Instead, there are only raw, deep memories. The kind of anguish I would rather never revisit. A closed door that needs to remain locked shut. These memories hurt. They cut like a knife.
Despite the length of time that has past, what happened on that day in 2010 still haunts me. Old baggage. Frightening experiences that were like hell on earth. Except it wasn't a nightmare. It was my real life. A time when I was lost, alone, and consumed inside a dark pit of despair.
For some of you, this is going to hit too close to home. A few of you will not be able to finish reading. It will pull you down your own rocky path where the walls are closing in. Where you are suffocating and gasping for breath. A place where depression and panic has paralyzed you.
My purpose of baring my soul to vulnerably share this dark day from six years ago is because I do not want you to miss your blessing. So I will write where it hurts. I will revisit those old wounds. I will let the tears flow. Perhaps, as a wounded warrior, my sharing will not only be therapeutic for me, but will be healing for you?
When I was in my 40's, I was diagnosed with primary Fibromyalgia. It's an autoimmune disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, brain fog, insomnia, digestive distress, and mood issues. On the outside, I may have looked perfectly fine. I fixed my hair, expertly applied my makeup, and put on a happy face. But on the inside, I was struggling with clinical depression. I couldn't get out of bed on most mornings.
This is what's truly difficult with depression and Fibromyalgia. Living with an invisible illness when you look alright on the outside, but people tune you out because in their opinion, you appear fine. Due to depression and mental health still being a stigma, we fall into the trap of the false idea that an antidepressant is a miracle pill. As if it could save us and magically chase the blues away.
When or if this doesn't happen, we may not only fall through the cracks because we suffer a legitimate invisible illness, but we can receive harsh treatment from the medical community for admitting we never experienced benefits of treatment. It's a no-win situation in which the patient ultimately is not validated, but shamed into thinking that something is wrong with them. As if they didn't already carry heavy burdens.
Living with fibromyalgia and depression wasn't easy. It was no longer just a problem with physical pain or sadness. I couldn't simply "snap out of it" as some people had suggested. Professional counseling failed. Prescription drugs failed. What had worked for some people never worked for me.
The doctor's prescribed plenty of medicine and I followed their orders. Yet instead of getting better, my entire life spiraled out of control. One drug led to another drug. Before I knew it, I was prescribed a potent chemical of cocktails that took my body and mind hostage.
Eventually, I requested my physician to taper me off of the medicine. My gut intuition knew something was terribly wrong. No matter how intense my symptoms became, my doctor would not listen to me. Rather than take me serious or decrease the dose of medicine, she decided that she didn't want me as her patient. She discarded me as if I was useless scrap.
Suddenly, my personality changed. I no longer recognized this monster who was screaming and flipping out. My anxiety and depression dramatically increased. Out of nowhere, I had a death wish, which landed me in the ER. Unbelievably, they dismissed my suicidal thoughts and refused to admit me into the hospital. My mother was outraged! As for myself, I was simply comfortably numb. And stuck taking that awful drug.
In effort to pull myself out of this funk, I found a new physician. He took one look at my long list of medicine and immediately decided this was the core issue. Within hours, we found out through my pharmacist that all of my prescriptions were severely interacting. She explained this was why I became suicidal and needed to ween off Cymbalta.
Thankfully, my doctor agreed to slowly taper the dosage. Initially, I was concerned with this causing me more aches and pains. It turned out to be the least of my worries. Within a few short days of lowering the dose of Cymbalta, my depression and anxiety reached new heights. One minute, I'd be yelling. The next minute, I'd crumble in despair, sobbing uncontrollably.
My life became disruptive and unmanageable. A fierce tornado destructively ripping everything in its path. One by one, the vicious tornado destroyed what was most precious to me. It not only wreaked havoc on myself physically and emotionally, but it created chaos in my marriage, family, and finances.
Through the end of October 2010, my doctor continued to lower the dose of Cymbalta. With each decrease, I confronted escalating symptoms. Utterly debilitated, I became physically and emotionally unstable. High anxiety had my heart racing with palpitations. Fear swept me off my feet. Faster and faster the tornado whirled around me. Raging winds roared, twisting me to and fro. It felt like a scary nightmare, but I was wide awake.
Gasping to catch my breath, I tried with all of my might to stay afloat. Journaling and praying were my only refuge. I vented. I cried. I pleaded with God to help me. Writing in a journal was my emotional outlet. Lord knows, my counselor was not the least bit helpful. It would have been extremely beneficial if she would have listened to me and taken what I said seriously. Without anyone to turn to, journaling and praying became my lifeline. A way to keep me from drowning.
Somehow and someway, I still sought God in the darkness...
At my wits end, I cried out, "Oh, dear Lord, help me! I can't do this alone. I need Your strength. I am weak and not able. I trust that You are able. Your Word says, 'By His stripes we are healed.' Will I ever be healed? Will I be fortunate enough to be saved? To be ushered through the gates of heaven?"
As a firm believer in Christ, I never imagined taking my own life. Suicide was something other people did, but not me. I believed that Christians wouldn't consider something so drastic. After all, it isn't the will of God. Not to mention, there was legitimate fear of living eternally in hell. Until I hit rock bottom, I never conceived that I'd actually follow through with it. Having a death wish is one thing, but actively attempting suicide was another.
Looking back, I realize that I wasn't in a healthy state of mind. Cymbalta has a Black Box Warning for potentially causing increased depression, anxiety, and suicidal tendencies. Decreasing the dose aggravated my highly sensitive system. When a person experiences long-term chemical interactions and negative side effects, their logical judgment is no longer clear.
What I didn't know then was that another one of my prescriptions, Ativan, was also causing me great distress. The powerful combination of Cymbalta with Ativan altered my conscious awareness from right and wrong. As my circumstances snowballed out of control, I reached the lowest point of my life. No matter how hard I tried to keep it altogether, I couldn't conquer this unbearable battle. Violently, I plunged into the darkest hell on earth.
Six years ago, on November 2nd, I overdosed on a large amount of medicine. It's not so much that I wanted to kill myself. In total anguish, I simply couldn't continue to suffer any longer. It hurt beyond comprehension. For those who have been down this slippery slope of depression, you know exactly what I'm writing about.
For others who never dealt with anxiety, depression, or mental health, you may never fully "get it" because it has not personally touched you. No matter how much you want to judge me or judge others who have attempted suicide, please refrain from doing so. Unless you walk in our shoes, you cannot fathom the hellish journey we have endured. In advance, I thank you for extending your grace.
A chill runs down my spine when I think back to what could have happened on that tormenting day. Even after all of this time, it haunts me. Had my suicide been successful, I would have not only lost my own life, but I could have lost so much more. I could have lost the joyful moments of my three children going to the prom, graduating from high school, following their aspirations, and growing closer in my relationship with each of them.
If this drug overdose would have taken my life, it would have stolen the blessing God had planned for me.
You see, the Lord had a perfect plan and purpose all along for me. A plan to use my weakness to pour out His strength. A time to turn my ashes into a crown of beauty. To take this diamond in the rough through a furnace of affliction in effort to refine me. To use my battle wounds as a reminder that our God is a faithful God of saving even a wretch like me. That He tests our faith in raging wars to not break us, but to build our character in the image of Christ. He uses our rock bottom moments to bring forth His powerful glory!
"You have armed me with strength for the battle." Psalm 18:39 (NLT)
Although I may be haunted by bad memories from six years ago, it's also a day of giving thanks. To have gratitude for being renewed, restored, and receiving a second lease on life. I may be a wounded warrior, but I am also a survivor. I am an overcomer!
This horrific experience has led to abundant blessings. My painful trials were transformed into triumphs. I celebrate six years free from prescription drugs! I rejoice at my Fibromyalgia and depression being greatly reduced. I may never be 100% free from these disorders on earth, but I am living proof that healing, health, and hope is possible.
For me, natural alternatives turned my body and mind around for the good. It has most certainly improved my overall quality of life. Another huge piece of the healing puzzle was cleaning up my diet. This gentle approach has been like a breath of fresh air!
Lastly, another brilliant blessing is that my Fibromyalgia story has become an inspiring book. My dream to become a published author has come true. Had I missed this blessing, I wouldn't know the reward of touching other lives in a positive way.
I am humbled and honored that my Heavenly Father gave me the opportunity to reach out to others for encouragement. To lift them up when they are down. To give hope to those who are hopeless. To let others who are struggling with depression, health issues, or traumatic events know that they're not alone.
At this moment, I don't know what you're going through. It could be a minor bump in the road or a complete whirlwind of chaos. What I do know from my own hellish ordeal is that we must persevere through hardships. Despite how far you have fallen or how tragic your trials, there is a blessing in disguise.
...and I don't want you to miss your blessing.
For now, it may be hidden and you don't see it. The battles you fight may be fierce. There may seem to be no way out. Trust me, I do get it. Remember, I've been there and done that. Today, don't miss out on your blessing because it isn't packaged in the way you expected.
I never expected surviving suicide, clinical depression, or Fibromyalgia, but by the grace of God, I'm alive and sharing my true story today. I can't promise you that it will be easy overcoming these troubles. What I can confidently say is that overcoming our battles is worth it.
So my wounded warrior friend, please don't throw in the towel or give up on yourself. It's these very rock bottom moments that God can use for something good. Because the truth is that people will unexpectedly cross your path who are going through similar struggles as you. They will need encouragement, a warm hug, and someone, like you, to reach out to them.
These are "divine appointments" when we realize that all of the rotten experiences we've gone through are worth it. The reason they are worth it is because it helps serve someone in need. Someone like you and someone like me. Our messes are not accidental. For in the middle of our messes become our beautiful message of surviving, of being brave, and of making this world a brighter place.