ga('send', 'pageview');

About this Blog

MidAge Mom is for women who are parenting in midlife rather than celebrating the empty nest on a beach in Bali . . .

Read more

Archive for the ‘anxiety’ Category

It Could Happen to You

The big lesson from my recent experience with anxiety and depression is that they can strike anyone.

I was perfectly fine before I started to have some physical problems and then severe anxiety and depression almost four years ago. I had had two hip replacements in 2013 – big surgeries – but was recovering nicely and was proud of the progress I was making walking around the golf course.

That summer I travelled to North Carolina twice to drop off and pick up my two girls from camp and went on family trips to Colorado and California. That fall, however, my hands startied to be painful, and I had to get a dictation program called Dragon Dictate for the computer because I couldn’t type.

Then the pain spread and got worse, anxiety and depression hit, and I didn’t travel much again until last summer when, after a round of electroshock or ECT treatments, I went to Colorado with my family. Before that, I spent a lot of time in bed and was hospitalized three times.

Mental Illness Can Be Unpredictable

All of this was the last thing I was expecting. My life was and remains great; I have no reason to be anxious or depressed. I’m happily married, have two wonderful kids who are stable and doing well in school, live in a beautiful old Spanish house and am financially secure with a husband who has tenure.

I have a great nanny/housekeeper who is like family. I even have a good dog. And while my childhood included some challenges, overall I was happy.

When my problems started I was pretty together – the kind of person who is active and has lots of interests. I was in decent shape and went to the gym every day. I had published an award-winning book called  Beyond One: Growing a Family and Getting a Life. I liked working as a a writer. I was sending money every month to help support the driver who had worked for me in Nicaragua.

Who would have imagined that I would end up with pain so severe that I could barely walk, sit or drive and a mental condition so bad that I would end up in the hospital?

Recovery

I’ve been feeling like a new person, or rather my old self, since a neurologist put me Lamotrigine a month ago. A  walking EEG test had found seizure activity in my brain. Lamotrigine is for seizures but is also a mood stabilizer. I still don’t know for sure if the drug is the reason I feel better. And I have no idea why the pain suddenly disappeared last summer.

Mental illness can be mysterious.

The Stigmas

It’s easy to stigmatize people facing emotional challenges like depression and anxiety, to believe that they’ve done something wrong. But while I wasn’t perfect when my problems began,, for the most part I was doing things right.

In addition, a lot of people who deal with depression have been doing so for years making it easy to think that if you’ve got a good emotional track record you’re immune. For instance, Scott Stossel, author of the excellent book, My Age of Anxiety, has had psychological problems since he was a child.

Other people go through tough times, suffering the loss of a spouse or a close relative or a divorce, making their emotional problems seem predictable. If you’re not facing such challenges you feel pretty safe. I certainly did.

But the lesson of my experience is that life can take you by surprise and throw you a curve ball.

We need to treat mental illness like any other disease and recognize that, like cancer, it can strike anyone at any time.

I find it all hard to talk about. I have the same preconceptions and prejudices about mental illness that others have. At times I feel like my experience marks me as a weak person.

But I know better and keep putting it out there so other people can realize the truth too.

The bottom line is that every day you feel stable and every moment you are sane is a gift. Because you never know what is going to happen next.

***

Do you have preconceptions about mental illness? Share by commenting below! Or contact me at: jenniferbhull@gmail.com. I would love to hear from you.

***

Don’t miss a post! Receive MidAge Mom free by email or RSS feed. Subscribe Here. And visit my website to receive advice, insights and announcements by subscribing to my free newsletter.

***

                                                                                      Photo © Giordano Aita

Disclosure: I use some affiliate links. If you click and buy a product, I make a small commission. Thanks for your support!

Share

Rediscovering My Life

I’m rediscovering my life and it feels so good.

For the past four years, I’ve been suffering from depression and severe anxiety. My life has been on hold; it’s often been difficult just to get through the day. My interests during this time have been nonexistent. I’ve barely touched the computer. It has been hard, at times, just to make a decent meal or take a shower. On three occasions I’ve been hospitalized.

The self I’d known had virtually disappeared.

None of the 13 medications from the psychiatrist have helped much. This summer I started getting a bit better, but only after receiving regular electroshock therapy.

Now, however, after a neurological test, they may have found out what is wrong with me. A walking EEG exam revealed seizure activity in my brain that could explain the anxiety I’ve been experiencing. The neurologist put me on a medication called Lamotrigine two weeks ago.

Since then I’ve felt like a new person, or rather, like a person I used to know. After four years away from my life, it feels like I’m discovering it for the first time.

The biggest revelation has been the computer. Though I was doing the basics, like checking email, and taught myself how to blog again this fall, I’d forgotten how to work every other program on my computer. In the last two weeks I’ve used Youtube and Google to relearn programs I haven’t used in years, including Omnifocus, Evernote, Lightroom, Feedly, Twitter, Bitly, Itunes and Devonthink Pro Office. In many cases it’s been like learning them for the first time. I’ve had to reset almost all of my passwords. But it’s felt like Christmas.

I’m also rediscovering our house, where piles of stuff have accumulated during my illness. I cleaned out and threw away scores of old vitamins the other day as well as 11 vials of old medications. Today I purged a pile in the living room with my husband. It was interesting just to see what was in it. And I have only just begun to fight as far as the house goes. Bags of stuff await Goodwill with more to come once I finish the cleanout and my husband catches up with me. (Good luck, Bill.)

I’m also reconnecting with my writing life. I rejoined two writers organizations and have found an entire book on the computer that I’d been writing when I got sick, I don’t know if I’ll finish the book, but at the least it will be interesting to read it and see what’s there. (It’s a first person account of late motherhood but I’m not sure how the last four years fit in.)

I’ve found clothes, shoes and jewelry I’d forgotten I had and have taken a few pieces of the later to be repaired. They’ve been sitting in the closet, broken, for years. I”ve also started listening to podcasts and music again.

I got a new camera, the Nikon D750, and spent last weekend reading the manual. Photography was a big part of my life before I got sick, but I haven’t had any interest in it since. I found a photo processing program in my computer called Lightroom. I don’t have the faintest idea anymore how to work it so I’ve reread a Lightroom book I found on my shelf that I hadn’t opened in years. Yesterday I discovered that I have another book on Lightroom, which was news to me, and which I may reread too.

It’s like starting over or coming out of a time tunnel. Things that are actually quite old, like the versions of my computer programs, feel brand new. And I’m so happy to rediscover them that I don’t care that I’m four years behind the rest of the world or where I would have been had I never gotten sick.

It all makes me believe that we’re only as good as our interests. By rediscovering my life I’m finding myself again. It’s like reuniting with a very good friend but even better because it’s me.

I’d forgotten how much I was involved in and how much I loved my life. Yet God knows, I’ve  missed it.

***

Is there part of your life that you’d like to rediscover? Share by commenting below!

***

Don’t miss a post! Receive MidAge Mom free by email or RSS feed. Subscribe Here.

***

                                                                                      Photo © Flynt

Disclosure: I use some affiliate links. If you click and buy a product, I make a small commission. Thanks for your support!

Share

Mad Mother

 

 

 

Almost more than anything, my battle with anxiety and depression the last few years has affected me as a mother.

It’s hard to be there for other people when you can not be there for yourself. While my two daughters have been incredibly supportive and understanding, the cost of my illness has been and continues to be high for our relationships.

In short, on many occasions in the past four years I’ve been a bad mother.

I didn’t visit my older daughter, Isabelle, when she was hospitalized with a kidney infection a few years ago. I also missed her college tour two years ago and her graduation from high school last spring. And I certainly wasn’t there to send her off to college.

I started driving my younger daughter, Jessica, from school to dance this fall after realizing that unless I did I would never see her since she gets home from dance at 9 p.m. and I go to bed at 7:30. When I do pick her up, however, I am often in tears, which can’t be easy for her. And I’ve been known to miss her in The Nutcracker.

My father had problems with depression and alcoholism so I know what it’s like to have a troubled parent. It’s hard. My illness has been difficult for both of my daughters but perhaps especially for the oldest, who found me lying on the floor last summer with a cut on my head that required stitches. Isabelle also couldn’t have felt great when, suddenly feeling better, I attended her younger sister’s ballet recital a week after missing her graduation.

When I haven’t been there emotionally for my daughters my husband has had to fill the gap. It has made the three of them closer than they probably would be otherwise. But that doesn’t make up for the guilt and loss I feel for missing years of their lives. There is much about them – from the names of their friends to that of their teachers – that I don’t know and would know if I were better. And just because they are older now, in college and high school, doesn’t mean they don’t need me.

I certainly never imagined it would be like this when I wrote the book Beyond One: Growing a Family and Getting a Life when they were younger and I was so involved in their lives.

For four years, the household has also been missing its mommy manager, leaving family life a bit disorganized. Bill says that with me out of commission the house is falling apart; repairs have gone undone, bags of stuff await Goodwill and the house is way overdue for a general purge.

Despite it all, though, along with my husband, my daughters have been my biggest cheerleaders, urging me on. I have a card on my desk from them that says, “Keep going Mom! We love you! Izzy and Jessy.” Along with their support, it helps keep me from giving up. My younger daughter is particularly good at reminding me to take things one day at a time and although she doesn’t always find me in great condition, the older one keeps those calls from college coming. I am not like some sick people who find themselves ill and alone.

My illness has also made the good times that we do have together all the more special. I’ll never forget what fun I had shopping and eating out with Isabelle in San Francisco a few months ago. And I think both Jessica and I find the times when I am well and pick her up at school special.

In any case, both girls seem to understand that I am doing the best that I can. I answer the phone even when I’m in bad shape when my older daughter calls from college, and I try to ask about the younger one’s day even when I pick her up from school in tears. I’m the best mother I can be right now.

So thank you Isabelle and Jessica for all your understanding. You constantly remind me how much I have to live for. I’d be a lot worse off without you.

***

Am I a bad mother? Share by commenting below!

***

Don’t miss a post! Receive MidAge Mom free by email or RSS feed. Subscribe Here.

***

                                                                                      Photo © Qqibb

Disclosure: I use some affiliate links. If you click and buy a product, I make a small commission. Thanks for your support!

Share