Not in my blood…

Selfie with bulldog
March 2018 – Depression – when even cuddling with Gunnyroo failed to draw a real smile…

Hello dear friend, I hope you are well. 

I’ve decided to split the discussion of 2018 into two posts – this first one will deal with what is arguably the worse months of my life to date and the second will deal with going from utter and complete darkness to fully believing the universe has my back.  As with yesterday’s post, I know this one is a hard read, so feel free to skip it if you worry it will trigger you in any way, or proceed with caution. Okay? ❤

As I think back on the first half of 2018, I can’t help but think of the Shawn Mendes song “In My Blood” – I don’t think there is another song that better encapsulates my mindset from October 2017-July 2018.  

Starting Therapy 

By early January, I knew I needed to do something. My depression symptoms were worsening. The panic attacks were more frequent. I hadn’t yet realized the medication was failing, but I knew I needed help. I found a coupon on Groupon for BetterHelp and signed up on January 10th, 2018. When asked why I signed up, I wrote: 

I don’t really know where to begin. I have been on medication for depression since November 2015 and I am usually doing better, but it has been a hard year and I have noticed my symptoms worsening. I know one of my colleagues is a trigger for my symptoms worsening and I am in the process of trying to switch teams. I also know I need to process all the family health issues from the last year because I didn’t at the time and I know keeping all that stress bottled up isn’t good. I just, I need to talk to someone. I don’t want my mental health to continue to deteriorate. I want to get it under control and find better coping mechanisms/develop more resilience. 

I was assigned to a wonderful counselor within 24 hours and we began discussing the triggers for my panic attacks and methods for addressing them. It helped and I found the methods for dealing with panic very helpful (I’ll be making a page of resources sometime later this week), but what I found most helpful was being able to talk to someone outside the situation, to get feedback that I wasn’t overthinking things or reading situations incorrectly. I’ve already discussed how unresolved grief and bottling up emotions contributed to the deterioration of mental health. I’ve also talked about the overtime at work and how I found myself struggling and seeking to switch teams. Perhaps I should give a little more background on that, since work was a main trigger as things really went south last year… 

Work as a trigger 

I started working as a technical writer in 2010 and was quickly assigned to investigate Adobe software and including video in PDFs. From there, I discovered and successfully pitched for the purchase of Adobe’s Technical Communication Suite. I was quickly assigned to build training videos using Adobe Captivate, which soon became the main focus of my job.  About six months after starting the job, I found myself at odds with this colleague, who I will call T*, when we were tasked to work on a project together and he promised we would complete 13 videos by Monday when I had another project with 8 videos due the same day. I found out about his promise on Thursday afternoon and he was going to be out of town all weekend, which meant I had to do all the work. He then took credit for the majority of the work. At the time, he wasn’t on my team, though he became a part of my team a few years later, “at the same level as me” – ha, right, sure. But it was okay because our team sort of split between documentation/content and LMS, so T* became the “hero” of the LMS side while I remained the “hero” of the documentation/content side.  

Looking back, I can clearly see that this is the point when I started to lose confidence in my worth at work. As time continued, and I worked more with T*, he would often tell me “Don’t be so good, don’t be so good, you’ll regret it. Don’t work so fast, don’t do as much.” I constantly felt like he was undermining me, between changing my estimates of time required to complete a project to shorter ones (my estimates are usually accurate), trying to take credit for my work, saying he helped train me in Captivate work – no, I taught myself, thank you very much. Dumping 13 videos on me to complete does not count as “teaching”, okay? Okay. And though he continued to try to take credit for my work, I got better about speaking up for myself and became well known and valued within the company and with our clients for my work. Why yes, I am tooting my own horn here a little – I know I’m very good at the work I do. Things were okay for quite a while, at least on the surface. I found myself often thinking that I liked T* as a person, but really hated working with him. When we were not talking about projects or working directly together, he was easy to get along with and we had many conversations about great ideas for training. But when we had to work together, well…I think he was so used to being a manager in his old job that he naturally felt he should treat me like a subordinate – which bugged the heck out of me since we started with the company at the same time and I was acknowledged as the subject matter expert for the work I do. Dear friend, please tell you hate being condescended to as well? Add in T*’s dark humor and the continued revisionary statements to clients, overpromising what I would be assigned to complete, and well – is it any wonder he became a trigger for dark thoughts? God, I felt so bad about that – why in the world did it get to the point that just getting an email from him would trigger a suicidal thought? Why did it get to the point that just getting an email from him would cause a panic attack? I knew he wasn’t a bad person. I didn’t blame him for my own reactions. I just couldn’t seem to stop reacting in that way – and the symptoms were getting worse.  

Things improved for a little while… 

Okay, up to speed – back to therapy. It helped, it did – I was trying the techniques my counselor recommended, we were in contact most days of the week, things were starting to improve. I was assigned to build a video shortly before leaving for my annual Disney trip and I got it done right before I left – cool, nothing to worry about, right? I left for Florida, thankful for the chance to recharge at my favorite place, but terrified about having a panic attack while at the parks, since I was finding crowds of any sort were becoming an issue for me. The trip got off to a rocky start, which did trigger my anxiety. Mom forgot all of her heart and diabetes meds at home and didn’t realize it until right before we boarded the plane. We were able to get in touch with Dad before we boarded, so he express-mailed the medication to our hotel, but they weren’t able to arrive until Monday – so two days without meds for Mom. Have I mentioned she suffered a small stroke during the heart attack and has lingering memory issues? If not, well, there you go – the memory issues are an ongoing thing we have to be aware of when making plans with her. 🙁 Beyond forgetting her meds and one misunderstanding between Mom and me on Wednesday morning that was resolved after chatting about it, the rest of the trip went well. Mom, Susie, and I took a lot of breaks that trip, just stepping off to the side and people watching, chatting, and doing what we could to prevent sensory overload. Things were okay, they were manageable. We had fun, we got to see our friend Sam, it was good.  

When I came back, things were going okay at work, too. That first week back, I was assigned 18 more videos for the project that I finished right before leaving for my trip and that was going okay. The team switch was scheduled to go through February 13th, 2018. Things were looking up.  

Hello there, suppressed emotions, how are you? 

Fast forward to later that week, February 1st – here is what I wrote down that day: 

Mom called on our drive home and mentioned that a family friend, K*, said to say hi to us when she and Mom had lunch. The last time Susie and I talked to K* was when Mom had just gotten home from the hospital after her heart attack. She kept asking so many questions about how it happened and what the doctors did and how we knew it was a heart attack since we suspected it as soon as Mom came in the door to our house and about Mom’s memory issues and when they would be better. I remember feeling like I was on the verge of cracking – I hadn’t cried yet. I had done all I could to stay strong and be there for Mom and Dad and Susie. I snapped at K* and told her Mom would talk to her when she was feeling better. Hearing that she said to say hi took me back to that moment, those feelings of fear and gratitude and anger and grief that weighed like a stone on my sternum.

I knew I was still tangled up over Mom’s heart attack. Mom was lucky – WE were lucky – that we got her to the hospital in time, that she got care before there was any tissue damage to the heart. We know she suffered some brain damage due to the stroke. The neurologist said it should heal on its own and the memory issues should resolve themselves. He said he was so surprised that she doesn’t have more issues – like sight loss and balance loss – given the location of the spot. She is so lucky. We are so lucky. And yet… 

And yet I am still so angry at her. Angry she did such a good job of turning her diet around after the diabetes diagnosis and yet had the heart attack less than three months later. Angry she wouldn’t listen to us right away when we told her we thought she was having a heart attack. Angry it took us an hour to convince her to let us take her to the hospital. Angry at how close we came to losing her as I drove the few miles to the emergency room. Angry at Dad for thinking it was a spider bite when we called him in the first ten minutes of her getting to our house. Angry he placed Sammy puppy getting his bath above our warnings. Angry and grieving over Mom’s memory issues. Hurt she didn’t seem to recognize us for the first few weeks. Fall-to-my-knees grateful for that first morning in August when she remembered to kiss us goodbye as we left after stopping by for morning coffee – the first time she seemed to be herself after the heart attack. Angry at myself for losing hope that her memory will improve. Angry at her for forgetting her medicine over and over again; angry at the panic that tightens my shoulders and sends my heart pounding and stomach rolling each time she casually mentions “oops, I don’t think I took my meds this morning/last night.” I keep wanting so badly to shake her and scream at her until she understands she is jeopardizing this second chance at life, but I know that would be useless. She can’t help the memory issues – the lost words, the mixed-up sentences, saying the wrong name for one of her friends, asking about plans over and over and over, nor the occasional moments where she looks at us and I know, I KNOW, she doesn’t quite know who we are. Thank God those moments are few and far between. She does better when she isn’t tired, but she is constantly running herself ragged, taking care of her friends, six hours a day at a job that places her in the middle of the street, lunch appointment after lunch appointment. She needs to rest, but she won’t; she feels like she is letting her friends down if she doesn’t have lunch with them once a week. We keep telling her she takes on too much, but she only listens for a day or two and then she is back at it. 

They say to be careful what you ask for… 

…yeah, bottling up that much emotion probably wasn’t smart, right? Right. I spoke with my counselor about it and she ended up asking about my religious beliefs (raised Christian, consider myself spiritual but not necessarily religious – more on that in future posts, I’m sure) and asking if I ever prayed for myself – well, that was a bit startling, honestly. I didn’t tend to pray for myself in the same way I pray for others in my life – I did and do count asking my crystal friends and angels and guides to watch over me and help me through the day, but actually figuring out a full prayer for myself? That wasn’t something I had done, not really, so when she asked me to write one, I think the result is pretty telling:  

Dear Lord, please watch over me. My depression and anxiety have been so bad for so long and I am so exhausted from fighting them. Please lend me your strength to keep fighting. Please continue to walk beside me and hold me when I feel like I am falling apart. Please let the team transition be the right choice and help me to find a way to enjoy my job again. Please help me to stop bottling up my feelings; help me to face them. Please help me be less angry, help me be more kind, help me be a better friend and daughter. Thank you, Lord, for all the blessings in my life. Thank you for my family, for our puppies, for my dear friends Michelle, Sam, and Jaz. Keep them all safe and well and bless them with good health, peace, and prosperity. Thank you, Lord. Amen. 

She asked me how it felt to write that – It felt like a moment of peace. I was still exhausted, but it helped a bit. In looking back at this prayer, I find myself laughing a little – boy howdy, did it get answered – just not in the way I expected. But looking back, the universe, my guides, God – whatever you want to call it – absolutely gave me the strength to keep fighting. I know I had guides watching over me and walking beside me. I did stop bottling up my feelings – if only because I ended up feeling EVERYTHING so deeply starting in the spring.  

A little over a week after writing that prayer, I found myself still working on the 18 videos when I received news that they were all due by the end of February. I was, quite frankly, flabbergasted and frustrated. I had estimated 500 hours to complete the videos based on what was discussed during the initial audio recordings. I was under the impression the client had agreed to a delivery date in April. Hello again, stress. I reached out to the other manager regarding the team switch and was told it had been pushed back to mid-March. Okay…not what I wanted to hear, but okay – I would make it work somehow. As I continued work on the videos, I managed to find out the client actually had a hard deadline of March 9th – so I was able to negotiate delivery by March 6th and I met that deadline. The videos definitely were NOT my best work, but we always say the client can pick two from speed, quality, and cost – the tight deadline forced the choice to be speed and cost, with quality very much coming up short. Still, the client seemed happy, so that was something. While working on the videos and pulling 10+ hour days for the month of February, I finally realized that even with therapy, I wasn’t getting better. After weeks of no suicidal ideation since starting therapy, those thoughts kept returning, and the panic attacks were getting more frequent. I made an appointment with my doctor for the last day in February. 

At that appointment, my doctor and I discussed the frequent panic attacks, as well as what seemed to trigger them. We discussed how therapy was going. She diagnosed me with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and gave me a prescription for Xanax, to be used only when I could not calm down from a panic attack on my own. Okay, cool, great, I’ll try anything that helps at this point. I was asked to return to my doctor for follow up on March 12th.  

March 6th and the end of the massive nightmare project, as I had taken to referring to it, finally came. I was hopeful the team switch would go through March 16th as promised. Things were looking up. Unfortunately, I received a phone call from the other manager for the new team on March 7th – the team transition was cancelled. No reasoning provided, just an assurance that “things are changing and you’ll be happy.” Right. Sure. Great. Thanks. I updated my resume and started applying to other jobs.  

In the meantime, I was approved to change from a desktop to a laptop for work, which turned out to be a blessing, especially after the March 12th doctor appointment. At that appointment, my doctor and I discussed the job situation and my stress level and management techniques. After discussing it, she decided to change my medicine from an SSRI to an NDRI.  The problem, though, is that to switch from the SSRI to the NDRI, I had to taper off the old medicine entirely and spend a few days without any medication before being allowed to start the new one. The taper…I absolutely consider the weeks during the taper and the first few weeks on the new medicine before it started to help to be the worst depressive episode of my life.  

The Taper – My own personal hell 

For the taper, I was instructed to begin tapering off my current meds starting the morning of March 13th- drop from 20mg to 10mg for 7 days, 5mg for 7 days, 2.5mg for 3 days, and then fully stop for 3 days before starting the new meds. I was advised use the Xanax prescription at night as needed (if I had a panic attack that day), Monday-Friday while going through the med switch. Now, what follows is a description of my personal experience in tapering off medication – I am not, in any way, saying this is how it would happen for someone else. Just putting that out there before we dive in, okay? Okay.  

Given the medication switch and relatively new anxiety diagnosis, I knew I needed to update my then-manager and security with the information, given we are required to report it at my job. I scheduled a meeting with my manager and sent him a list of my symptoms, triggers (including work-based ones and family health issues), and a brief list of what my doctor said I might experience as a side effect while switching to the new medication. My manager came in and immediately suggested full-time telework, at least through May 14th (which was when the pharmacist said I could expect to be feeling the support of the new medication), which was a pleasant surprise. He also said we could discuss making the full-time telework permanent on May 14th, depending on how my mental health symptoms were improving. I already had regular telework one day a week and he mentioned that I had proven I am as productive at home as in office, so if that would help during the transition, he wanted me to take the offer. Can you imagine what a relief that was? Especially after all the stress of the past few months?? I had already realized I would have to put the job hunt on hold until after the medication switch was complete, given the possible side effects, but to know my current job was actually trying to make it easier for me to stay? Thank you, job. Thank you, universe. My manager stated I could start full time telework as soon as my work laptop was set up – I was due to receive it later that week. As I started tapering, though, the side effects, well… 

It started with ice-pick headaches, with everything feeling just ever so slightly more difficult than usual – from random body aches making moving hard to brain fog that made thinking hard to intrusive suicidal ideation and panic increasing. And the fatigue – wow. I was so, so tired. All. The. Time. I was also dizzy more often than not – there were many occasions where I only remained upright because there was a wall or chair or person nearby to lean against. There were days my hands were shaking so badly that I couldn’t hold a cup or a spoon. Everything seemed louder than it usually is. As the taper continued, I found myself having even more ice-pick headaches. Crazy mood swings – fine, crying, laughing, crying, fine. Tongue-tied a lot, too.  

Tongue-tied during the taper – talking to Gunny.

Yeah…the stutter and tongue-tied talking came and went throughout the taper. As I continued to drop to lower levels, I found the fatigue increasing. I don’t know if you can see or sense it in the next video, given I haven’t shared a video of what I‘m like now, but I can definitely see the difference in my eyes – the pupils stayed more dilated than usual throughout the taper as well.  

The fatigue and brain fog was…wow.

The worst part, though, was feeling Nox fully released from the bonds it had been under while the SSRI medication was working. Have you ever felt like you share your body with another being? If so, have you ever felt like that other being has taken control? Can you possibly imagine how hard I had to fight to stop the me that isn’t me from causing myself harm? There were so many moments, so many days, where I sat still on the couch, barely breathing, barely blinking, afraid to move because I knew the I, the me that IS me, didn’t have control over my actions. Can you imagine how painful and exhausting and terrifying it was to sit there, feeling myself getting smaller and smaller, to feel the me that is me flickering out, to try over and over and over again to remind myself that I was me, Nox isn’t me, don’t listen, don’t listen, don’t listen and in the name of all that is good and right in this world, do NOT act. Please. Please. Please. Give me the strength to carry on. Can you imagine the persuasive voice whispering over and over again that everyone I love, EVERYONE I love would be better off is I was gone? That’s the battle – to hear that over and over and over again, getting to the point where you believe with every fiber of your being that you are a burden and a cause of pain to everyone you have ever held dear – and to keep fighting anyway. To keep telling yourself that what you hear and what you currently believe to the very depths of your soul -that the world would be better off without you, that those you love and want to save from any harm would be happier if you were gone – to be true is absolutely, entirely, unequivocally FALSE. came so close to checking myself in to the hospital time and again because I knew, I knew if I allowed myself to move even a fraction of an inch, Nox would force my hand, because it held the reins to my body, Nox would force me to act on the lies it kept telling me. I came so close to checking myself in to the hospital because even in my very darkest moment, when I knew it would be so easy to let my light flicker out and let Nox take over entirely, I refused, absolutely refused to break my promise to keep fighting. As long as I sat still and quiet and kept my breathing shallow, I was able to devote the rest of my energy to continue to fight.  

By April 9th, I had started the new medication, but I couldn’t feel it helping. I was working from home when I got an email about the video project – yes, the massive nightmare project, which I thought was entirely finished. They needed changes to most of the videos turned around by Thursday. I agreed to put in overtime to make the deadline. On the morning of April 11th, I logged on and saw an email from my then-manager letting me know one of my colleagues was leaving the team. I…I simply didn’t have it in me to stop myself from sending the following response… 

Admin Leave – Thank you, job. Thank you, universe.  

Manager, 

Okay, I will make the additional change as well. 

Okay, but I don’t really care about T*’s whereabouts as long as he’s not in contact with me. I’ve already told you, in writing no less, that he is a trigger for my anxiety and depression symptoms. What more do I have to say to clarify that I can’t deal with him? Do I have to break down for you exactly how often he has triggered suicidal thoughts? How often interactions with him have triggered panic attacks? Because I can pull the data for you if required. Does it make sense that he triggers these symptoms – of course not. He’s a good person and I absolutely wish him the best –I just cannot seem to interact with him without my anxiety spiking. I don’t know WHY he’s a trigger. If I could figure that out, please BELIEVE me that I would do all in my power to fix it. Please KNOW that I have done all I can to stop feeling triggered by him, but I haven’t been able to stop the trigger. I don’t know how to make it go away. I keep working with my therapist to identify and manage my triggers. 

I’m trying, Manager. I’m trying so damn hard. Especially right now when I am still essentially unmedicated while the new medication builds up in my system – I cannot expect it to help manage my symptoms for at least 4-6 weeks and today is only day 6. How many times do I have to explain that, because I swear I’ve stated it in multiple emails and our chat at the beginning of my medication transition? The only thing I have to help manage my symptoms right now is a small run of Xanax, which I am trying my damnedest not to have to take more than necessary since it is highly addictive and I do NOT want to have to rely on it to function. Yet here we are – four times of needing it last week and again needing it last night, and God help me it is terrifying to need it– and guess what? It didn’t help much last night because I’m still on the verge of a breakdown and have been since waking up. Can you even imagine how much worse shape I would be in this morning if I hadn’t taken it last night? I can. The panic attacks have been extremely debilitating, to the point of leaving me unable to function enough to breathe or control my own body, which as you should be able to imagine makes it damn near impossible to do anything and punts work to the bottom of my list of things to do because, by God, breathing and being able to stop crying long enough to see comes first, followed by rest to freaking try to let my body recuperate as much as it can. That’s why I’ve taken so much leave during this transition. I literally, LITERALLY cannot function during these attacks and they leave me incapacitated for hours even after the medicine kicks in and allows me to breathe. 

I sincerely and deeply hope to all that is good and holy that you and those you care about never have to experience the same, because God help me, I would never wish this upon anyone, not even my worst enemy if I had one. Can you even grasp the guilt I feel knowing how much of a burden I am being on my family and friends, hell- even to my dogs, during this transition? Do you know how much it hurts knowing I am worrying them, scaring them, no matter how much I am trying not to? Do you know how sick I feel over making my puppies sick and clingy due to their worry over me? Do you know how sick to my stomach it makes me knowing that just by existing right now, just by being this cursed lump of worry and fear and sadness and gnawing gaping hole in my soul that I keep trying my damnedest to close and heal, that I am hurting those I love the most? I am not okay right now, Manager. Not even close. Honestly, I should likely be on medical leave for the duration of the transition but I am trying so damn hard to stick to my normal schedule as much as possible. I am giving the company all I have to give right now. That will have to be enough. I simply do not have more to give. 

Good for colleague. I know she wasn’t happy here, though from what I’m hearing through the grapevine – lots of people aren’t happy here. I’m happy for her – not sad at all. I sincerely wish her the best. Please understand, though, if you mentioned this because you are thinking I will be able to take on the work she was doing, I am not able to do so. You will have to find someone else – thank you for understanding why I am unable to take on additional responsibilities at this time. 

When spoons are once again unlimited…I hate to inform you that will never be the case for me. I live with multiple chronic illnesses even apart from my anxiety and depression – there will always be a finite amount of spoons. Yes, I have some days where I have enough spoons to make it through without needing to borrow against future days and where I am not at a deficit from borrowing previously, but the amount is still, and will always be, finite. My illnesses steal spoons frequently and the worst part is I never know which illness is going to be the worst thief because symptoms come and go. Yes, my chronic illnesses can be managed with medication and other treatments, but it is a management of symptoms, not a cure. This is my normal. This knowledge that my daily functioning is controlled by illnesses for which there is no cure and yes it sucks, but it is what it is. This is my normal because I deal with it every single day and have for years. Does it make it easier having the experience of living with them? Not easier, really – just makes me more experienced at knowing when I am using/losing spoons I cannot afford to use/lose; yes, I have tools that help, but they don’t bring lost spoons back, they just help mitigate how many I lose. I won’t let my illnesses stop me from living the best life I can, no matter how hard they try to do so. Keep moving forward. Every mile will be worth my while. This too shall pass – it may pass like a kidney stone, but it will pass.   

Should I be sending all this? Probably not, because for some ridiculous reason it is still socially unacceptable to say when we aren’t okay and why we aren’t okay. That’s wrong. How are we to have clear communication and be able to move forward without being honest about what’s going on and impacting our lives? So I’m sending this anyway. 

Please, please understand that I’m not sharing this to try to burden you, or hurt you, or cause any worry or discomfort, I’m just trying to help you understand. Thank you for your patience with me. Thank you for trying to understand. 

….Yeah…wow. Past self, you need a hug. A great many hugs. Even with the space of a year between sending that and now, it is still hard to read – it is all too easy to remember being in that headspace. Gosh, past self…what a negative view of the world.  

Anyway…is it any wonder the above email scared then-manager? By 11AM, I had been placed on administrative leave through May 18th to allow me the time needed to adjust to the new medication. I…I cried. For hours. From relief, from fear, from being so thankful to not have to worry about work for a month, from being terrified of how this was going to impact my job. But goodness, what a blessing it was. That time off gave me the time to sit still, to fight, to breathe my way through the transition as well as I was able.  

The new medication started to work. The suicidal thoughts eased but as the suicidal ideation retreated, the anxiety increased. Everything was too loud, too bright, too much. I was having panic attacks daily. I never knew what would trigger them. I went back to the doctor and she increased the dosage of the new medication to try to help manage the anxiety and remaining suicidal ideation. The thoughts of suicide stopped entirely – can you possibly imagine the relief I felt when I had no suicidal thoughts that first day? Two days in a row without even one? Three days? A whole week?!?! Two weeks??!! A month?!?!! What a blessing. What an absolutely gift. And I was grateful, so very grateful.  

And yet, at the same time, I could no longer leave the house. I couldn’t even help with the grocery shopping because I couldn’t deal with people touching me, even just brushing past me – it hurt. It hurt to be touched. It hurt to be hugged. It hurt to have someone within two feet of me. I had no mental or emotional shields to protect myself from absorbing other people’s energy and it hurt.  

At the same time, Sammy-puppy was slowing down. Susie and I dropped by to visit him on May 9th because Dad asked us to check on him – he was happy and playful for the first time in a while. He wanted all the cuddles and all the scritches and he just seemed like himself again, which made me so happy. I thought he was finally no longer worried about me, that I was no longer giving off vibes to worry him and Gunny. On May 10th, he collapsed. Dad and Mom asked us to bring the cart we use for Gunny when we go on 10k walks to help take Sam to the vet. We came to their house as quickly as we could and helped get Sammy over to the vet. He laid down on the floor, not even barking at the vet as usual. The vet had some techs help take him to the back for testing. She came back with bad news…Sam’s stomach was full of blood from a burst tumor. She told us she could maybe give him two weeks at most, but he would be in pain the entire time. We didn’t want Sammy to suffer. Not our Sammy, not our fluffy baby, no. He didn’t ever, EVER deserve to feel pain. We said our goodbyes and Sam peacefully crossed the rainbow bridge the afternoon of May 10th.  I broke, we all did. He was our first dog. I still remember bringing him home the Saturday before my birthday – he was soooo good in the car, he didn’t have an accident even though the drive was a solid half hour or more to get home and he kept giving Susie and me kisses. He was always so affectionate and just such a sweet cuddlebug. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye, but I was and remain so grateful for the 11 wonderful years we had together. Susie and I took a few days off work to mourn.  

May 18th rolled around and I was feeling well enough to start back at work…provided I could continue full-time telework. Given I couldn’t even go grocery shopping with Susie, even if we went first thing in the morning, as soon as the store opened…well, obviously, attempting to head to the office seemed like a horrible idea. Things were going okay…well, if daily panic attacks and being unable to leave the house count as okay. As summer continued, the panic attacks began increasing. I went back to the doctor, sharing that I was having multiple attacks per day. She increased the medication to the highest level. Within days, I felt like I was losing my mind – I knew I was reacting irrationally, but I was up to having five or more panic attacks a day. The suicidal thoughts returned. I called my doctor and she pulled me off the highest dose and back to the middle dose. The suicidal thoughts left and the panic attacks decreased back to where they were before the increase to the highest dose of the medicine.  

So that was it. July 2018 and Susie and I both thought – this is it. This is our new normal. I’m going to live with daily panic attacks. I’m going to struggle to leave the house. I have no idea how I will be able to go to Disney ever again. This is the new normal. But it’s okay. Somehow, some way, it is okay and it is going to be okay. It’s going to get better. We kept saying it couldn’t stay that bad for long. Somehow, someway, some day soon, things would have to get better.  

And, dear friend, they did. Oh, how they did – but that’s what I’ll cover in tomorrow’s post. 

If you made it this far, thank you, most sincerely, for reading. I know this one is a hard one to read – because it was, without a doubt, hard to write, but I think it is important. I think it is important to share what it is like to be in that mindset, what it is like to continue fighting, and to just…continue the conversation. Does that make sense? I hope so. I really hope so. If my battle can in any way, shape, or form somehow help someone else, then sharing it – even though it is scary to do so and painful to relive as I wrote it – is absolutely worth it. 

Until next time, and always, dear friend, please treat yourself gently.  

With love always, 

Katie 

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