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!