The night I lost myself

I had been struggling for 7 years with depression. I was 17 years old, the summer before senior year of high school. I was drinking a lot. Heavy into my eating disorder. Taking various drugs. The one thing I had mostly stayed away from was guys. Sure, I had kissed a few guys but I didn’t want to have sex yet.

When a guy that I had a crush on invited me over, my naive self had no idea what could possibly even be in store. I wasn’t taught the bad side of men honestly. I just knew there was free alcohol!

Even though I was a virgin, I was completely okay with kissing. I welcomed it when it came from him that night. As I was drunkenly led into a dark bedroom, that wasn’t even his, he took something from me. He took my innocence. My trust for men. My hope for future men. My strength. My ability to stand up for myself. He took away the ability for me to say “NO”

It didn’t matter how many times those two little letters crossed my lips, he continued. The physical weakness was apparent as the frail arms attempted to push his heavy body weight off mine. He knew I was an easy target. He knew he would win.

After all was done, he walked me to my car and kissed me.

How could it be possible for someone to kiss me after they just raped me. There’s no way it could have been…. rape…..

As I arrived at my home, dripping tears, I immediately got in the shower. I sat in the shower with my knees to my chest until the water ran cold. I washed myself so many times to get myself clean. As I dried off, dressed, and went to bed, I realized that I would never be clean again…..

Almost 13 years later, I find he is now married with two kids and employed as a defense attorney. While I, on the other hand, have utilized near $100k for mental health treatment starting from this night. Excellent exchange 😉


Passive Suicidal Ideation

Something I have refused to admit was just how deep my depression was taking me. Suicide is NOT an option for me. So let me make something clear, I will not take steps to ever end my life as I know there are no options for my son.

That all being said, when my depression has been heavy and I have felt as if I were not going to get out of my dark pit of hell….. I had suicidal thinking. I literally had images of me following through with suicide. Flashes of vivid pictures. Me. Gone. By suicide. I never spoke to anyone about it. Partially because I knew I wouldn’t do it and partially because I didn’t want to admit just where I was at.

It is such a hard aspect to admit, that my brain was going that dark. I “expected” this from myself when I was using or caught up in my eating disorder but how the hell is this possible when I’m educated, working on my graduate degree, and in the mental health field?!

Now. The logical and analytical side of me knows that is complete bull crap as mental illness does not discriminate. But that doesn’t mean that it stops from the negative talk to cycle as I “shouldn’t” be this way.

It’s hard to explain to someone how deep depression can take someone. I haven’t ever wanted to actually to die, I just wanted the pain to end. To live in utter constant pain with no relief in sight is debilitating. Most who commit suicide just want the pain to stop.

My life has been pain for so long, I didn’t know what life without pain could even look like. I have had snippets of great moments but they never lasted long. My coping skills are amazing. They also make me utterly exhausted. All energy is utilized to seem normal from the outside that it makes me completely drained.

As my TMS technician agreed with the other day, “you are excellent at hiding yourself.” For nearly 20 years, I have been able to hide my true self. My pain. My sadness. My anger. My irritability. Anything “negative”.

My hope for myself is to no longer hide my true self. I also hope I never experience suicidal ideation again. I hjope I don’t live in that pain again.

Integrating EMDR

2/23, I finally started integrating EMDR with my TMS treatments. The perfectionist in me says I failed. The clinician in me says I took a step.

I have 20 years of different types of traumas. All have shaped my life in different ways. Some have effected me and my identity while some have severely effected me in how I view people and situations.

I have literally never worked through my traumas. I have never verbally expressed details of things that have had power over my life for so many years. I can speak the vague overview of my story like I am reading from a book with no problems. I can throw in some details here and there but just a liiiiiitle bit to not get in too deep.

Here is a description of EMDR from the EMDR Institute-
EMDR therapy is an eight-phase treatment. Eye movements (or other bilateral stimulation) are used during one part of the session. After the clinician has determined which memory to target first, he asks the client to hold different aspects of that event or thought in mind and to use his eyes to track the therapist’s hand as it moves back and forth across the client’s field of vision. As this happens, for reasons believed by a Harvard researcher to be connected with the biological mechanisms involved in Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, internal associations arise and the clients begin to process the memory and disturbing feelings. In successful EMDR therapy, the meaning of painful events is transformed on an emotional level. For instance, a rape victim shifts from feeling horror and self-disgust to holding the firm belief that, “I survived it and I am strong.” Unlike talk therapy, the insights clients gain in EMDR therapy result not so much from clinician interpretation, but from the client’s own accelerated intellectual and emotional processes. The net effect is that clients conclude EMDR therapy feeling empowered by the very experiences that once debased them. Their wounds have not just closed, they have transformed. As a natural outcome of the EMDR therapeutic process, the clients’ thoughts, feelings and behavior are all robust indicators of emotional health and resolution—all without speaking in detail or doing homework used in other therapies.

So, one would ask “how did you “fail” at EMDR?” as it doesn’t seem possible. My therapist got 2 sets of eye movements with the light before she stated, “I believe it’s best we stop. You’re not ready.”

While speaking about my event, my chest got extremely tight, my muscles in my entire body tensed, breaths were getting shallow, my heart rapidly started beating…. I was panicking. Then all of a sudden I start dissociating. I could feel the pull of being “gone”. I have functioned in various states of dissociation for many years.

Dissociation can be described as a detachment from reality. It can become difficult for an individual to function in the “real” world.

Dissociation is one of the many defense mechanisms the brain can use to cope with trauma. It’s often described as an “out of body” experience where someone feels detached from reality. It may be upsetting for someone to realize that they have dissociated, but it is a natural reaction to trauma.

So when I noticed myself drifting away from reality, pulling myself back, and repeat…… I tell my therapist how hard it was to control not slipping into dissociation. She obviously knew how much it was affecting me and had me stop.

Since then, things have been a little off I feel. I’m chronically finding my body tensed, mind wandering into those memories, overall more agitated, etc.

I see her again Friday and will attempt again. I have faith in it working, I just understand how deep it’s been buried it is no wonder my body innately tries to protect.

The Dip

You might experience a dip a couple weeks into treatment where it feels like you have completely back tracked. Try not to get discouraged as it is temporary!

Man. I thought I prepared myself for said dip. I was wrong. Monday morning, session 14, my TMS lady asked how I had been feeling.

You know, my baseline seemed to have increased but recently I’ve been feeling low again. These new memories that have come to surface have also messed me up a tad. I’m really not feeling the urge or motivation to do anything but I have to…..”

Of course, she explained I was in “the dip”. Fuck the dip. I feel awful. I feel about where I was at before treatments or a notch below.

Please don’t make me do anything.

Please don’t make me be around people.

Please don’t make me go out.

Please let me stay in bed all day.

Then it hit me. This is temporary. Trust the process. It will get better. Then even more came to light. I literally don’t think I could handle going back to living that on a daily basis. No wonder I am so damn exhausted. I have been literally fighting for too long. I cannot do that for years to come.

That doesn’t make the meantime any easier. I still am fighting the losing battle of what depression wants me to do versus what healthy Nicole should try to do. I’ve had plans to go out tonight for a long time. I am loathing the aspect of having to get up, get ready, slap on a fake smile, and be around a lot of people for hours.

When I got home from work, I immediately crawled into my bed. Not only am I physically exhausted from work, school, life, etc…. I’m mentally and emotionally exhausted. Fighting depression is hard. But it should not be considered a weakness.

I can honestly say that I am proud of myself for speaking up and speaking out about not only mental health in general, but my story as well. Why am I, a mental health professional, any different than anyone else? I’m not. So who better than to speak out? Those who have walked that walk…..

I will continue to trust TMS and hope that my results turn back around quickly!

TMS update

I have had 8 treatments as of today. It was told to me, “you probably won’t see a big change until about 20 treatments.” So I’m not expecting to see major differences yet.

My technician told me the first thing that usually changes is sleep. Unfortunately, that is still shit. 😂

I will say my overall baseline has increased a little which has been pleasant. I still fluctuate during the day, which is normal, but my baseline isn’t as “bad”.

The strangest thing that I was not expecting was memories to surface. I’m not talking about memories that I have had. I am talking about memories that I have forgotten.

The most prominent one occured just while I was driving on my way to work. Unfortunately, it was not a pleasant memory. The hardest part is the fact that it isn’t a complete memory. I am assuming it isn’t complete because I was under the influence during the original time.

My dreams have been more vivid and real life like. They have been involving people from my past and present. The most difficult aspect has been deciphering which are real life things and what are things that have occured in my dreams.

While I wasn’t prepared for this, I refuse to let it be a setback. All more reason to utilize therapy and EMDR.

While I am so grateful for the process that I am experiencing I have definitely had bumps in the road.

– my treatment will cost about $1400 more than I was originally preparing for.

– it is a minimum of an hour EVERY day for 36 straight days for treatment. That is not including therapy, just TMS.

– unfortunately, I feel a little shame that I am not “cured”. It was extremely hard for me to admit that I’ve been battling pretty darn hard without anyone knowing for about 2 years. Most people all my life have never known when I’ve struggled as I’ve always done it solo.

Starting TMS

In 2008, the FDA approved Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation for the use of treatment resistant major depressive disorder (MDD or depression). In 2013, many major health care providers started covering the costs of the treatment.

In a nutshell, a magnetic coil is placed on a person’s head. The trained individual spends time locating the prefrontal cortex and determining the maximum frequency the client can manage from the machine. For a series of approximately 36 sessions which will be done every weekday on a consecutive basis, the client will have a 37 minute session with the magnetic coil. Overall, how the TMS functions is the magnetic stimulation creates new neuropathways which can decrease depression.

Clinical depression can be debilitating. Sleeping too much. Sleeping not enough. Staying in bed for days unable to get up. Severe lack of motivation. Fatigue. Loneliness. Worthlessness. Loss of pleasure in things in life. Weight gain/loss. Isolation. Lack of concentration. Suicidal thoughts. These symptoms can often interfere with an individual’s daily life.

TMS is beneficial for the treatment resistant individuals with depression. This means, when a person has tried and failed at least 4 psychiatric medications.

I have attempted many medications and utilize the maximum dosage. People eventually adjust to medication and require change or higher doses. I have battled depression since around 10 years old and medication since 15. If this is something that I were to deal with the rest of my life, would anything continue to work after that many years?

My first session for TMS was Wednesday January 24th. After filling out paperwork, the motor threshold testing began. During this time, the technician placed the device on the upper left side of my head. She moved the device around at a relatively high intensity attempting to make my right thumb move. When the magnet pulses, my fingers responded. The goal is to get just the thumb to move but it is apparently uncommon. Once she is able to locate my prefrontal cortex with the correct intensity, all settings get recorded. This makes each session easy for the future.

After all is done, I do my first session. During the session, I feel pulsation at the site of the device. It isn’t painful. After the first session, I have a slight headache but nothing too severe.

As of today, I have had 3 sessions. By the third, I am comfortable with the process and am hopeful. I do not expect to see results any time soon but am anxious to finally experience that type of relief and happiness.

Something that was hard to express to my therapist on Friday as she asked me, “on a scale of 1-10 how are you today?” 5. “What do you hope to be?” I smiled. “A 10”. She asked “have you ever had that, or come close?” I sat for a moment and unfortunately answered “no. I haven’t.”

Now. Don’t get me wrong. I have snippets in my life of feeling a 9 and a 10. But the problem has always been, it doesn’t last long. I don’t believe I can truly think of having happiness for a full day. When my TMS lady was speaking about the positive outcomes of TMS and living without depression, tears welled up in my eyes as it has always seemed impossible for that to be within reach.

Happening Again

Debilitating depression.

It’s happening again….

Reaching out when I hit that point is really difficult for me. It’s hard for me to admit pain of any kind let alone ask for help of any kind. I’ve always had an “I do it” mentality. So 2 weeks ago when I returned to the doctor and had my medications changed up, I knew the risk of my depression taking me bed bound again. 

For 6 months at the beginning of this year, I didn’t let people know how much I was suffering when I was going bed bound for multiple days in a row a month from my depression. I also didn’t put two and two together for a couple months that it was my depression that was causing it since I had been stable for so many years. 

So when I have to admit defeat 10 days after forewarning a friend for the possibility of holding me accountable, I hated everything. 

The day of my son’s birthday and I could barely pull myself from bed. I have to be around people? I need to put a smile on my face? I hate being fake. I wish it were socially acceptable to outwardly show that things are not okay but society expects rainbows and butterflies so I’ll provide rainbows and fucking butterflies.

I made myself go out that night to keep my mind occupied. I did enjoy myself but was not fully there. The following day was even more exhausting. My friend “forced” me to not be alone for the night so I went out again. I sat in my car in the parking lot for over 30 minutes debating wether to go in or not as I truly didn’t want to. I did. And people noticed I was off. I chalked it off to being tired which was partially true.

Saturday, the family left that was visiting. This allowed me to sit in the depression. I was able to get in my bed at 1pm on saturday and barely moved from it until about 9pm Sunday. When my roommate approached the aspect Sunday about 4pm all I could think was “damnit. Busted.” As my friend holding me accountable was not physically present and the night before texted to check in on me. My response? “I’m fine”. 

So as I’ve rolled into Monday, the guilt has set in. “How could I be so selfish?” “Your kid needs you.” “Look at all this time you’ve literally wasted.” Logical side of me does know that I did not choose to stay in bed. Depression made the choice for me.

Even as someone who has battled for 20 years, I can still allow those thoughts to sit in my head. So I can only imagine what people on the outside who don’t struggle with depression think what depression looks like to them.