Trauma in Paradise

Lonely Beach

Paradise is a subjective word.

I learned this only recently – very recently.

Paradise for me is no longer just a place. It is being with the people I love – wherever we are.

Though living by the beach for a little less than two weeks would be like living in paradise, or so I thought, it was hell-on-earth for me. I did not know it would be. I would not have ventured out when I did otherwise.

I was lonely. My husband couldn’t be with me for many days as work required him to be in the city. I couldn’t do it. I could not last being with people who claimed to treat me as “family” but made me feel isolated. I could not last being away from my husband anymore.

I basically courted depression and anxiety – the very same conditions I thought would somehow be “eased” once I am surrounded by water and working in what seemed to be “ideal” work conditions. At 48 years old, I still don’t know myself that well.

It’s not the place. It never was. I was too anxious about the future and was blinded by the promise of a better career – and an attractive salary – that I did not stop longer to really think and consider. What do people always say? If it’s too good to be true, it usually is.

And I finally saw through it. All this time, I had been listening — hardly talking — and I finally discerned. It helps to just listen. Usually, the more people talk, the more mistakes they make by revealing more of their real motives.

The promises made were as loose as as the fine grains of sand falling between my fingers. True characters were revealed, shattering whatever “good impressions” I may have had. I was lonely. I felt very out of place.

I was very lonely. And I left. I picked up whatever I could carry and headed out to the bus station. I had to leave – for good.

And so now I am home again – with my husband and our 3 dogs. I am still recovering from the trauma.

I will get better. We will get better.

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Dealing With Depression

Last month marked my first year since I was diagnosed with Major Depression and GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder). On one hand, I feel relieved to have finally gone past the 1-year mark; on the other hand, I am sobered to realize how vulnerable I am and yet how blessed to have survived a very difficult and somewhat traumatic year. Prior to my diagnosis, I had suffered two long years of intense loneliness, very low productivity, and depression.

This is not another medical paper discussing the illness or disorder, its symptoms and its cures. I am far from expert and I would rather evaluate my own experiences with the illness to help me understand it, and myself, more.

My depression is turning out to be a longer journey than I had hoped for or anticipated. I began tapering down my dosage of Tofranil at the start of this month, from five tablets to four every night. I had high hopes of recovering and moving on to some kind of normalcy but I guess I hoped too soon.

Within the first four days of April on a lower dosage, I experienced a relapse: immediate depression with bouts of crying and feelings of extreme hopelessness. On the fourth day, I began to experience once again the symptoms of GAD. I worried over everything — from the house chores to our financial future — and could not stop my mind from over processing so many worries. I also began to hyperventilate again and almost panicked at my extreme difficulty in breathing. Our tiny bathroom suddenly felt like a very hot and airless prison and I could not wait to end my quick shower.

I am very grateful that my husband has a master’s background in Christian Counseling so he understands what I have been going through and knows I have absolutely no control over my thoughts, feelings and actions when these illnesses recur. I also agreed to revert to five tablets of Tofranil every night. Perhaps, if I’m brave enough, I will try to reduce my dosage again next month.

My depression began when my mother passed away almost ten years ago. This was then followed by my only sister having to go back to her home in another country, the loss of my job within two months of my mom’s death, the various e-mails from relatives who accused my husband and me of so many things I don’t want to recall, e-mails and visits from people hounding me for payment of my mother’s past obligations, and so much more.

Just when I thought I couldn’t take any more blows, I began to suffer from IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). For some odd reason, the first few doctors we saw didn’t have a clue as to what was wrong with me so they gave me all these medications for bloat, muscle pain and others. I burped constantly and feared leaving the house because of diarrhea (diarrhea-predominant IBS or IBS-D). I am very picky with toilets and have learned to always stock up on tissues and baby wipes whenever I had to leave the house. A match box also came in handy in public toilets.

This condition lasted six more years (with the “correct” IBS diagnosis) until I experienced a quick and daily progression of my depressive state. It got so bad that I wanted to end my life many times. I just wanted rest and peace from the darkness I was enveloped in and the guilt and self-accusations that constantly and mercilessly bombarded my head. I lost most productivity – I couldn’t write, draw, read or perform the simplest chores. I did not want to meet anyone or be around people. I felt that my heart couldn’t take any more beatings. Yes, Christians suffer from depression too.

I also began to experience physical malaise – extreme fatigue, breathlessness, general weakness and lack of well-being. These symptoms added to my worry because my family has a history of heart disease (my mother died of MI – Myocardial Infarction). My husband wasted no time in having me undergo several medical tests. We later on discovered that I was fine — perfectly normal and “healthy”. Even my cholesterol level was within normal range. However, the doctor said that, perhaps, I was under a lot of stress. He recommended that I take a stress test. I never went back for that.

While I was very thankful that I was physically fine, the depression and other physical symptoms did not go away. I began to introduce the idea to my husband that I was probably suffering from depression. I certainly remember using the “right” terms in describing how I felt: depressed, hopeless, lonely, extremely anxious, etc. I looked up the illness, and one web page led to another. I took the depression and anxiety tests and had a perfect score on both. I remember feeling very relieved at getting closer to a correct diagnosis and knowing that I was not morphing into a very bad and ungrateful person. My Christianity came into question many times and I accused myself of so many things.

Finally, we were told by my psychiatrist/psychologist (he is both, thankfully) that I was definitely suffering from both Major Depression and GAD. Plus, my IBS was merely symptomatic of these disorders. We were also told that with both disorders, what needed to be treated was the balance of a certain chemical in my brain called serotonin. I cried in relief! I was not a bad person! My brain chemicals and neurotransmitters just needed help!

And so, it has been one year now since my diagnosis and treatment. I’m still on it, but I know I will get better. I guess it doesn’t really matter now how long it takes, as long as I receive the help my body needs to cope. I also have a wonderful support system in my husband, family and close friends.

And for those of you who know me, I am able to write again and have found a new passion for baking at the start of this year. To have finally found a passion is already blessing beyond measure! I am very grateful and I pray that I will be on my way to full recovery someday.