Surprised to hear from me? It’s been quite the whirlwind for me this year! But I just started my third round of TMS, so of course, I want to give you all the details.
As I think I mentioned at the end of last year, I met a man who seemed to be pretty incredible. I’d seen him around, so to speak, for a few years, but we didn’t really say much to each other except hi. I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, and timing does as well. Daren is my landlords son, and I’ve lived here since November of 2013. I was sick over the summer last year, and he showed up on my doorstep to do things like take out my trash and wash my car. I was at my physical worst – matted/dirty hair, coughing up blood, no voice……. bottom line is, we connected. We went out for the first time on August 26th, (and no, it was NOT a date!!), and we’ve been together ever since. I think that we came together last summer because we were both at a place where we could “see” and appreciate each other. He’s amazing, which you will hear more about.
So, I had some scary medical issues at the beginning of the year. It was a throw back to my thoracic outlet syndrome/blood clot/cervical rib odyssey back in 2007. After months of many doctors, treatments, and a hospital stay, it was coming down to trying to get into pain management and/or physical therapy. Then it happened………
On August 18th, Daren was in a horrifying accident that should have killed him. He’s raced super cross bikes since he was a kid, broken many bones, has plates/rods/bolts everywhere in his body, and it never phased him. On that day, he was on a “Mule” (which is basically a 4×4 golfcart), and in a freak accident he was catapulted off a cliff, over 100 feet. The horror of that night is not being able to find him, seeing the fire department, ambulances, and police – and nobody telling me if he was dead of alive. For hours.
Bottom line is he was life-flighted, dangling from a helicopter to a trauma hospital. 6 major surgeries in 16 days. He had his right leg amputated below the knee (and yes, they tried to save it), broke his right arm, and was banged up bad – obviously. His face is still perfect – not a mark on him, not even a chipped tooth. But this was the accident that had him seeing the reality that your life can change in an instant.
32 days in the hospital, 12 days in acute rehab. He had to use a walker with an arm rest because he couldn’t use his right arm (broken wrist). I’ve known since day one that he’s incredibly strong, and I’ve called him my hero for quite a while, but seeing his physical and mental strength through this was awe inspiring.
Two weeks after the accident, my problems with my neck/shoulder forced me to take time off work. I was mentally and physically exhausted from the accident, daily trips to the hospital, worry, anxiety…….you name it. I woke up one morning and couldn’t move – and I still couldn’t get into pain management or physical therapy for a month. My psychiatrist took me out of work because I was cracking. I thought it was just physical, with the added stress of the accident. For the first time EVER – my physical body gave out before my mental health. Shocking!
And – wait for it – 10 days after the accident WE GOT MARRIED!!! Yep. I got married! Who saw that coming?!?!? NOT ME!! We got married in the hospital, and without giving you even more to read, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we were made for each other. And every single minute of every day, I know it deeper in my sole.
So, Daren came home just before Memorial Day. I had started physical therapy, went back to work, and life was returning to what our new normal would be. Things are good. Then, about two weeks ago I noticed something. I was getting more and more tired, and irritable. My patience level was below tolerable, I was crawling out of my skin, having trouble concentrating, my head wouldn’t never shut up!! Endless amounts of looping – every minute of every day – about the most ridiculous things. And then it hit me………….. it’s back.
When I started my Round 2 of TMS, I thought I was going to treat my anxiety. I learned through that experience that my anxiety is what presents itself FIRST – it IS my depression! The anxiety symptoms are my body and mind telling me that I’m not where I should be – and if I don’t handle it now – it will take me down to a depressive episode. Needless to say, I wasn’t going to let that happen.
So, I got in touch with my wonderful friend/first TMS tech Tracy, and told her what was going on. So Cal TMS has opened a lot of new offices, and there’s one right by my office. Within 2 days of coming to grips with the fact that I needed to get back on track, the wheels were in motion. I started my third TMS round last Tuesday, June 26th.
I remember the very first time I went to TMS I was told that most patients go up and down with feelings, etc., in the beginning. I never did that – neither round. I went steadily up and up. This time, I noticed within the first 24 hours that I was going up and down. Nothing bad, at all. But I would be okay one minute, and then all of a sudden I’d be overly emotional, or edgy, and have no idea why. But it went away pretty quick. The fact that I was already noticing it “went away fast” shows that TMS had already lessened the feelings I was having constantly prior to starting. This weekend I was at a family celebration, and my social anxiety kicked in. Too many people, too much noise – just basically uncomfortable in my own skin. That night I even started crying and having feelings of “Why did this man marry me? I’m too much for anyone to handle”. Which, isn’t true. Daren has accepted me 100% for who I am, even at my worst – since day one. But that doesn’t mean my depression doesn’t try to tell me the exact opposite. Then, later that night – I was fine!
Today, 5th day of treatment – I felt pretty good! Still tired in the morning, but got through the work day without dread, made it through traffic without wanting to pop a Xanax, and even got my internet connected on my computer again without thinking I might throw something through the window. And, NOT TIRED!!!
I love that I know what I have to do to keep myself on track. If it wasn’t for TMS, I still swear I wouldn’t be here today. The year 2015 would have been it for me. And yet, I’m here, living a great life, and still dealing with Chronic Major Depressive Disorder every day. People have other diseases that have to be managed every day – and mental illness is no different.
My mission in all of this has ALWAYS been to spread the word, share my story in case someone else can relate and know they aren’t alone, and to BREAK THE STIGMA. It’s the same now, and just as strong – if not stronger. Do not be ashamed of any illness you have – especially if it’s not “visible” like some others may be. We are all different, and most of us have illnesses we have to manage. Mental illness is no different, and it is NOTHING to be ashamed of. Would you be ashamed for having diabetes? Heart disease? Or getting cancer? NO – you wouldn’t. So why be ashamed of something that your brain isn’t doing? People aren’t ashamed of their heart not working right, or their liver, kidneys……… WE ARE NO DIFFERENT!!
I’m doing TMS again because I KNOW it works! I know it gave me a life I had never imagined existed before. And if I have to go for a “recharge” every year or so, I’m more than okay with that. It’s not chemo every day. It’s not a heart or liver transplant – it’s a painless treatment that I only need once a year or so – to LIVE. So you better believe I’m going to be the first one in the chair when I need it.
I still have a lot going on – new marriage, work, adjusting to a new-ish lifestyle, so I’m not going to be writing every day. I will promise to write every week to give you all an update. I don’t know who’s reading, or who I may reach – but that doesn’t matter. All I know is if I don’t share my story – my truth – then I’m not doing my part. Maybe my story does reach one person, somehow, and they know they aren’t alone. They may discover that someone else has felt how they do – and they survived. Thrived even. I have to tell my story – because you never know who might be listening.
Be well friends. Watch over your loved ones. Pay attention. Listen, look, and for God’s sake – TALK ABOUT MENTAL ILLNESS! It is all of our responsibility to BREAK THE STIGMA.
And, KEEP FIGHTING!