I want to thank you for your outpouring of support and kindness in response to my post that I would be keeping parts of my story to myself because of a fear that by being so honest about where I am in my medication journey, I was leading others to make irresponsible and dangerous choices.
All of your comments on here, as well as the personal emails and posts on my Facebook page really touched my heart. Special thanks to the Bipolar First blog for her touching tribute, to my very wise mentor Mike Leach who took an hour away from his important job of caretaking for his wife to help me process my hurt and what I should do next, and to my psychiatrist who added a very important perspective, as well.
As a highly sensitive person, I take everything to heart, so of course my feelings get hurt when I read negative comments. However, the much bigger issue here was not my feelings. It was about my responsibility as a mental health blogger to lead people to better health as best as I can. When I get messages that my posts are doing the very opposite of my mission, that is what causes me to question if by being so transparent with my mental health journey, if I’m being irresponsible. I have talked to other mental health bloggers and authors who keep their medication status to themselves, as well as some of their opinions about psychiatry, for fear of having people chuck the meds and doing reckless things, possibly ending their lives. I can appreciate why they do that and respect that decision.
I sometimes forget that people who read me are in extremely vulnerable places; I forget the potential damage and impact one article can make if you read it at the wrong time.
For example, I remember two hours before my consultation at Johns Hopkins when a family member handed me the March issue of Oprah Magazine and told me to read the article “Valley of the Dulls: Taking Antidepressants.” A fierce critic of western medicine, my fellow family member insisted I read it before “all those doctors pump me full of meds.” When I leafed through the pages on the way to the consultation, I began to shake. The author’s words confirmed every fear I had about trusting psychiatrists and taking antidepressants. I was so close to asking my husband to turn the car around. Because of the impact of that one article, I almost gave up and interrupted a treatment plan that led to health.
An equally painful moment happened in January of 2014, when my husband confronted me and told me that my psychiatric strategy—trying drug after drug–was obviously not working because after five years I was still very depressed, fighting death thoughts. He implored me to watch a YouTube video of Natasha Campbell-McBride, MD about how the root cause of depression could lie in the gut and why psychiatry fails to help so many people. Again, I started to shake. We got into a terrible fight where I told him that I didn’t need any more anti-medication people in my life. And with the same crack in his voice as when he begged me to go to Johns Hopkins Mood Disorders Clinic for a consultation—when he found me in fetal position in our bedroom closet–he pleaded me to open my mind, if only a sliver, to begin to see other possibilities for treatment that would allow for a better life for us.
That was the beginning of my new health adventure.
I have said this many times. I believe my psychiatrist saved my life in March of 2006. I am glad I chucked the O Magazine article and all of that author’s advice and headed to the consultation.
However, my husband saved my life in 2014. His confrontation is the reason why I have been without death thoughts for a year now, something I thought would never ever be possible. And I suppose I want very much to give you that gift. If I can in any way lessen your suffering by sharing what I know, I want to do that.
So you can understand my conundrum.
It’s about timing, whether or not something is useful or destructive.
And I can’t control timing.
The truth is that right now I’m at a very exciting but uncharted place with my mental health journey. I am questioning things about my illness that I have believed for 25 years, like the entire Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, and am shifting my entire health vision. Recently I walked through a corn maze with my daughter. It’s like that. As I experiment with different paths to health, I often look up and there is nothing but corn. Therefore I want to be careful about not leading anyone to a dead end along the way. I don’t want to contribute in any way to your pain.
Having read all of your gracious comments, it seems as if 99 percent of you want the truth, so I’m going to continue to tell my story. However, two things need to happen for that to be possible.
On my part, I need to be sure to clarify the difference between my illness and the kind of illness that many of my critics suffer from. While I have suffered from very severe and suicidal depressions, I have not had the kind of illness where I have been psychotic or dangerously manic. My psychiatrist recently made that important distinction when I expressed my desire to taper off some of my meds. Fortunately, she feels that I do not have the kind of illness that is very unlikely to remain in remission without an indefinite use of a mood stabilizer. If I did, she wouldn’t have been so sanguine about the possibility of my being off medication entirely. There are certainly types of illnesses that do require medication for a lifetime. And I also believe that some people don’t have the resources that I do to experiment with all the alternative options that give me the opportunity to wean off meds. As someone pointed out to me recently, if you have $100 a month to spend on food, eliminating the staples of bread and pasta is extremely difficult. Not everyone can afford fresh kale and pineapple smoothies or a class of Bikram yoga.
Therefore, I am going to try to insert more disclaimers along the way and try to be more careful in my language. I thank my critics for calling that to my attention because it is a very important distinction.
The second thing that needs to happen is that you, readers, need to understand that this is only one story. It is my story, not yours. All of us are different. When I talked to my mentor Mike, he told me to visualize all of us in a group therapy session or support group. Each person went around and told his or her story. There were no judgments, just listening. What worked for Sue last week may have failed terribly for Ellen three months ago, and what worked for Fred yesterday may have proven helpful for Frank, as well. We are exchanging ideas, learning from each other. We do this a lot on ProjectBeyondBlue.com and Group Beyond Blue. I’d like to do more of that here.
So my story is just that—my story.
I offer it to you to take what you like and leave the rest.
If it causes you pain in any way, like that O Magazine article did me, then please chuck it. I’m very sorry it wasn’t helpful for you.
I’m going to try to not take things so personally, but I also ask that you respond with kindness whenever possible.
Thanks again for your heartfelt notes.
Bravo!!!!!! Brilliant response, every word of it! God bless you dear Therese!
I just wanted to say thank you for your bravery. I found your website & org at a time in my life when I’m struggling & at an all-time low. Knowing others are successfully fighting makes things a little more bearable and helps give me hope.
Very glad to hear it! I think the support group analogy is perfect. We can all only tell our stories and live our lives. Take what you want and leave the rest! Thanks!
You are one of the most brave people I’ve ever met. I am so glad that you took the time (a lot of time!) to read the comments about how your openness has a positive effect. You took time to think, reached out to others for help and guidance. I appreciate your support and another BRAVO for continuing to share your own personal story! Thank you!!
I also forgot to add that for every one person who takes their life, you’ve had a positive impact on hundreds – hundredS. You are a very loved woman, Therese.
From one Therese to another, thank you for continuing on. Excellent post!
Theresa, what you have just said made me cry. I understand so well the hurt you feel at being critised.The depth of feeling as I am over sensitive myself.
I too have learnt when I have compared my life to other people’s to say” this is my life” Not the one I have chosen but the one I have been given. How I would have liked to have tougher skin. To have been braver at saying no. To not crumple at rejection.
You are being very brave and courageous. Thank you for sharing your story .
Lizzie and as my French friend says: many kisses.
Big Hugs! You sound so good 🙂
I’m glad you will continue to be authentic!
Therese, I’m with Jane, BRAVO INDEED!
I’m so on a different journey now that I needed to get back on meds for the time being, but reading your journey WHEREVER IT TAKES YOU is such a blessing for me because it’s always filled with truth, humility, tender vulnerability, love and…possibilities.
Although I don’t know you personally, you are very dear to my heart and to the hearts of many here. I’m new here, so to speak, but I imagine many people have been here with you through the years of ups and downs.
I am just now reminded of a scene from the movie, “A Knight’s Tale.” William, the star of the movie has been locked up in the stockades. The Prince of England comes to free him because he knows William is innocent, honorable, true, loving. The Prince says to Will, “You’re men love you. If I knew nothing else about you, that would be enough.”
You’re people love you! We love you!
God bless you and your family!
God bless us all!
Every saint was/is controversial, had many self-doubts, at times appeared unsaintly, and bore uncommon burdens as a result. Thank you for all that you do/write/risk/share. Thank you for recommitting to stay true to your passion and mission. We are all vulnerable – few are as dedicated, knowledgeable and articulate as are you.
Pardon my boldness, but knowing your HSP weak spot, and how it can threaten your health, you might consider a way to filter the negative responses – not to ignore them, but to keep them from interfering with your life. (It’s my impression that many performers, artists, and public figures of all kinds do this.)
Peace and blessings to you!
I think that’s a good compromise of inserting the disclaimers rather than stop talking about it all together. I was hoping you would still share some since it is healing to others, in all different ways.
Yesterday’s news of another person taking their life just made me sad, even though I did not know them, but live near them. They kept it quiet and did not reach out, which could have made a difference. I thought of your blog and how we really need to fight to get our voices heard about mental issues more. Brave souls like you help shed light on how we can deal with it and understand it better. Thanks for hanging in there and fighting.
I’m with all above who said Bravo!
We can never underestimate the value of honesty. It allows someone else to receive validation and hope that they too can get well. In looking for support I often find very generic articles that do nothing. Your writing is “spot on” so many times and addresses all the things no one else will discuss. You have access to professionals in the field to shine some light on our situations.
Keep up the good work!
It gladdens my heart to know that my words meant something to you. Thank you.
This post is beautifully said. As usual.
I am so glad that you have processed this whole situation and are coming out on the other side in this way. I really wish this had not happened to you but it also has brought an important issue to the fore.
This has been a wake up call for all of us…writers and readers. About the internet. About blogging. About what we can and can’t control about what we can and can’t help. The limitations we have. The element of risk involved in all of it….the risk inherent in this vulnerable population.
I think most of us would say that the Internet has been life changing and saving in terms of being able to connect with others like us when we may not be able to in “real life”…..because of the nature of our illnesses and the reason we are here reading and writing in the first place.
But it is also a relatively new medium of human connection and there are kinks.
We also happen to be connecting about something that is extremely sensitive, volatile, individual, and sometimes painful.
We need each other and we need the honesty. But we also need to be careful with ourselves.
Like you said, we are not face to face. We are writing words and reading words. And the line between fact and opinions and personal and universal can blur sometimes in the space between.
It may be too easy to forget that the people behind the blogs are just people with keyboards. That what you are reading is opinion and personal experience. Thoughts and ideas. As in a support group.
And that is what we do. We get brave…step up…and start saying things..sharing things..helping other people by exposing our own hurts, ideas, and experiences.
And also like you said, there is only so much we can control as the writers….anyone can read at anytime…..
And if we censor everything then the point and heart of the whole thing is lost……
That true raw something that penetrates people’s hearts and changes their thoughts and relationships to their illness and their journeys….would be lost.
What I will take away most, however, is the outpouring of compassion and support from all of your readers. Once again proving to me that though the online “mental illness” community is just that…online…I am proud to be a part of it because the caring and compassion I have witnessed over and over again.
That was the long version of my comment.
My short version is…..
I read, but rarely comment. Thank you for your honesty. Please always be honest… honesty is the only thing solid in this world. Of course all of us must make our own decisions based on our situations…. really, we are all adults. Anything we do, is not your fault. I have a long line of familial depression in my family and now watch my girls struggle. I want to hear your thoughts on everything you want to share! The whole enchilada! lol I want to hear about your explorations about not using traditional treatment methods. Please, keep sharing. Keep being you.
[…] of you probably know that Therese has a new post up on her site. I want you all to hear some of what she said because I believe it applies to all […]
Oh and one more thing!
You said 99% begged for honesty right?
Now that provides a good bit of evidence of the fact that honesty is what helps people.
Bravo Therese!! I am so glad that through some contemplation and guidance you have decided to continue to share your own story.
I too am an HSP with severe depression, anxiety, and BED…I’ve been told “try this” or “do that” or “if you’re going to be on psych meds you might as well throw out your vibrators and get a lobotomy” nice right? However, shockingly enough I have been able to some how burst through my usual “well, they must know better than me” persona and now realize there is no one way to do ANYTHING.
Personally, I would absolutely LOVE to hear about your newest journey to health that seems to be helping so much! Are you going to write a new book about it? Is it somewhere on your blog? I say this, not because I believe it might too be my panacea, but just to know that someone who has suffered so long and gone through hell for so long has found a path that currently is helping. To me, that just gives me hope that perhaps somewhere out there, I too might finally get some release without having to rob banks in order to pay for it!
Thanks for always being you! <3
Yes Bravo Therese, please keep up your good work! Your courageous honesty, experience, and knowledge is
greatly appreciated and needed- Thank You
Therese, you’re a pioneer … an explorer … a seeker. Being so, and writing, speaking, publishing about your journey opens your experience to the world … and to the multitude of opinions that people have. You constantly inform and educate yourself; you give of what you have learned. There will always be people who disagree … and people who ‘troll’ … and people of more open minds who will read, learn, listen … and make their choices.
What stands out for me is your relentless courage and perseverance in the journey … and your transparency and vulnerability are gifts that are rare. I’m so sorry that you have been subject to attack … and I am sure that there are many, many more people in the world who are standing with you, scouting for wisdom. You’ve been a light on my path, and I thank you.
Blessings on your continued journey, with much love xoxo
Way to go! You are one amazing woman :). Thank you for your beautiful words and your kind loving heart. I truly always enjoy reading your articles. They come from the heart and are inspiring to so many. I’m so very proud of you.
Lots of love, as always. Just want to say I admire you a lot, and I think you have immense strength all the more for having gotten up each time after you fell. Taking falls is inevitable in life I guess, and some falls are far gentler/rougher than others, some people have far more/less falls than others in their lifetime.
As I recently messaged to a dear friend who shares struggles with depression, it’s hard to be broken and build yourself back up multiple times. And what you do goes further to reach out to many people who are struggling, finding it hard to hold on. What you write resonates with us and lets us know we’re not alone, and gives voice and understanding to what we face.
I think you’re really brave too, to share some of the very painful times you’ve been through, and thank you for that.
I hope you aren’t too overwhelmed either with the lots of messages that’ve been sent to you ;p
Stay strong and wonderful 🙂 and
Thank goodness you decided to continue. You give us all hope 😉
YOU ARE AMAZING, AWESOME. YOU HELPED ME BUILD MY RELATIONSHIP WITH MY THERAPIST AND HELPED ME MANAGE MY COMMUNICATION WITH HER TO TELL HER HOW I FEEL. YOU TOTALLY HELPED ME WITH DEATH THOUGHTS. I LOVE YOU THERESE. KEEP YOUR POWER – YOU HAVE WORKED FOR IT – GAINED IT – NOW MAINTAIN IT AND GO FULL SPEED AHEAD. WE LOVE YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!! IAM TILL LIVING AND MY SISTER TOO WHO JUST LEFT THE MENTAL HOSPITAL YESTERDAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I commented on your previous post and now after reading this post I can see how some people, with certain diagnosis may not be able to go off their medications. Nor should they feel bad about staying on them. But for those of us who have had medications stop working. Or in my case, they actually started to make me worse off than before, your story and journey and all the details are so appreciated and important. Important because if you’ve been told you were born with an illness and that medication is the ONLY answer, and then they stop working…. You feel completely hopeless. And you can become suicidal, thinking that now you have no other way out of the pain…. So thank you for sharing and deciding to keep going for those of us that NEED to hear about your journey.
To Vmiller I too am in this position and a previous GP actually said to me there was no hope for me as she had tried everything. I had been on so many medications, read loads of books, acupuncture, yoga, counselling ect seen numerous psychatrists.
I then found a psychatrist who diagnosed anxiety based depression. Meaning the anxiety led to the depression. This gave me a glimmer of hope. I was told it wasn’t my fault and this helped elivate some of my guilt.
So please never give up hope.I am not cured and I don’t sleep which drives me insane but the slither of light I can see means the door is ajar and not all is blackness and fear.
The journey is not comfortable but one worth taking.
This is why I found Therasa article so helpful. One step at a time. Lizzie
I’ve been following you now for a couple of years, I think. I didn’t write to you at the time, but was really sad when I read your recent post that you would stop telling us about certain aspects of your process, though I understood your ‘why’ too.
We live in a world where it’s acceptable to blame someone else when things go wrong. We have created a litigious society that supports this attitude. Though I don’t agree with this, in order to change this attitude and the system supporting it, we need to become more conscious and understand the why of it.
I think the issue of blaming others and giving up our individual responsibility extends beyond mental health concerns and is based not only in our current legal system but in our collective unconscious – basic human fear of facing huge unknowns makes us feel really small and helpless and therefore, we look outside ourselves to a “parent” or “authority” to take care of us (parents, schools, government, “experts”, “authority” etc). If things go wrong, then it must be “their fault.” It is a fear based attitude that does not support wholeness or individual maturity – but because the world really is too big and too difficult and too scary to navigate on our own, many stay stuck at this level of consciousness.
I was glad to see your latest update where you tell us that what you write is simply your story and not the roadmap for anyone else. You are a generous and encouraging soul. I would be very disappointed if you felt you had to stop sharing your unique journey, your heart and your hard earned wisdom. Your story encourages others to find their own way through this very difficult world.
I really do hope you will continue to tell your story the way you need to, from your own individual perspective, for your own process. We need to hear your voice. And I agree, we are all individuals and have unique stories to tell and paths to follow that will be different from each other and we really need to have spaces like you’ve created, to listen to each other without blame and without judgement.
(And maybe a lawyer can write up one of those long winded legal mumbo jumbo disclaimers for you to put in the smallest of unreadable print down at the bottom of your page, just so’s you can CYA and sleep at night – and those of us who value what you write and want to read everything you have to say can just ignore it 🙂 )
We must continue to support sharing and listening. Then brave souls who have the courage to find their unique voice and share their stories, gather collective energy and will surely have a positive impact on our crazy, imperfect world and the future of human consciousness.
I have battled depression and chronic illness my whole life and feel like most people hide behind there persona and don’t tell the truth. It completely frustrates me, but I know they do it out of fear of being too vulnerable.
I really admire and respect you more for being honest. It makes you more real, aces sable, and allows me to feel more safe.
I also feel you will have a greater impact on those who you are trying to help. we know you have been through the trenches as well.
I use to think other people had all the answers because they appeared so confident. Now I know others can help but ultimately we are all unique and on our own journey.
I’ve heard situations where people did not treat there kids with medication or get help
And those kids suffered terribly and some times did harm to others.
I always think of a line from a Joni Mitchell song that goes where some have found there paradise others just come to harm meaning we should not judge others because what
Works for one person may not always work for another.
wE need to be more mindful . I always say this is my truth but it may not be your truth.
Also, as I continue to evolve that may change as well.
pEace, love and continue to help spread hope to others. tHis world desperately needs more people like you on the planet.
Miss T. Dang, You are something! Where I come from, you try and stay on the Bull till you hear the bell. Your words and Heart are appreciated. You have helped me in my walk, as did your book and PBB.
Your ‘yes”s were ‘Yes’….And you’re ‘no’s eh…’No’. Truth and Authentic. How I strive for these also.
I think you had a Great Ride. Thank you for your words.
Yeay!! So happy that you hv decided to continue sharing 😀
Thank you, Mrs. Borchard.
Hi Theresa – I,ve been following you a long time now. Remember when you wrote for the Catholic Review in Md? I do and still read your thoughts when I see them posted. When I was told that my depression was inherited and would have to live with it forever, I was so discouraged, and still am. Your words give me hope to staying in this battle everyday, and the hope that someday will be not so painful. Your words inject a little possibility that can happen. Va.