Week One: Strategy, Stresses, and Suicidal Thoughts
My first week of weaning is over and done.
I constantly go back and forth with how I should approach each blog post: should I be pragmatic, emotionally honest and raw, or a mix of the two? I know good and well that people like reading about depression about as much as they enjoy living with it. I know even better how lonely depression can feel, so I’ve chosen to be as honest and raw as I can. This is my official warning: it’s not going to be pretty and trust me, it’s scary as hell to be this open, but it’s 100% truth. In attempt to spare the faint of hearts, I’ll keep this first half practical, listing what I’ve added, subtracted, and altered in my lifestyle, as well as areas of improvement for next week.
Part One: Old with the old, in with the new, and a few things in-between.
Overall, the week wasn’t too bad. Since SSRIs stay in the body for a little while, I haven’t felt the full effects of its deficiency yet. The downside of that: I was blindsided when I had my first episode of symptoms (more about that in Part Two). My goal is to avoid too many major changes simultaneously and have some controlled measurement in the three main categories: diet, exercise, and lifestyle.
Supplements: 50mg Sertraline (1/2 dose), Alive Women’s Multivitamin, Gingko Biloba (to combat AD symptoms), and Low-Ogestrel (birth control). Sertraline is the only change in my normal supplements.
No Meat or Dairy: With only a few slip-ups, I’ve eliminated meat and dairy from this week’s diet and will continue to do so for the first 30 days. It is very common for dairy and gluten to cause symptoms of depression for some, and I’m hoping to eliminate either in my process.
No Boxes or Bags: I’ve stayed away from extra sugary, salty, heavy carbs, or processed foods. Rule #1: If you can’t visualize the ingredients, don’t eat it.
Increase in Fats (the good ones): Did you know about that there are some fats that your body actually craves on a fundamental level? To improve brain health, I’ve increased fats like avocados, coconut oil, flax oil, ghee (clarified butter), and salmon.
Results: Improved digestion and BMs, far fewer head aches and no midday crashes. Beyond that, I think it may be too soon to tell. Since weaning, I have been tremendously fatigued every day, even with keeping up with my protein levels. I took a three-hour nap this weekend and was still in bed by 8:30pm.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t do as well as I’d like to in this category since I only started a routine a few days ago, but I’ll go over my projected plan for the coming week.
Yoga: I can’t fully describe in this post just how beneficial yoga has been for my life. Mentally, emotionally, physically — and in that order. I think of yoga as active meditation, bringing peace to everything.
Bike to Work: Yay! Today was my first day biking to work. I’m a perfect 2.5 miles away and it has done wonders for kickstarting my day.
Meditation: Meditation has really helped me gain control when I feel like I’m spiraling. My focus isn’t great, but I’ve established a mantra for when I need to calm my mind: “Breathing in, I know that I am strong. Breathing out, I know I can beat this.” This is a slightly altered version of Thick Nhat Hahn’s breathing exercise. (Side Note: If you are at all interested in the practice of mindfulness, meditation, or inner peace in any way: explore Thich Nhat Hahn. He is a brilliant, matter-of-fact buddhist monk. Start with No Mud, No Lotus. It changed my life.)
My first rule of this process: be good to yourself. It’s hard to not punish yourself for feeling like shit. It’s hard to ask for what you need. Be kind to your body, generous to your heart, and loving to your soul.
Alright boys and girls, it’s time for shit to get real.
Part Two: The moment when I had very practical thoughts about killing myself.
I wasn’t expecting to feel different so quickly and it blindsided me, leaving me paralyzed.
This past weekend was a perfectly lovely one. I had plenty of “me” time, I treated myself to a lavender bath, cooked yummy foods, and actually sat down to enjoy a movie. But that night, upon crawling into bed, I began weeping uncontrollably and I had no. idea. why.
When I feel overwhelmed with feelings, I ask myself a few questions:
- Is this a problem or a symptom?
- Is this a truth or a lie?
- Does this involve any external people, places, or things? If so, if the circumstance had changed, would I feel differently?
My answer to all of those questions: no, as per usual.
And then I heard a voice.
Do you know how horror movies will show the person in a mirror doing something different or talking back to the real person? That was exactly what this was like. I heard myself, but it wasn’t me. It was telling me lies, very believable ones at that. I was hallucinating a voice affirming every bad feeling that I had. It was mean and it was loud. I repeated my mantra in my head until I was louder than the voice, and I fell asleep.
The next morning was just as bad.
I wish there was a word equivalent to “hangry” that would appropriately describe being sleep deprived. I was so tired going in to work. I was still upset from the night before. I was on the verge of tears for the first hour and, for no reason at all, I started crying and could not stop.
I was petrified of the previous night’s episode as if it were a terrible nightmare. Add that, weeping uncontrollably, and the fact that I still had a day’s worth of work ahead of me pushed me over the edge.
I have never had suicidal thoughts. That was always my sanity barometer. “At least I don’t want to kill myself,” I’d think, only a little joking.
Not this day.
As my mind wandered, I ran through a mental checklist of every person that I would affect if I were no longer on this earth. See, if my release of suffering causes far more suffering, it would be an incredibly impractical move, right? My answer is always and has always been ‘yes’.
And then I asked myself an odd question, “But if you didn’t have all of those people, would you kill yourself then?”
And that’s when the voice showed back up.
“Yes,” it said.
Retelling all of this now feels like telling a spooky ghost story around a campfire. See, that’s how it feels when you’re in an ‘up’. It feels like fiction. But that day, it felt so real. I knew, at that moment, that it was time to go home. I needed to be proactive about my withdrawals, ignore the lies, and get myself to a better state. I finished my work and went home early, I let out all of the tears I could, took a much needed nap, and shown as much kindness to my heart and soul as I could.
Through the “voice,” through the ‘downs’, through all the shit, I’m so grateful that I have at least learned to love myself. I love myself like I do a best friend — I would never allow anything bad happen to that friend, and I won’t allow that for myself either.
Breathing in, I know that I am strong. Breathing out, I know that I can beat this.