the background [pt. 4]

>> 8.27.2012

Find part 1 here.

_______________________

A few days after contemplating whether or not I should drive my car into the side of the freeway, I made an appointment with the counselor at my community college. I was scared out of my mind, but I walked into that office, shaking and queasy and determined to get help. The appointment began with me in tears, and the counselor looking at me with pity--it was pretty apparent why I was there. As she began to go through my chart, she stopped and looked at me. "Well, it looks like we've got a problem. You're only seventeen?"

I nodded, and my heart promptly fell into my stomach.

"I'm sorry hon, but I can't treat you without your parents consent because you're still a minor."

I couldn't believe it. I'd finally, finally tried to reach out and get help, but help was telling me that I wasn't eligible. I wanted to give up, crawl into a hole, and never come out.

"I know you're scared, and I'm so sorry that I can't treat you. But I want you to go home and talk to your parents about this. I want you to ask them to take you to a doctor and get you help because I know that's what you need. I'm going to call you later today and make sure you've done this. Alright?"

I sighed out a shaky "okay", and rolled off the table. 

When I got home that morning, my heart was still in my stomach, rolling around and making me feel sick. I walked through the front door and saw my mom sitting on the couch and I knew that this conversation had to happen now or nothing was ever going to change.

"So, I went to the clinic at school today..." 
And we were off.
~*~

The next ten months are a blur of so many emotions that they're hard to sort through. 

--That dangerous boy that I was so fascinated by turned on me--abuse in the form of words and text messages came spilling through my phone and it got so bad that I had to change my number and time when I left the house so I could avoid him. 

--I went to the doctor and was tentatively diagnosed with clinical depression. I was offered anti-depressants but turned them down because I thought that if I could just get out of the state, I'd be okay. (Besides, I still thought that "being depressed" was something that you should just be able to make go away, if you tried hard enough.)

--I applied to Moody Bible Institute, begging them to consider me for the fall semester even though I'd missed the application deadline by a week. The answer came back--waitlisted for the spring semester.

--I enrolled in the community college for another semester, trying to take classes that would transfer to Moody (hoping I would be accepted) and working as many hours as I could.

It was basically me trying to keep my head above water for as long as I could.
I often tell people that it felt like being chained to a treadmill and forced to run as fast as you can--a pace you know that you can't keep up for long, but if you stop running things will only get worse--so you keep running even though you're more exhausted than you've ever been.

And then.
That golden day.
I ran out to the mailbox and ripped open the envelope on the side of the street.
"Dear Camille, we are pleased to let you know that you have been accepted to Moody Bible Institute for the Spring semester..."

This was it. 
I was getting out, and it was going to make me better.

~*~

The train to Chicago pulled in to Union Station on a cold night at the beginning of January. We took a taxi to our hotel room and skyscrapers and lights flew around me in a blur outside of the window and I breathed in freedom.

Classes started and I made friends around every corner. I was adjusting well to living in a dorm, I was getting out of my shell and talking to nearly everyone I saw. I got brave and began to explore this big city with it's magical charm and secret places to call my own.
This much happiness was foreign to me--or it had been for nearly five years. 
There were no dark shadows here, no monsters tearing apart my brain, no desperate desire to escape.
Because I had arrived.

At least for a little while.

I met the man I would end up marrying three weeks after I got to Chicago.
He noticed my big teeth and loud laugh, and our love story began.
Spring break came and found us on different sides of the country talking about marriage.
Summer vacation came and I found myself standing in front of the Eiffel Tower with a diamond ring on my left hand, a rose in my right, and the love of my life in front of me.
We were the couple on everyone's lips during the first few weeks of the new semester, and I finally had it all.

Except that my brain was starting to fall apart again.
I was crying over things that didn't matter.
I was taking five-hour "naps" and just getting through the day felt like swimming in a sea of peanut butter--thick and impossible.
My fiance and I were constantly at odds--I needed this, and he needed that, and neither of us were sure that getting married was the right thing anymore.

And then one day, one of the friends I had made found me crying on the sidewalk in between classes and promptly walked me over to the counselors office and stood there until an office door opened, and I was put on a couch with a box of tissues in my hand and I began to spill out all the words that I just couldn't say to anyone else. 

I honestly don't remember much about that first session except that I walked out of there with a prescription for some anti-depressants and an appointment with a counselor in the next few days. I saw the on-campus doctor, who explained what the pills would do and said that he fully supported the decision to begin taking them. He also warned that they wouldn't cure everything, and that I needed to make sure that I was going to my counseling sessions regularly. If I really wanted to see improvement, we had to attack this from both angles. 

So that's what I did.

~*~

I wish I could say that everything was magically cured and I was fixed and all better. 
But, as with everything, nothing is that simple.

Counseling was hard. It was good, because it gave me a place to spill all of the emotions that built up during the week, but it hurt to dig up the issues and work through them. I had to explore places and people that I would have much rather shut off, and  I left the counselor's office every Friday tired and irritable.

The pills helped to balance everything out, but they came with side effects. Headaches, dizziness, lightning bolts in my brain if I forgot a pill. And then there was the stigma of "being on anti-depressants". It doesn't matter that general usage is on the rise--there are still whispers when people find out, pitiful and judgmental looks that are given, questions that may seem innocent but that cut like knives.

My fiance and I worked hard on our relationship, and our wedding day came and it was everything I wanted. Our first year of marriage was hard, but we made it and we came out stronger on the other side. Eventually we decided that we wanted to have a baby, and I knew that I didn't want to be on my medication while we were trying. I know that many people have been successful with pregnancy and anti-depressants, but I felt like I had an adequate handle on my depression--I had been taught different tools in counseling to recognize when another episode was looming and knew how to ask for help. Weaning off of the medication was torture, but eventually I made it and we got pregnant with our son almost exactly two years ago. 

All throughout my pregnancy I knew that I was at risk for post-partum depression, so I watched myself and I asked my husband to watch as well, to make sure that I wasn't blind-sided by this monster if and when it decided to rear its ugly head again.

Then Jameson was born, and everything felt perfect and terrifying.
I had anxiety walking out my front door and I cried a lot. But I loved my baby, and I had no trouble bonding with him or feeling like his mother, so I chalked a lot up to our living/financial/everything else situation. 
And now it's been a year, and the background has turned into the present, and I still think that p.p.d. might be roaming around inside my head. Sadly, I never went to the doctor for it, because I didn't want to be "back there" again. I don't want to be on medication again, and I don't want to rip my guts apart in a counselors office once a week. Maybe that's pride, and maybe I'll change my mind in the future, but that's where I'm at right now and I'm doing okay.

~*~

Of course, there is more.
But there is always more and so this is enough for today.
I'll do one more installment, because there is one more thing that I want to address.
I'll also answer any questions you may have, so please leave them in a comment or email them if you're not so comfortable with others reading.

As always, thank you for reading. Thank you for your incredible words of encouragement and your high estimation of my bravery. You make all of this worth it.

5 thoughts:

tragedy August 27, 2012 at 6:06 AM  

My least favorite part about the medication aspect of mental illness is that many Christians will actually say, "You need to find joy in Christ and rely on Him to take the depression away and not take the medicine." It frustrates me so much because this is not a CHOICE. Do I believe God can heal people? Of course! But sometimes, that is not part of his plan. The same person wouldn't tell a cancer patient to quit chemo and trust God more. I admire your bravery, and thank you for sharing your story

camille nicole August 27, 2012 at 6:43 AM  

tragedy--I totally agree with you. It's so awful when people look at you like you just don't have enough faith to be "healed". I used the cancer analogy on a lot of people to try and help them understand that there is actually something physically wrong, it's not just me choosing to be this way.

Jess August 27, 2012 at 7:53 AM  

*hugs* I love you and proud of the woman you have become in your journey. The determination and strength you have shown is an example to all of us. And I it makes me so angry that Christians have stigma on both depression medication and counseling....because it saves peopel's lives on a regular basis. Mine included.

Kirra August 27, 2012 at 8:00 AM  

thank you for continuing to share! i too think it's heartbreaking the stigma that comes in the christian circles for people struggling with depression/anxiety. i wish i could change it.

Hannah August 30, 2012 at 2:03 PM  

Cami, you are one of the women I admire most in my life and it only encourages me to hear that you battle the some of the same things that haunt me. My anxiety and depression can take control of my life and it's still a constant battle not to let them win. Your love and heart for others is astounding and I take encouragement and lessons from this blog. Thank you :)

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