mental health and medicine
mental health and medicine
When Oak was born in July, I knew that I wanted to be proactive about my mental health care. I have struggled with anxiety and depression since my early teenage years. I experienced trauma in my early adulthood that I am still healing from today. Knowing these facts about myself, knowing that I may not be able to cope to the best of my ability as my hormones shifted postpartum and I adjusted to life with three children, I had a strong desire to pull in all the support I could find.
Though I had one previous experience taking an SSRI in 2012 and found it to be more detrimental than helpful, I opened my mind to the possibility that there might be a biochemical component to my mental illness that could be alleviated by medication. I visited a psychiatrist this past October. He recommended a mood stabilizer after meeting with me. He suggested that I experience symptoms of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and bipolar ii. Bipolar ii is a diagnosis that I encourage women to not get too caught in their heads about should they receive it. It is my understanding that the unique workings of the female brain and body could lead almost any woman to a bipolar ii or borderline personality disorder diagnosis at some point in her life.
At our first meeting, the psychiatrist administered a genetic test that analyzed how my genes affect my responses to psychotropic medications commonly prescribed to treat mental and behavioral health conditions. Most of these medications lit up bright red for me, indicating that there could be a significant gene interaction if I take them. I already knew that I am someone who is very sensitive to substances, but this test was validating for me.
I am hyper aware of my mind, body, and spirit. I know the tools that work for me, but I wanted to see if medication might be a valuable resource for me to have in my arsenal. Over the past few months of seeing a psychiatrist and taking a mood stabilizer, I learned that psychotropic medication is not the answer for me. I wanted to share this for others who may be ultra-sensitive to these medications and genetically predisposed to not interact well with them. I know many people who have had wild success with these medications and if you’re one of those people, that’s awesome. We are all different and should feel empowered in doing what works for us when we find it.
here’s what works for me:
-A great therapist. I have seen many over the years, but only recently found my therapist soulmate. She makes me feel seen, heard and acknowledged. She is on my team. She is a true partner in my healing. Don’t get deterred if you haven’t found the right fit yet. Trust that someone is out there who will understand you and help you feel as though your exchanges with them are completely worthwhile.
-Self-care practices that set you on fire! For me, this is alone time, getting out in nature, taking photographs, writing, looking at the moon, sipping tea, reading books, and taking baths.
-Strong supports. I feel blessed beyond belief to have an extremely supportive community around me. My larger family: My mom, dad, brother, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. My best friends, many of whom I’ve known since childhood. My soulmate, husband, best friend, co-parent, and partner in life. My children. The local Waldorf community. Friends online, who read my words and share their stories. I can call on any of these supports whenever I need. These people help me feel less alone.
-A morning routine. I rise before the sun, before my little birds, to schedule my days, write a gratitude list, and track my moods in my bullet journal (a new practice of mine that is completely changing my life). Then, I write three stream-of-consciousness pages in a composition notebook (this is the morning page practice recommended in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way; I’ve been doing this almost every morning since 2015 and it is a game changer for me).
-Mind/body love. Meditation, yoga, long distance running, biking, drinking water, eating nourishing protein-rich foods, dancing, singing, playing, laughing, and breathing.