It never ceases to amaze me how difficult everything needs to be before I’ll ask for help. Essentially, I will struggle and fight and pound myself into the ground before I’ll surrender. That’s exactly what I did with my alcohol problem and that’s exactly what I did two days ago when it came to admitting I needed help with my depression.
I already have two diseases: Type 1 diabetes for the past 30 years and counting and alcoholism for, I guess you could say, even longer. Both are serious lifelong illnesses for which there is no cure so quite frankly the thought of having another illness to deal with was a little too much for me to get my head around. So I guess you could say that for some time, I have been in denial and as a result have been suffering.
But two days ago, I sat in front of my doctor and described my symptoms to him: insomnia for the last three months, out of the blue muscle pain in my back, debilitating anxiety, panic, headaches, bouts of inconsolable crying, feeling both unworthy and overwhelmed. I’m sure I forgot one or two other symptoms but he got my drift. He knows my medical history and we have a good relationship so he just listened patiently and leaned back in his chair as he took in all I said.
And then we discussed what I was really there to talk about—the fact that I’d been diagnosed with anxiety and PTSD five years earlier, before I ever came into recovery, and had been put on medication to treat that. When I’d gotten sober and life seemed a whole lot better—after I’d been clean about a year—I’d figured that I didn’t need the medication any longer because I was doing so well and progressing so brilliantly. I felt, at last, like I had conquered my difficulties and finally could be free from worrying about the next bout of depression or anxiety. I was cured, I thought. I was not a mad psychotic bitch after all. So I’d reduced my dose under this doctor’s supervision until I was completely off the medication altogether.
Since then, I’d discussed the possibility of going back on medication with my sponsor and other recovering alcoholics who had similar issues and took medication. So then, two days ago, I started discussing them with my doctor and nodded in agreement when he suggested that I go back on them again. But inside I felt, once again, like a failure—that life was beating me and I was going to be dependent once again on chemicals to get me through a day. I left the doctor’s office and drove home with the pills beside me on the front passenger seat, still not sure if I was going to take them. What if the doctor is wrong, I thought. What if I’ve just been having a series of bad days? But even then I knew that three months of bad days is a lot of bad days in a row.
I started to cry, cursing the world and all its inhabitants who had hurt me and turned me into this sniveling wretch. When, I asked the universe, would I get some peace?
Then I realized I was sitting right on top of the answer: I would find peace when I stopped fighting this constant battle with myself and admitted what was actually going on. So I’m depressed, chemically depressed. So what? Thankfully I’m around at a time where there are non-addictive medications designed to treat that.
There’s a lot of talk in recovery rooms about surrender and acceptance and seeking outside help when needed. I suddenly saw that taking care of myself in this way—admitting I had a problem and trying to find a solution for it—was actually part of working a good program. If these pills were going to help me stay sane and sober, then that’s what I needed to do.
Still, when I got home, I sat there staring at them at the kitchen table for a long time. Finally I said out loud, “Please let me be doing the right thing” as I popped the first dose in my mouth.
It will be a few weeks before I get the benefits but I already feel the relief of having made the decision to take them. I know from my past few years of sobriety that things always change—often not exactly the way I want them to and almost always not on my time schedule, but they change and it’s the resistance that’s painful, not the change. So I’ve stopped resisting now and am ready for the change.
Nicola O’Hanlon is part of the blogging community for the recovery website intherooms.com. You can see her blogs on iloverecovery.com. She was born and still lives in Wexford, Ireland. Medication photo courtesy of Society for Humanistic Psychology.