Note – This post discusses therapy and medicine as part of my mental health story from 2018 to 2020 and may trigger unwanted thoughts or emotions in those that have suffered traumas. This post is part of a story told chronologically.
I saw my primary care doctor in early March 2019, and she prescribed me an anti-depressant. The following day, I met friends at a coffee shop. After sharing some of their experiences, they gave me a book and recommended a psychiatrist. They also asked if I was depressed. I don’t know, I told them. But the depression diagnosis made sense. Maybe that’s what happens to a person after sleeping only three hours a night for six months.
My doctor recommended exercise, but I had neither the willpower nor the energy to move. My body had been drained of air and replaced with something heavy. I was so tightly wound that whatever filled my body—fear, anger, bitterness—leaked from my pores and fell to my feet. When I walked, nearly everything passed by in slow-motion, and my mind questioned the manner of each step.
At best, my mind was fluffy. I forgot who I was and where I was at times. I became dizzy and grasped for everyday words, as I struggled to string fluid sentences together, catatonic, as though under endless anesthesia. It wasn’t like being drunk. Rather, I was fatigued and perpetually jet-lagged. When people spoke to me, it hurt my brain to pay attention. I stared with eyes glazed over. Caffeine didn’t shake me loose from this fuzzy state of mind. Whereas coffee normally buzzed me for a bit, now the crash lasted longer than the temporary high.
I stopped drinking caffeine once learning that it interfered with the optimal success of anti-depressants. A few weeks after being on the anti-depressant, I noticed that benign thoughts, thoughts about The Office, for example, or thoughts about my next meal, suddenly stopped mid-thought. The train of thought derailed, and I imagined neurons misfiring. This continued into early April until the anti-depressant started working. Unfortunately, the anti-depressant didn’t stop the flood of homicidal thoughts.
I speculated that OCD contributed to my hyper-focus on unwanted, intrusive thoughts. I recalled that doctors had officially diagnosed OCD during my four months of in-residence treatment at Cincinnati Children’s mental and behavioral hospital in 1993. Maybe that was an option, I thought, to admit myself to a mental hospital. I rejected the idea. Instead, I hoped that therapy and medicine would stop the incessant pounding of homicidal thoughts.
I urgently scheduled appointments with a therapist provided from work, a therapist provided from church, and the psychiatrist friends recommended. While I anxiously waited for appointments, I asked many to pray for me, including two older mentors of mine. I struggled to control my panic at work one day, so I texted these men, asking them to pray for me. I left my desk and went to a conference room, where I shut the door and called them. Their prayers gave me the strength to carry on that day.
Unwanted thoughts didn’t normally consume my mind while in the office. At night, however, bad thoughts intruded once again. I didn’t like taking Ambien to numb my mind, and after several days of using it, I stopped. Herbal teas and melatonin supplements provided some relaxation, but they didn’t prevent the occasional night terror or daily rising after three hours of sleep. Rather than blocking thoughts, the tea damned my kidneys with mineral deposits. I drank too many teas without enough water. Consequently, this caused me to painfully pass a few kidney stones.
I desperately wanted to stop the thoughts, and I reasoned that better sleep would help. The twenty-minute nap I took on my living floor after I got home from work each day was like a sliver of sunlight peeking through a cloud on an overcast day in a winter season that never ended. I wished to remain in that restful sleep for many hours. Despite this desire, I woke when my phone alarm rang. I didn’t want to disrupt my circadian rhythm more so than it probably was already.
The psychiatrist prescribed a drug to help me sleep longer and deeper. Since it began to work within thirty minutes, I couldn’t drive after taking it. Because it lasted in my system for fifteen hours, I took it earlier in the evening so I could work some of the next morning without a huge cloud fogging my mind. The drug improved my sleep slightly. Rather than waking up after three hours, I rose fully alert after four hours.
The frustration I vented once awake likely didn’t help. Since the nightmare in October 2018, a force was pushing me forward, always agitating, and always urging me to speed up and do things recklessly. I complained in bed. I cursed God. I tried to pray, but voices mocked me for the pathetic attempts. No matter what I did or didn’t do, I couldn’t return to sleep. I knew I had to slow down, but I found it difficult to resist this spirit of agitation that pushed me at faster rates.
Discussing the thoughts during therapy halted the spirit, as I talked spiritual warfare with the Christian therapist and faulty thinking styles with the secular therapist. However, as soon as I left a therapy session, the thoughts returned. I prayed often, but perhaps I wasn’t praying correctly, or as deeply as I should, I thought. Was my faith weak? I prayed to trust God more deeply.
I hoped therapy and medicine would heal my mind, but I knew it would take time. Finding the correct medicine and dialing in the correct dosage would take time. Unraveling the layers in therapy would take time. Time, time, time. I prayed for more patience. In addition to therapy, and medicine, I sought alternative methods of healing, hoping they would help. I’ll share more details in next week’s post.