It’s taken me one month and two days to return to writing this blog. It’s been a month of ups and downs. It turns out, once you start tugging at that mental health thread, a lot of suppressed or ignored nasties get unravelled and demand attention.
It’s kind of like picking a scab, but the kind of scab that needs to be sloughed off so that you can heal. But in the process, you do reopen the wounds and bleed a little. Or a lot.
It brings up emotions and memories you thought long forgotten. Most of the memories are not things I can write about, because they include other people’s stories that are not mine to share. But in broad terms, I think we all have wounds from childhood that we are reluctant to revisit, whether they came from school or home or elsewhere. No one has a perfect childhood, and everyone is affected differently by the things they experience.
So that was part of what I was dealing with. Am still dealing with.
Another struggle has been related to medication. Under my psychiatrist’s guidance, we tried increasing the medication I was on, but I began experiencing really unpleasant side effects. So I came back down to my original dose but felt worse than I had in a long time. So now, we’re doing what’s called a cross-switch—tapering off the first medication while slowly increasing the new one. And I actually feel a whole lot better. Better enough to write.
AND I decided to swap out my morning coffee for decaf. Slowly, of course. Nobody likes a caffeine headache. Now, depending on the day, I do half-decaf/half-reg or full decaf. And you know what? One, I didn’t notice the lack of caffeine as much as I expected. And two, I actually experienced a noticeable decrease in morning anxiety. I can’t really say whether this is due to the decaf or the new medication. It’s something I can play around with later, once my body has adjusted to the medication switch.
If I can give any advice to anyone who might be considering adjusting their medication, it’s to do it under the guidance of a doctor (preferably a psychiatrist), and go slow. Mental health is more of an infinitely looping marathon than a short sprint.
Before I end, I want to talk about my grandmother, Nanny, who passed away a few days ago. I have been very fortunate not to have lost any grandparents between the ages of 16 and 32. Her loss does not feel real yet. There’s cotton padding around my heart, not wanting to let the truth in. I haven’t been able to visit my grandfather yet, and maybe after I do that, it will feel real. I’m not sure.
What I do know is that Nanny was a beautiful soul. She overcame a traumatic childhood, married young, had five children, and then, in her early 50s, went to university to get her degree. She was a writer. Born a writer but told she wasn’t good enough as a child, she didn’t revisit this passion until she was well into her adulthood. But revisit it, she did. She wrote thoughtful articles on a range of topics, including nuanced reflections on life and the world. She and I exchanged letters throughout my childhood. I wish I had kept them all. (Don’t we all say that, after the fact?) I wish I had written more. I was so young, so self-focused in the way that children and teens are. But she was always there to write back whenever I made the time to send a letter.
Based on conversations we had and the things she wrote, I know that she experienced some level of anxiety. My heart aches to think of what it must have been like for someone from her generation to experience this kind of struggle. Stigma would have been high, resources would have been few, and knowledge would have been scarce. I feel so lucky to be going through my mental health journey at a time when stigma is being torn down. But how did she do it? How did she do so much for so many people? She must have been so brave and so strong. I have so many questions that I wish I could ask. How well did I really know her? How well do we know anyone we consider a fixture in our lives? Once someone has passed, do we all feel like we could have done more, written more, visited more?
I feel so lucky to have known my Nanny my whole life.
I feel so lucky for all the memories I have of growing up as one of her cherished grandchildren.
Goodbye, Nanny. I will try to be strong, like you, for my own children. I will help tear down the walls of stigma and ignorance so that my children—your greatgrandchildren—have access to even more resources and support than I do now, and you ever did.
I love you.