I’ve been slowly and silently making small changes in my life, which all culminated in my psychiatrist pretty much breaking up with me this week. This is a good thing, so let me explain (and introduce myself since this is my first post).
If I described myself using what’s on my resume, you would notice that I’ve been to three different colleges over several years, but don’t have a degree. You’d find that I’ve had a lot of gaps in time between jobs, and not many of those at that.
When I was a training facilitator at a call centre, I was excited to describe myself by starting with what I did for a living, like a lot of people seem to do. Right now, I’m unemployed and broke. I’m healing for a living.
If you talked to me and got to know me, you’d learn my name is Emma, I’m 32, transgender, she/her pronouns. I have a wild sense of humour and a big heart. I’m a loyal friend and a loving partner.
I’m an observer, teacher, thinker, and dreamer. I’m a crazy cat lady and a crazy plant lady. Some could describe me as impulsive. Five years ago, after tossing a bed out of my window with help from friends, I drove from Virginia to Colorado with basically no plan and just winged it.
I think I always have a plan in the back of my head, it’s just almost always surprising to everyone who isn’t “in the know” when I make my move. My whole life has been something of an adventure since I was young.
“I grew up in a few different toxic evangelical environments and struggled with my gender, sexuality, and mental health. I carried those secrets in my bones, my flesh, and in my heart.”
Since childhood, my emotional life seemed to have been filled with a constant mess of drama, joy peeking in, but as I grew up, I was always chasing something, more joy.
I’m not saying I had a bad childhood or a bad life. I had a loving mom and a dad who supported me. It was just difficult, pretty much how most people’s lives are difficult, I guess.
I grew up in a few different toxic evangelical environments and struggled with my gender, sexuality, and mental health. I carried those secrets in my bones, my flesh, and in my heart. I disconnected from my joy.
When I entered adolescence, I always felt too much. I just wanted to hide from the world. I thought so much. Was in pain so much. I realize now that I was ashamed of so many things about myself.
Like I wasn’t worth it or maybe I would never be enough. Like there was something inside of me that would always be broken. Growing up, I had the hardest time even imagining living past 30 years old. When I began my transition at 26, I finally learned to like myself.
When I moved to Colorado on my own with help from friends, I grew up and forged my path. I saw how resilient and resourceful I was and started to fall in love with myself.
At the end of 2019, after a strange and adventurous but difficult year where I left a job that I loved, I decided it was time to start diving in. Dive into my void, observe what’s actually in there, pull my demons out into the light, and try to, at the very least, make peace with them.
In November, I began mindfulness meditation to help calm my mind, piece out my thoughts, capture them, and understand them better. I was able to become a better and more kind observer of my own thoughts, feelings, and life story. It’s not easy, but the continuous practice is worth it.
“I had to rewrite or reframe my story in a way that didn’t feel full of shame.”
Earlier this year, I traced my first experience with anxiety, the lineage of that feeling, its existence in my core being, to when I was seven years old. I talked to my mom a lot about my childhood and tried to make sense of some memories.
From these conversations, I was able to piece together the story of my childhood and adolescence in my own words. I had to rewrite or reframe my story in a way that didn’t feel full of shame.
Now I look back at the child, teenager, and young adult I was and her story with compassion and grace. She had to fuck up and fall on her face over and over. and get back up over and over to become who I am right now; who I am at this very moment.
I also know this means I’m probably going to fuck up and fall again, but I can get back up again, and life goes on.
So back to my psychiatrist. This March, I had an appointment with the most empathetic psychiatrist I’ve ever met to discuss my medication. He was amazing. About a decade ago, I started taking antidepressants to help cope with the grief following the death of my best friend.
But a lot has happened since then. I had good coping mechanisms, I was working on things in therapy, and I knew I felt better in a lot of ways. Yet something felt wrong. I still felt like shit. I felt like the only med that was working was Gabapentin for anxiety, and mild mood stabilization.
I wondered out loud to him; “what would happen if I weaned off of the citalopram?”
He agreed that it wasn’t the worst idea and laid out some other options, like switching to a different antidepressant. I decided that before adding anything else to my brain, I wanted to get to somewhat of a blank slate if that was even possible at all. Neuroplasticity and all that, I don’t know.
A note for anyone who is taking medication for mental health: only stop your medications while working closely with a doctor. Only do it if you feel that you’re ready for any new “crazies” that could pop up.
When you feel solid with your coping mechanisms and processing your feels, and you have a support system. It also has to be done very slowly. I weaned down ten milligrams every 3–4 weeks.
The first step down was the worst. Withdrawal symptoms from antidepressants are hard to describe, other than probably just “really fucking weird.” There are probably scientific articles and studies to report on more of this.
A common symptom, from what I understand, is called brain zaps, and they’re hard to describe. For me, it’s like an instantaneous, electric whoosh I can hear and feel rushing from one side of my brain to the other. And then it’s fine until later in the day and I’ll turn my head a certain way, and ZAP! It happens again.
After a few days on a new dose, the withdrawals start to diminish and my brain feels normal again. Well, not normal, but the new normal.
“It is very strange to have a mental health and spiritual “awakening” during quarantine in a pandemic, in the midst of so much death and suffering.”
The new normal is that my thoughts and feelings are growing louder than they’ve been in a decade. I have felt ridiculously happy lately like I’m connecting to a deep well of joy inside of myself.
But because I was so desensitized and disconnected from my feelings before, I now also feel profoundly sad, angry, and scared because we’re in the middle of a global crisis and it feels like everyone is collectively losing their shit way harder than usual.
A time when people are murdering people because they were told to wear a mask. It is very strange to have mental health and spiritual “awakening” during quarantine in a pandemic, in the midst of so much death and suffering.
I’m so lucky to have not been too personally affected by COVID-19, but it feels like we are, globally, at the white tip of the wave, and the wave is building higher and higher until we crash into something entirely new.
This pandemic has revealed, for many people, the darkness and suffering in this world that those of us who are oppressed and/or depressed have seen the whole time.
This world is cruel and terrible things are happening constantly, and it seems to be getting worse lately, and fascism is looming ever closer.
But I found hope deep inside myself and I refuse to give it up.
I found hope in the uncertainty, the abstract, the mysterious, and the real. In communities that are being built, mutual aid that is being given, creativity being expressed, and plans for a new world that are being written by everyday people.
I’ve connected and reconnected with my spirituality, my friends, and myself. I haven’t been seriously anxious or depressed in about a month, which is the longest for me in a long, long time.
So this week, when I told my psychiatrist about this crazy healing journey I’ve been on the past few months, he was pleasantly surprised. I don’t think either of us was expecting this outcome, honestly.
I’m almost done weaning off of my antidepressants, and since I’m feeling so well, he and I won’t need to talk again unless something new comes up and I need help again.
He works closely with my primary care provider in an integrated health clinic, so he said to let her know and they’ll refer to him again if necessary and to continue working with my therapist.
The thing is, it’s not like I’m cured of depression forever.
I don’t think that’s how it works. I’m just realizing that I’m a person who has a lot of thoughts and a lot of feelings about a lot of things, but that’s okay.
I’ve been through a fucking lot, and I have a lot more shit to let go of, trauma to process. New mental health symptoms could arise, but I know better now, and I’ll get the help I need.
Lately, I’ve concluded that healing is actually crawling into your void and diving deeper into insanity until you come plodding out the other side and into the light of love, or at the very least, acceptance, for yourself.
Not running away from it. But I’ve also learned that this is a process that you will repeat throughout life so you can continue to move closer to the best version of yourself.
Who would have thought?
I’m learning that my sensitivity and awareness of things make me stronger and more resilient against the turbulence of life.
Sometimes I just have to fucking sob my eyes out, and cry my way out the other side as I process. In doing this, I’m listening to my heart and just letting myself be angry and sad and cathartic while also being gracious and patient with myself and others because we all fucking hurt.
I’ve completely rewritten my internal dialogue that was literally torturing me every moment of every day.
I think part of my calling is to somehow help people in the turbulence of their lives, even if all I have to share right now is the energy to sit with them in it, to share a story challenging perceptions of what’s normal, or to give words of love and acceptance.
We’re going to be okay.
In the upcoming posts, I want to continue exploring and exploding my mental health, my life story, and my journey into becoming the best version of myself every day.
I also want to explore politics, pop culture, my journey back into faith and spirituality, and honestly, whatever else the heck I think about.
I think the personal is political, as many leaders taught us in the early days of feminism, and by sharing my story with you, I’m continuing that tradition of consciousness-raising as well as community building.
So let’s go on this journey of hope and healing together and see what we see along the way.