comes down to trial and error and whether you can find the right thing in time – before you simply cannot survive the mental and emotional torment for one more minute.

After publishing The Elephant Post I shared the link on my public Facebook page.  It was a few days later and with considerable trepidation that I decided to share the link on my personal page as well. Why trepidation? For reasons that I don’t quite understand it was easy to share it with the world. Sharing it with people who I have a relationship with in real life was immeasurably harder.  I have work colleagues on my Facebook.  Heck, my boss is on my Facebook.  They might see the link in their feed.  They might read the post.  Would it be bad if they knew?  How would they react to it?  Would they treat me differently now?  Would they stay away from me or try to avoid working with me?  Would my company try to terminate me because they imagined I could no longer do my job?  And what about my friends?  Would I lose some?  How many would hit that unfriend button?  Would they stop connecting with me for fear that when they saw me I would be a depressing, gibbering, suicidal wreck that they had no idea how to – and didn’t want to – deal with?

No one had any idea from my public behavior that anything was wrong.  Whenever I spent time with people I was the outwardly happy, bubbling, driven, oh-so-positive Carrie that they’ve always known.  They just never knew the heroic effort that went into that behavior.  So why tell them?  Why change their perception?  Why rock the boat and risk relationships?  My boss hired me in the middle of this tumultuous episode and when I asked him why he hired me he said, “Your personality, your confidence in yourself, that you are a demonstrated leader in your arena, what a great fit you would be with the team, and how you presented yourself.”  My inner turmoil was completely inconspicuous.

So why would I share something that had the capacity to change every area of my life, and not necessarily for the better?  Should I post it to my personal page but hide it from my boss and other people at work?  Why was it important that I share something so difficult?  Because the weight of keeping it to myself was becoming impossible to carry any longer; and – more importantly – because I realized that despite what others may think or do as a result of reading the post, it is what it is.  It is my reality, my truth, and therefore not something that should be hidden away in the depths of the closet, never to be spoken of.  It’s been the major part of my life for the last 8 months and  I felt that to keep it from people was not being honest.  Heaven knows I have the inner strength to deal with whatever fallout that might come my way.  If I could get through the last 8 months, I could deal with a few negative reactions without crawling off into a corner under a pile of shame and anxiety.

So I shared it on my personal page.  The results were fascinating.

Stay tuned for the next installment!

 

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  • Debbie Huewe - Thank you for the update Carrie. I am so happy that you found some relief from that little white pill.ReplyCancel

  • Susan - It is such a relief to know you’ve found the answer to your illness/dilemma. If you have to take meds to help yourself so be it. Anyone who would criticize you for helping yourself has their own set of problems.
    Best of everything to you.ReplyCancel

  • Lori Pellnitz - So glad you are feeling better Carrie! Things wouldn’t be the same without you!ReplyCancel

  • David - What great news Carrie. Love your attitude. Liz and I love cooking your sane recipes. Love the Ice-cream! You rock. So glad you decided to stay with us and got the help you needed.ReplyCancel

  • Theresa - You will help so many with your revelations. So glad you found a solution to your pain. We love you even though we do not know you!ReplyCancel

  • Andrea - Thanks Carrie for always keeping it real. The sane / paleo Eco-sphere is so filled with obsessive and all consuming thought and action; deviate and you’re a failure.

    You are the 99% that includes most of the rest of us. You are real …Real is menopause… Real is mistakes… Real is depression or arthritis or unemployment. Real is REAL. And real is why I appreciate you so very much…

    Andrea in Portland, OREGONReplyCancel

  • Linda - Carrie, So glad you’re feeling better! The brain is an organ that can be ill just as a kidney or liver can. Not sure why society doesn’t fully comprehend that yet. Thank you for sharing your story. In doing so , you may never know who you helped , but I’m sure more than one soul out here in cyberland was touched by your courage. Be well and happy,ReplyCancel

  • Emily - Carrie, Yay for the little white pill. It gave you back to yourself and back to us, too. Thank you, LWPReplyCancel

  • Sheila - Carrie, I just learned about SANE from my doctor who recommended that I read The Calorie Myth. I am diabetic and at high risk for heart disease. We are hoping that a change in diet will allow my body to heal naturally and allow me to come off some of my medications.
    I currently take a little white pill too (although a different one). It will be fine with me if I have to continue to take it as it helps me cope with anxiety and depression. There is no shame in admitting that we need medical help.
    Keep up the good work; I can’t wait to try some of your yummy sounding recipes!
    Sheila – a new fan!ReplyCancel

  • Francesca - so glad for you, welcome back :)ReplyCancel

  • Heather - Carrie, I am very lucky in that I have no idea what torments you have been going through but I am just so glad that little white pill was the key to the exit door. And long may that door stay shut behind you. It’s good to know that you have a great support network, whether that be from the person next door or the person on the other side of the world hidden behind their keyboard. We all have our own elephants … but not eveyone has the courage to boot them out that door. And let’s face it, those elephants are damned great big critters and most people’s doors are sorta people sized … so that takes a lot of doing. Good eccentric workout though :D Good on ya girl. Sending love from blighty xxReplyCancel

  • Claire - Hi Carrie, love this post, and so happy you’re coming out the other side. I too suffer from depression and am going through (again) the trial and error stage. The current meds stopped working, so I do what I’ve always done – sought the help of a medical professional. Things are rocky, but I’m trying to be ‘gentle’ with myself. Like you, on the outside I’m sociable, confident and very capable – but my brain is trying to kill me!! But just for today, the next few hours and sometimes just the next few moments, it won’t succeed. xxReplyCancel

  • JULIA - Hi Carrie, I have learnt in the last year how healing it is to share my problems, not only for me but also for those listening/reading. We are constantly comparing our insides with other peoples outsides and feeling desperately inept as a result.
    I am grateful for your honesty xReplyCancel

  • Lisa - You go girl!!!ReplyCancel

  • Leanda Kayess - Wow! How amazingly strong you are to have worked your way to this result whilst battling such torment each day! And a new job to boot! Hats off to you, Carrie Brown. You are amazing!ReplyCancel

  • Kara - I’m so happy to read you’ve found the right meds to help you! You are an inspiration and your honesty and willingness to share your full story is refreshing. Thank you for sharing!ReplyCancel

  • Ellen Garrard - Yay Carrie! You are brave and sooooo strong. Thanks for sharing. Hugs to you, beautiful friend!!ReplyCancel

  • Katy Alexander - I’m so happy for you Carrie. I never realised you were going through so much pain this last year. I’m so glad you’ve got such wonderful friends and advisors helping you, but I also think you are much stronger than you realise.
    Keep on truckin’,
    KTReplyCancel

  • Deidre - Amen and Amen! Congrats Carrie! Praise God you found a medicine that balanced things out!ReplyCancel

  • Wren Stewart Tidwell - Carrie,
    I just found out about you and your fabulous recipes today. I got Jonathan’s book a few days ago and I am so hooked! I think he’s genius. As a fitness instructor, every day I am in front of people who are trying to get healthy and lose weight. I think I might have found the secret they are all looking for and I am going to share it with every one of them!

    Regarding your medication, it is OKAY. My brother is a lifelong epileptic and thank goodness that his medication keeps his seizures in check. It’s made a world of difference in his life and now he’s a successful business man who owns his own business. I’ve been thru many seizures with him as we were growing up.

    I can also relate to your thoughts on dying. I was on pain medication and tons of other junk such as anti-depressants, before and after my back surgery years ago and I hated myself. I hated my life. I hated that I was bed ridden and I felt like such a burden to my family. I remember very vividly wanting to die and get it all over with. I really didn’t think I’d live much longer at the time. Thankfully exercise and the right surgeon got me out of that deep dark pit (along with prayer and Beth Moore).

    Bless you! I am thankful for you and your recipes. I may not ever eat anything else but them ever again. So you might need to add more so I don’t get bored. haha!ReplyCancel

  • Sylvia - Welcome back! So happy you hung in there Carrie! If a little white pill helps to keep that elephant away, then so be it and tell anyone who criticises you for taking it to “blow it out their ear”!.ReplyCancel

  • Belinda - Thank you for being an example of courage to live with the honesty to state your challenges publicly. Your bravery elevates our human experience into to light of day where we can transcend any sense of shame and judgment so often experienced by those who struggle with mood disorders. Shine on!ReplyCancel

  • Mallory - Carrie, I just love how brave you are to share everything you have been through while being in the sane spotlight. You inspire me and I am so happy you are feeling better. I listen to you every week and continue to admire you the more you share.ReplyCancel

  • Lisa - Such an inspiring story. So glad you were able to find a way to heal and function fully again. The mirror is who you answer to and God if u so choose. I have so enjoyed listening to your podcasts and working with your recipes. Thank you so much for all the choices you have made!!!ReplyCancel

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