Saturday, January 1, 2011

Failing Forward

I have been thinking for a number of weeks now about when the right time to blog about what has been happening over the last few months. I hadn't felt that I was ready or had completely processed what I needed to, until today. So today I let you in to what has been my own personal nightmare of late.

As you would know reading my earlier posts that I have had a decent struggle with Post-natal depression over the last 8 months or so. But about earlier November I had a bit crash with my depression. I felt like I was right back to square one. All the hard work I had put in felt like it disappeared overnight. One morning I woke up and the world was just black again. The difference is this time there was no slow progression through blue to grey to black, everything was just suddenly dark.

I saw my psychiatrist and she agreed that I wasn't in a good mental place and increased my venlafaxine from 75m/g to 150m/g as she said I was on a low dose and 150m/g was a more therapeutic dose. But what happened wasn't me getting any better, I just got more and more disconnected from the world around me. As you would see I stopped blogging, and almost reading other blogs altogether.

I became a robot in our home. I could achieve the tasks I needed to but there was no 'me' behind any of it. I couldn't care less whether I saw anyone or spoke to anyone. It got to the point where I could see the hurt my numbness was causing, especially the hubby and children, but the meds had me in this point where I could feel the pain. I shrugged it off as their problem and one I couldn't give two hoots about. But at the same time I knew something wasn't right with me and I found myself in that place where it just seemed the best answer was to cease existing. I knew it would hurt my family but I believed that I was already doing so much emotional damage that what did it matter. I was blessed to have a God who put the right people in the right places at the right times.

The most amazing thing was through all the lies that were being whispered in my ear I had a God who was prepared to keep shouting at me, even if it was the same thing over and over again. My God loved me enough that He was going to keep following me down the same road time and time again.

After about 3 weeks on the increased dose I really felt God say that He was my healer and that He was strong enough. It didn't matter where I was at or that the doctors were saying at least 18 months of meds. My God was big enough. So I talked it over with the hubby  and then with our church eldership. I knew that if I was going to get off my meds I needed spiritual back up because I was about to declare war on all the lies that have held me in bondage -  for what I am now realising it about 14 years. 

I had been referred to a blog to read to see if I could find something that would give me hope. It was Princess Warrior Lessons. Here I found hope that my depression was beatable. I found nuggets of gold that my God was big enough and strong enough for me to not only survive this episode of my life, but that He would also turn it around for His glory. I learned to see this time as my working space. A time where God was challenging me not only on being closer to Him but actually allowing Him to have full reign in this messy, messy place, which has been my life for far too long.

The one thing that I told myself was that I needed more time on my meds to get prepared and to put things in place before I looked at coming off them. Princess Warrior had a old post I'm ok....... really where she wrote about her tears not being wasted. That the fruit she would see was her descendants free from depression and the chain broken in her family. And the one thing I held onto was a statement she made - 'the depression stops with me. It goes no further.' God really used this to speak to me. I was no longer fighting this battle of depression for me. It wasn't about me not having to deal with it anymore. It was about me coming to the place where I declared spiritual war. It was about my children and my grandchildren and all my descendants to come, to never ever be in this place where I am. It was time for the spiritual bondage of depression to be broken once and for all from my family line. I am a third generation (that I know of) dealing with mental illness. It has had a serious hold on my family and made a serious mess of a lot of people's lives. God really showed me that I needed to make the stand that this wasn't going any further.

After four weeks on the increased dose my psychiatrist was able to see things were worse not better. She made the call to slowly wean me off the venlafaxine and start a new anti-depressant mirtazapine. The first night I took it I felt like I had been sedated. I couldn't function the next day. The second night I took it was worse. I had out of this world dreams, I could tell you about the colors of them, what they smelled like and tasted like. I physically couldn't get out of bed until 11am and when I did I was tripping. All I wanted to do was eat, then I had a shower and the water felt different. I was as high as a kite! Talking to other people they have likened the experience to LSD. It was at this point that I did some research on the new meds and found - thanks to Wikipedia - that Mirtazapine has also occasionally been reported to cause mild hallucinogenic effects in some patients, including mental imagery, auditory and visual hallucinations. Most of these side effects are generally mild and become less prominent over time. My immediate thought was what was this medication going to do to my brain that the hallucinations would lessen. What parts was it going to kill for it to no longer effect me like this?

 It was at this point that I made the decision that there was no more chances with meds. Now was the time to come off and fight this battle - not in flesh but in spirit. Yes my flesh was going to feel it hard but ultimately this was going to be a battle for my life and the lives of generations to come.

I also started to understand why the medications weren't working as all they did was suppress my personality, they did nothing for the spiritual battle that was being fought for my life. So with the guidance of our elders and my husband in agreement I went to my psychiatrist with a plan. I would continue to decrease my venlafaxine until I was completely off them and I would not be taking the mirtazapine either. I would take a good omega 3, and also see the health shop for other things that would support my mental health without clouding my mind. I would continue with my psychologist to work on strategies to deal with my moods. But most of all that I had a strong network of people supporting me who understood what I had been going through and were prepared to be there for what was to come. My psychiatrist couldn't see a reason not to go ahead with this plan. In-fact she was very supportive (quite clearly God had paved the way). She was in such agreement that she talked to me about her research into alternative therapy and her support for it. She agreed to see me a month after I had finished my meds, where usually protocol is to discharge as you are no longer being medicated by them.

As I decreased the dose I got quite severe tremors as the medication left my body. As it got to the last week of pills I was still focused on my goal of being medication free but it was starting to get harder. I got sick with a head cold with major sinus headaches. The kids got viruses and things were just ugly in our house. But I reminded myself we had taken a spiritual stand and we were being attacked. I had experienced strange dizzy feelings like I was about to pass out all the time in the last few days of pills. But  I wasn't prepared for what was to come.

Saturday 18th December was my first day medication free and it went from bad to worse very, very quickly. I was shaking and feeling physically sick, my head was spinning, I had massive headaches, I felt  like I was going to fall over, my concentration was completely shot. But the worst part was my temper. Things could be going along fine and then something would happen or someone would say something and I would just see red. I felt like I wanted to throw the kids through the window or at the wall. I just couldn't explain where it came from. I was just so so angry and I felt it to my very core.

Sunday I went to church and when people tried to speak to me I had to hold back tears. I was an emotional mess. I sat there wondering who's bright idea it had been to stop the meds as it was so much worse not on them. It was at this point wikipedia came in handy again. I found that venlafaxine was classed as one of the worse under SSRI discontinuation syndrome. Finally I had some answers to what my body was going through, I just couldn't understand why nobody had told me this? I didn't feel capable to look after myself, let alone three children.  It was three days from hell. 

I managed by the Tuesday to get into Hardy's health store and explain what I was going through to one of the nice ladies in the store. She put me on to 5htp which is a serotonin manager, helping your body to make and balance it instead of stopping its production as the ssri's had. She explained why I was all over the place, as my brain was trying to figure out how to function again. I also got some tran-Q which is amazing. She gave me some in-store to try and it was like some one had just lifted weights from my shoulders. I have been using it for the last week at bed time as one thing I had found was my insomnia had returned since coming off the meds. It really help shut down my brain so I can just drift straight off to sleep.

The most amazing thing of all has been how much God has spoken to me in the last few weeks. It has been more than any other time of my life. I truly believe that it was in taking that first step of faith to let go and trust Him to be my all. He has shown me how much I have actually learned over the past year. That in taking away my control (as I am a over-capable person usually) I had to learn to rely on Him and other people. I had to learn that I couldn't change me and shape my destiny in my own strength. God has shown me that with my obedience He has taken what has been a really crappy year and turned it around for good. I am in such a better place now, going through what I have. Yes it's been hard, crap, tough. I have been a crappy friend, wife and mother. But God's grace has picked me up and seen me through. He has shown me that in those dark dark places I wasn't actually walking backwards. Yes it was two steps back, one step forward. But the beauty was with Him there was still forward movement. I have gotten to the place where God can refine and process me, as it is only with Him that I have made it through this past year.

2011 for me holds so much hope and excitement and I am happy to know that with God on my side that even in my failing there is forward motion. That's why I am failing forward and learning to rely on His strength, His words, His grace, His love, His compassion. Because as capable as I am I can't do what He wants me to in my own strength. 2011 for me is a line in the sand. I will no longer live my life as I have in the past. All I have to do is provide God with the environment and He will do the rest. Mark 4:26-28 has really spoken to me.
26 He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like.
A man scatters seed on the ground. 
27 Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up,
the seed sprouts and grows,
though he does not know how.  
28 All by itself the soil produces grain
— first the stalk, then the head,
then the full kernel in the head.
There is always spiritual growth occurring in my life - even when I can't see it. While sleeping and walking (normal life) GOD is causing things to sprout and grow. This parable shows that the sower only needed to provide the environment and the rest just happens - though we know not how. God wants to do it all by Himself. It's not my job to fix me. When I am stressed I get in God's way to do it all by Himself. What pressure it takes off me to know I don't have to do anything more than provide good ground and God will do the rest. My capabilities are not needed when God is growing something in my life - phew! God's divine grace is all I need. 
Redefining grace - 
Grace is unexplainable stuff
coming from the divine realm,
directly into our lives to 
produce the impossible.

Thank God for His grace because things feel pretty impossible most of the time, but it's okay because He has it all figured out.


  1. What an amazingly difficult journey you have been through! So grateful for God's grace and the hope and peace you have found! I only experienced post natal depression for a few weeks and it was enough torture to make me really really respect and honour those that have walked through it for longer.

    Such a wonderful piece of writing that I am sure will give others hope.

    Here's to an amazing 2011 - you are such an inspiration!!

  2. wow! you have been through such a tough time. Its amazing how God can transform our lives through the toughest of times.
    I have also experienced Post natal depression and tried antidepressants but they always made me feel so ill so I gave up and went for more natural options. But its been a tough road. Now the doctor thinks it had a lot to do with my thyroid problems..

    I pray the coming year will be one filled for you with blessings. I agree with Kristy, your writing will give others hope.You ARE an inspiration.

  3. You have expressed this all beautifully, Jess. A lovely piece of writing. I hope you will continue to blog about your journey, and I also hope that you will find peace and fulfilment in the year ahead.


  4. Jess,
    You share such a wonderful testimony of how God is seeing you through this time. Thank you for sharing your journey. I will remember you in my prayers. And I pray this year will be an amazing year of continued healing, peace and light, in Jesus' name. Amen.

  5. What an incredibly powerful testimony of God's grace and victory in your life! Thank you for sharing this and I believe your experience with PND will bring many many women hope, that there is a God who is bigger than their suffering.
    So beautifully written, heartfelt and honest. Thank you Jess and may 2011 be the complete opposite of 2010 - beauty instead of ashes, joy instead of mourning, praise instead of a spirit of heaviness!! xx

  6. Crikey, you've really been through it and I'm in awe of your spiritual stength and really hope you continue to find solutions to ending the cycle of depression. How frightening to go through all those withdrawal symptoms, without any warning! It's awful that there's so little support and we are often left to find answers on the Internet.
    The natural remedies sound great and I'm so happy you found something to help.
    Wishing you all the very best for 2011.
    I have had very mild depression - but I understand the 'anger' - it's like a alien taking over the body. Part of the head is saying, 'No! You can't behave like that! Look what you're doing! Stop!' but the destructive side is so frighteningly strong and out of control. It's a horrible feeling of internal rage that comes from no where.
    I am on a very low dose - only 20mg of Fluoxetine - at the moment, but I'd like to seek ongoing natural remedies. I think I'll pay my health store a visit.
    All the best, Sarah

  7. What an amazing journey! I can truly say you WILL be free of it, because I have watched my sister Jo ( aka - Princess warrior lessons) on her journey and ever so gently the Holy Spirit has layer by layer unveiled her to the world! And he will do the same for you xx

  8. Thanks for sharing your story - what a hugely difficult and major life changing time you've been through! You are an incredibly strong and brave woman to have dealt with your depression in such a positive and life affirming way. You are indeed an inspiration :) May this year bring you peace and happiness and your faith help you to go from strength to strength in your recovery from depression xxx

  9. Hi Jess
    Wow. You have one amazing story. I wonder how people get through any of life's battles if they don't have God going before them to prepare the way. I have been so inspired by your journey and pray His strength and victory over the coming year for you. Bless ya, Meg.

  10. I've been thinking of you Jess. I just wanted to tell you. ♥

  11. Thank you for such a wonderful post. Jo Princess Warrior is one of my best friends, and has helped me with my journey with depression. I still have not overcome it, but her story gives me hope that one day I will. I don't want to be dependent on medication, but for the time being I am. God is still working on me, and I'm giving more to Him to heal than ever before.