Treatment Resistant Mental Illness & Me

It’s been a year since it all fell apart.

About a year ago, after a successful recovery from postpartum anxiety, depression, and OCD, the carefully cultivated set of tools — medication, meditation, self-care — just stopped working. Just. Stopped. Working. Poof.

I’m done trying to figure out what happened, whether my body chemistry changed or I’d spent too long on the same SSRI or some stressful event triggered something or other. I am done reading studies, reading the bibliographies of studies, hunting down other studies cited. Omega-3s? Augmentation with low-dose atypical antipsychotics? Turmeric?

I’ve probably tried half a dozen new-to-me pharmaceuticals in the last year. I’ve added supplements, taken them away. I’ve yoga’d every damn day. Changed my diet. Changed it again. I’ve changed my professional circumstances. I live in a house I like, with an abundant garden. I hike. I have good friends, from whom I hide, mostly, because I can’t deal with who I am these days. Panicked. Overwhelmed. Undermotivated. Unclear in thought.

It will work out. There are full days of joy. But today and many other days I am excessively irritable, unsure of myself, some days confined only to my bedroom or office because the rest of the house feels contaminated by crumbs and papers and dirty footprints.

The post I wrote a year ago, despite being in the throes of anxiety, feels hopeful. I want to be honest here: I do not feel that way, not today. I just want to scream. I just want to wave a magic wand and take away all of the external stressors and be left in a sea of calm, a sea to which I can eventually acclimate, and then come back to real life, a whole, working human. Not because that sounds nice, but because that sounds like the only way I could possibly survive.

Right now I’m just taking a single atypical antianxiety medication, at a lower dose than what I’d taken previously. I’m trying St. John’s Wort because the studies seem like it can’t hurt, plus a tincture for adrenal support, a tincture of ashwagandha, cod liver oil, and motherwort. It’s not magic. It’s marginally better than the cocktail of pharmaceuticals I was on before. To be clear, I have nothing against psychiatric drugs. I’d be fine taking a pill or four every day for the rest of my life if it enabled me to feel like myself. I’m no longer nursing A SINGLE OTHER HUMAN so I feel like the whole wide world is open to me now, but it turns out there isn’t just a switch to flip to make things all better.

Treatment resistant mental illness sucks, y’all. That’s all there is to this. I’m still here, still trucking along, still getting it done by some miracle. It’s just hard. It’s uncomfortable. It’s not fun to talk about and it’s not fun to live through and it’s not fun to Instagram.

And really, why do anything if it’s not fun to Instagram?

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