Psychiatrist and therapy are two words that I used to have negative thoughts about. When I was growing up, I always thought that those two words were associated with people that were “crazy”. Those that read my book understand what my take of these two words were, even in the aftermath of trying to survive the death of my children.
However, after almost two years of fighting all of the physical and mental symptoms I was having, I decided to go see my general doctor because the anxiety attacks and depression was so bad. I was starting to think there was something wrong with me. I remember one of my many visits to my doctor, I was convinced I had a brain tumor, because of the headaches and panic attacks I was having, not to mention the sobbing. He eventually gave in and ordered a brain scan, which of course came back fine. Although I was relieved of this, I still had all of these weird symptoms I was still trying to cope with. He would tell me, “Kelly, you are dealing with grief, depression and anxiety attacks.” I would respond with “it can’t be, I dealt with the grief when my children passed, I grieved then and I know it’s not depression, not me.” The whole time I was telling him this, I was gasping for air because I was sobbing so hard.
This went back and forth for months until finally, after a really bad day, I decided to fill the prescription for Prozac that he gave me a few months prior. I remember taking that first pill and thinking “what the fuck I am doing?” I knew it was slippery slope, but I was desperate and I felt like this was my last option. I was dying, I could see it in my eyes.
During that same time I decided to call the Counselor that my doctor also gave me. I was starting to panic and needed help, now. I was frantic to get in to see someone, desperate actually. When I finally decided to call, I was told it will be a few weeks before they could fit me in. That wasn’t going to work, it had to be NOW. They were able to get me in the next day with a new counselor, which I was fine with, I just needed help. When I got there, I sat down in the chair and when she asked the question “What’s going on?”, I completely fell apart and all of this pain that had been building up for the last 18 months was starting to pour out of me. The Counselor was crying with me and the hour flew by. I could have sat there for days and told my story. When I left the office, I had a since of release, small release, but still a release that gave me some breathing room. I continued on with “talk therapy” for almost two years after that. Starting out once a week and then moving into every couple of weeks until I felt like I had said everything I had to say.
However, the medication therapy was not going so well, I was still having anxiety attacks and in fact, they seemed to be getting worse. I kept telling my general doctor about this and he would increase the dosage, which made it worse. This went on for several months until I was sitting with a friend who used to be a psychiatric nurse. I was telling him about my experience with the medication and he asked me if I was going to a Psychiatrist or my general doctor for the medication. I responded “my general doctor, I really don’t want to go see a Psychiatrist.” He then said something that opened my eyes, he said, “If you have a heart problem you go see a heart doctor, right? So if you have a head problem, you should go see a head doctor.” Made a lot of sense to me so I made an appointment to see a Psychiatrist that my Counselor (talk therapist) gave me.
During my first visit with her, she quickly said I was having side effects with the Prozac and gradually switched me to a new medication over a few weeks. Within 6 weeks, I felt like a new person, I was still grieving, but it became more manageable and it allowed me to function again. The one thing I appreciated about the Psychiatrist I went to is the fact she wasn’t all about prescribing a pill, she said medication is only part of the equation. She said you need to participate in talk therapy, spiritual therapy (pray or meditation), support groups, diet and physical activity. I started to implement all of these things into my life and they all worked together. I don’t think just one of them would have worked, but all of them implemented at one time helped me tremendously.
I have always hated taking medication, still do, but I still take a very low dose of an antidepressant. I gave up the anxiety meds since I no longer have panic attacks. My therapy today consists of spending time with my wife, my dog Buddy, biking, running, gardening (new this year but loving it, see photo above from my garden), culinary, projects around the house and anything else that brings me enjoyment. I was recently on a trip to Colorado and decided to paraglide off the side of a mountain and it was an unbelievable experience. (Click here to watch the video). The old me would not have done this out of fear.
The transition to my new forms of therapy didn’t happen overnight, it happened gradually as I was healing from the deep wounds inflicted by the death of my two children. I started to look at life differently, I started to take it in. I decided to live life as simply as possible (still working on this). I don’t rush through my day any more, work is not my priority, making money is not my priority, chasing material possessions is not my priority. My priority is taking in the moment, my relationship with my wife, my friendship with my dog, helping others when I can and my overall health. I still have moments of sadness, they will always be there, but I now know they do not last forever.
I was in the car with a couple of co-workers a few weeks back and I made a comment about all of the wildflowers that were growing in the fields on both side of the road. I asked them if they ever take the time to notice them. One of the guys says “I never notice them, but I notice that you do”. I smiled and thought to myself how much I loved the fact others notice the new me. I truly do take time to “smell the roses”. I notice the beauty and innocence in animals I never noticed before. I now see pain in others I never used to pay attention to. I do carry a since of peace I haven’t had since I was a child.
I want every grieving parent to know they shouldn’t be afraid of therapy, any and all kinds of it. Keep your mind open and accept the help that is out there. Some forms will work for you while other may not. I let my pride get in the way, which almost cost me my life. Seek the help you need, this is about you surviving this nightmare.
Tell me about your experiences with “therapy”?