I was emotionally moved over the weekend during our -17 degrees Fahrenheit day up in Maine while I flipped through the most current Oprah magazine issue. I usually do not purchase any magazines but I saw the headline while out book shopping and I new I had to read it. So this article in the Oprah magazine was a first timer for her and one that is taboo to discuss in our society. She is starting a three month conversation about Anxiety, Depression, other Mental Illnesses, Help, and Hope. Bless you Oprah, thank you. It’s a beautiful analysis of how it is to live in today’s world and feel the shame and stigma of having a mental illness. It drew me in and I have wanted to tell my inspiring story for a while so I thought go for it. My story changed about 15 months ago during Halloween at my friend Dawn’s house over a glass of wine. My daughter was invited to her daughters party and luckily I decided to pop in to socialize with two moms that I can call life changers for me. Here it goes..
Over the past 8 years I have been a stay at home mom of two girls. I played tennis, worked out, and tried to live a life as best I could given what I thought was my diagnosis. A little background, I am truly sensitive in an organic body sense and I have extreme anxiety. I’ve had it since I was born I’m sure, it’s chemical you know. I was always the sweet, kind, excitable child that giggled at everything. My mom was amazing and she sheltered me from some good life lessons but that’s ok, I am the baby. I first started having panic attacks once in college and then it did not reemerge until after graduate school in my mid twenties. I will say I always had a hard time with energy and I felt down at times. My mom and I labeled the ups and downs in the “hormonal” category. I finally sought advice from a doctor when I was 27 years old (20 years ago) while I was dating my now husband and the panic attacks returned. I described my symptoms to him as walls pulling in and a rapid heart rate with an onset of perspiration. I told him I would always get them while driving and often pulled over to eat a snack and cry. This was frightening beyond belief and I was ashamed. He said I was slightly depressed and had anxiety and that therapy and medication would be beneficial. Wow! It was a miracle and I sure felt fabulous for my wedding. I stayed on the celexa until I decided to have children. After the birth of my girls, 16 months apart at 32 and 33 years old, I never went back on the medicine. I was feeling fine and in bliss with my young family. Fast forward five years and my mom had passed away from cancer, I had two children under the age of five, and a new home and husband to take care of. For someone not experiencing anxiety or the like, this is an adjustment but one that most people can manage. I thought I could do it but I could not. All I know is that I drowned myself in physical fitness to gain composure. My husband and I had serious communication issues and I was never satisfied with our lifestyle, honestly I was on a serious downward spiral and I am blessed and eternally grateful for his staying with me. As my story takes one gargantuan turn. One morning in Spring 2006, I went to the gym, took a class, and drove home and all of a sudden my head and thoughts were running wild. It’s hard to describe but it was uncontrollable racing images and thoughts. It was random and it was scary. That’s truly what I remember. I was paralyzed. I think my friend Joyce picked up my girls that day, maybe not because I cannot recall very much from the early times after my episode. Immediately my husband drove me to a counselor I had been seeing for a year. He said I think you have bipolar depression. I’m like, “what is that?”. I’m not a doctor, look it up please because it has a horrible stigma and most people have no clue that it can be treated and it’s not taboo. My first psychiatrist was brilliant and he played with different medications to help me. My husband had to return to work so my father came up and virtually our lives turned upside down. I disappeared out of sight from my schedule and my girls school. Telling people your wife is extremely mentally ill is not something you want to have floating around a small town. I have little bits of memory because I was still recovering from my psychiatric episode and I was drugged out. All I can say is one woman helped pick up my girls and my father took care of me. My doctor did not want to admit me due to the fear of overdosing me on medication even further and my children not having me present in our house. I recall curling on the floor with my dog or cats around me and rocking back and forth and just praying for mercy. Laying next to my dad and crying and begging for it to stop. My body shivered and my head spun and all these odd, random thoughts and visuals flew all over the place. It was exhausting, terrifying, and I just held on and kept praying and saying it will stop, I’m ok, this will subside, you are a mom and you are going to raise your children. The stubborn character trait comes in handy in times of crisis.
Fast forward a year and my original doctor moved out of state unexpectedly. My Dad wanted to return to Florida so he desperately found a new one closer to where I lived. This physician was an insurance only doctor. I would see him and he would ask questions, look at my blood levels and send me on my way. This continued for 7 years. I was on 1000mg of depakote a day all those years. I was drugged and tranquilized but I was strong and a survivor mentally so that I pulled myself together and presented nicely on all that horrible medicine. Let me tell you it was ridiculously high now that I am off all of it. He tranquillized my brain and let’s just say my relationships were damaged with my family. It’s amazing my husband stayed with me. My daughters saw me happy, sad, furious, and apathetic all due to the overdose of medicine. No one knew what mom would be like daily. In hindsight, I feel that I was too drugged to find a new doctor and my husband too convinced I should be on it. He is a financial investment guy and he goes by the book and I know he really had no clue. I just kept living and doing as best I could. While on all the depakote I continued to see my therapist for 8 years. He should of investigated a new doctor for me, he knows it, and he takes a lot of blame for my wretched experience. I finally stopped seeing him and I’m ok, he was a lovely man and I hold no grudges.
Fast forward again to the party with my girls 15 months ago. My friend is a physicians assistant in psychiatry and I asked her if she knew anyone that I could meet with to discuss my diagnosis. I found one doctor, she got me in quickly due to the fact that she is cash only. I walked in and told my story and she said, “Amanda you are terribly over medicated and you do not have bipolar. You are a very anxious person and may have ADD, but I’m taking you off this heavy medication gradually.”. It took me about a month or so to wean off the drug. I swear it was like an iron wall slowly being lifted from my beingness. I was a new woman of beauty and creativity but all the habits and traits of survival were still programmed in me. I continued to be moody and angry at my family. I had to retrain myself to be soft and loving and full of compassion. I also had to go through some serious forgiveness in myself and forgiveness to my dear family. I bled hard and cried a lot, and cursed my life for some time. My family didn’t realize how life changing and transforming my new self had become. That upset me as well, my husband said it will take time for him and others to forgive me. Uh, that stabbed me. My girls embraced me all encompassing and I felt love I did not even know I possessed. With new professional help and a yoga teacher training course my life became resurrected. I had a reawakening and I know that my divine god has a plan and every single life circumstance is set and formulated. I found god and have never looked back. I still suffer from anxiety and practice yoga and meditation daily. I started my own business to assist children and their caregivers break down their emotional walls with yoga. I laugh, love, dance, and just continually say I am blessed, I am grateful, I am capable, and my time is now.
I want to fill people up with hope. I want you to know that you are not alone. Your family and dear friends may run at first but don’t give up. This is your opportunity to weed out people, not because they are mean, but maybe their story is different and they cannot handle it. Give yourself a lot of self love truly. There is a community out in this beautiful universe that is supportive. There are superb doctors and clinicians and it’s important to research your options. A mixture of eastern and western medicine has been my life saver. Breathe and love yourself, let go of the critical voice. Mindfulness is an amazing tool as well. Go to a hatha yoga class, start slowly, and embrace your victories. Hug your family, kids, pets, and don’t be afraid to reach out for assistance. My heart is wide open and I pray for you daily. Serving love to my young yogis and their children is an amazing remedy. Bless you, check out Oprah’s magazine over the next few months. Govinda Yoga Play is here for you and your children. Love to you all very much. Never lose hope, it’s real. Namaste, Amanda Given MS CCC-SLP, RYT 200 hours