Saturday, May 1, 2010

And Speaking of "Invisible" Illness . . .

Today is May 2nd and yesterday was the start of Mental Health Month. I'd like to get the word out for people to understand that mental illness does not mean "crazy". I've dealt with mental health issues in my family, then my husband, and then myself.

My mom is a daughter of an abusive alcoholic and has had anxiety, agoraphobia, depression off and on since I can remember. She hid it well, but I do remember medications she's taken, visits to the ER thinking she had cancer (her mother was sick at the time). She stopped taking those medications and is trying to go with just over the counter and supplements.

My husband Rich served in Vietnam, but wasn't diagnosed with PTSD until about 30 years later. Post traumatic Stress Disorder is a common anxiety disorder that develops after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened.

When I met Rich I didn't realize he had a heavy drinking problem or what some people would call "self-medicating". He didn't know what was wrong with him so he drank to quiet the hidden memories of Vietnam. He was in the Navy at the time and went for 6 weeks to Navy rehab. He was ok for a while, until he went through Desert Storm. He came back and things weren't the same with us. He got really depressed, angry at little things. He checked himself into the Naval Hospital in San Diego.

After leaving the Navy we moved from San Diego to Salem. We went through 10 years of counseling, Rich being misdiagnosed with clinical depression, bipolar disorder with medications to go with each disorder. He checked himself into the mental hospital because he wanted to commit suicide. That was really scary because we had several guns in the house. I hid the guns and told him he needed to sell them, and he did.

He went to the VA center here in Salem and talked to a counselor there, who also was a Vietnam veteran. It finally started making sense to Rich - he had PTSD from Vietnam. I learned all I could from the Internet, talking to other veterans wives online. He's had hypnosis from another counselor that specializes in PTSD, and now Rich talks about how he's feeling, the nightmares he's had for years. He can talk about things more often now, but we still have our times dealing with his depression.

I've dealt with anxiety and depression when I was stressed about Rich's situation, trying to work a stressful job, and raising our daughter Amy. I felt like I was walking on eggshells with Rich because I didn't know from one minute to the next what kind of mood he would be in. I know my daughter dealt with her own feelings and acted out as a teenager - drinking, taking drugs, ditching school. I felt very guilty that I didn't do enough when she was a teen, but she says she's forgiven me. I hope by talking to her she'll be able to find the tools to cope with depression and anxiety, which she has also.

At one point I hoped that I wouldn't have to take antidepressants any more. I was off of them for a while until I had my first ever physical about 5 years ago. I was told through my blood tests I had Hepatitis C. To me it was just a name of a disease - I didn't know what it was, how you get it, etc. Of course I hit the Internet again, talked to others that had Hep C and others going through different stages of liver disease. I was told before and during treatment for it I needed to take antidepressants since the medication gave you suicidal thoughts. I was able to get off them after I had treatment lasting 6 months. About 6 months later I sprained my ankle badly and a little after that I had really bad neck and back pain and I was tired all the time. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia with poly arthritis. I didn't get on antidepressants even though I was told when you have a chronic illness there is depression. A short time later I started getting really angry about little things. I went to the doctor for antidepressants and have been on them ever since.

My next post will be part of the Chronic Babes Blog Carnival! I missed the last one due to computer problems but this one I'm in it YAY!

Here are some links related to mental health:

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