Hi my name is Happi! I am 59 years old and have been married for 34 years. In 1998, I suffered a total breakdown…mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. For about six months, I suffered from extreme anxiety, many panic attacks, and a serious major depression.
Hi my name is Happi! I am 59 years old and have been married for 34 years.
In 1998, I suffered a total breakdown…mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. For about six months, I suffered from extreme anxiety, many panic attacks, and a serious major depression.
How did it all start?
Well, I didn’t really see the depression coming! It’s not the sort of thing where you can say – “Well, I had it from this time to that time – it sort of crept into my life very slowly and in various ways.
Here are some of the biggest stressors that I believe contributed to a major breakdown of my immune system, which resulted in a breakdown of my total body.
One contributor was Allergies
I have a number of allergies and each day I would suffer from anything from a simple attack of sneezing to a runny nose, swelling of the eyes and a major attack which left me feeling like I had a serious cold. Occasionally I would develop secondary infections such as a sinus and/or ear infection, bronchitis or pneumonia.
The more I cleaned my house or did laundry, the sicker I got. My lungs burned, my throat would swell and I would occasionally lose my voice or get a heavy duty migraine headache when I was exposed to some of the chemicals in my household cleaners and everyday products.
When I used some of my daily living products, I would get hives from my shampoos, bleeding gums from my toothpaste, and hay fever like attacks from the perfumes in my soaps & deodorants.
I sneezed within minutes of being in an air-conditioned car. Some food allergies produced hives from head to toe. All of my allergies were getting me down and weakening my immune system.
A second contributor to stress overload was financial worries.
We are self-employed and an unstable economy has brought about many financial worries. We’ve had to sell our family home a couple of times and start over. Anxiety would linger and then the next available virus would catch me when I was down.
A third stressor was an increase of traumatic events in my life.
When my parents were ill they stayed with us while they were receiving cancer treatments. I got extremely sick after my Dad died and ended up with pneumonia, 3 sets of antibiotics and eventually steroids.
In the 10 year span in which I tracked my medical history, our family had attended 24 funerals, including my own Mother and Father, my husband’s Mother and Father and 2 of my husband’s brothers – ages 41 and 43, plus many good friends, including my friend and bridesmaid. Grieving was emotionally crippling for me.
We not only grieved the loss of family and friends, but the loss of our church family when we stepped away from our previous church. My sense of well being was hampered by the fact that I carried around an excess of emotional baggage.
Life’s circumstances also contributed to many stressful experiences.
After a complete hysterectomy in 1995, I immediately experienced menopausal symptoms and for the next couple of years I was on an emotional rollercoaster.
1998 was the year of our 25th wedding anniversary and I was so excited about arranging a wonderful party to celebrate. This, plus many other factors, cumulated into a very stressful time and resulted in my breakdown in June.
In Jan of 98, I got pneumonia in ¾ of my lung and needed 2 sets of antibiotics.
In April I lost my voice box and had some bronchial problems.
In May, I had an excruciating toothache for 12 days after a root canal. The dentist wanted to save the tooth but after 2 sets of antibiotics, tylenol every 4 hrs, and then toradol for extreme pain, I insisted that the tooth be extracted. In doing so, the dentist broke off a crucial molar next to it and that tooth had to be extracted as well. For that entire time, I only slept for approximately 2 hrs a night.
Then on May 23rd, my husband’s brother, who was only 41, collapsed while playing baseball and died of a massive heart attack. While grieving the loss of my brother-in-law and friend, I got bronchitis, two ear infections and took another set of antibiotics and eventually I had to be put on steroids.
In the week or two before my breakdown, I could not eat properly and lost 1 – 2 pounds a day for a total loss of 18 pounds. I could not sleep for more than 15 minutes at a time. I could not cook, clean, do laundry or make any decisions. My body was exhausted and extremely tense. I had constant panic attacks and heart palpitations. My doctor said I was suffering from post-traumatic stress.
I knew that prayer support was available from my care group at church, but I really didn’t know how to express what was happening to me at the time. I just withdrew from all outside help and stayed home with my tears and fears. When I finally realized I was in real trouble, I was just too embarrassed to let anyone see me like that. At the height of my depression, I could not pray and I could not read my bible – I could only clutch it to my chest each night and wait for assurance from the Lord.
I would begin each day thinking that today was the day I would certainly die and although I had the assurance of my salvation, I still had a fear of actually dying. For weeks I struggled, all alone with that fear, until I was finally at peace and could ask God to heal me – if not on this earth – then in heaven.
On June 11, 1998, my knees knocked if I tried to get up, my hands shook badly and my body went into tremors. My doctor had to come to the house that day because I could not get off the bed! That was a very scary day!
My Doctor began various treatments to calm me down, to treat a seretonin deficiency and to help build up my immune system.
I took a tranquilizer (lorazepam) for about ½ a month to calm me down.
After that, I was prescribed Sleeping pills (Imovane) for 3 months so I could get to sleep.
I started on an antidepressant (Paxil) after learning that a seratonin deficiency runs in my family. Both my sister and my brother have also suffered from severe anxiety, panic attacks and major depression.
I took nose sprays for infected and ringing ears, puffers for infected bronchial tubes and lungs, allergy pills, pain relievers and upped my estrogen for the increase in hot flashes.
On June 30th, 1998, I attended our 25th anniversary party heavily drugged and most people did not know what I was going through. I smiled at everyone as if nothing was wrong. I had to leave my own party shortly after dinner.
We were given the keys to a friend’s condo near Disneyland as a 25th anniversary gift, and my doctor advised me to go on that family holiday and that was great advice, even though I was scared stiff to leave his side. It was there that my body slowly started to heal.
Healing of my physical body
After six months, I weaned off of the anti-depressant and took St. John’s Wort for another 10 months.
I saw an allergist and started on shots for my major allergies. I had tests done for asthma and had my sinuses x-rayed. I saw an immunology specialist and an infectious disease and internal medicine specialist.
I got rid of all the chemicals in my bathroom, kitchen & laundry room and replaced them with safer products from a wellness company called Melaleuca. I started on the Melaleuca vitamin combination, along with an effective antioxidant, and continue to take them to this day.
Positive changes in my life
We often use “tough love” on our kids right? Well, I often wonder why we don’t use the same techniques on ourselves sometimes. Why do we get ourselves into such a state that things seem hopeless? Sometimes we feel like life has given us far more than we can handle and we make decision in life to take the path of negative thinking instead of looking at the positives.
I am definitely one who has gone that route of negative thinking as well. I’ve ‘been there’ and ‘done that’ and you know what… never want to go down that horrible path again! I’ve made a decision to follow a different path for the rest of my life. The path of positive self-talk and tough self-love. I’ve finally learned to love myself enough to care of ‘me’!
Love and Relationships
We all want love, we all strive for happiness and we often get it, only to lose it again. I’ve fallen in love and out of love and back in love with the same man – many times. Love needs to be worked on. He’s disappointed me, yes, but he’s also made me extremely happy. No, he’s not lived up to all my expectations but then again, neither have I. I have accepted his weaknesses and have accepted him for who he is – a ‘person’ just like you and me, with flaws, shortcomings but also some terrific qualities.
I made a choice…in our 14th year of marriage. My husband and I attended a ‘marriage encounter’ seminar and it was there that I realized that I had to make a decision. I had to either accept my husband for ‘who he was’ and not keep trying to change him into ‘who I wanted him to be’ or I had to leave him. I now know that I made the correct choice – we are still happily married after almost 30 years! We still go through times of frustration and anger but we also continue to experience the blessings of love – neither of which last continuously.
Death and Grieving
Oh how I’ve seen death! I’ve grieved as we buried my Mother, my Father, my Mother-in-Law and my Father-in-Law. I’ve grieved as we buried two of my young Brother-in-Laws. I’ve grieved as they buried two of our babysitters. I’ve grieved as they buried my best friend’s son. I’ve grieved as they buried many of my aunts and uncles and friends – a total of 26 in the first 25 years of our marriage.
My Dad was the first person who died in my arms. I did not know how to grieve in a healthy way and I went into my first bout of depression after the funeral. It took me a very long time to realize that there is a healthy way to grieve and an unhealthy way to grieve. I educated myself and I survived because I now know that death is part of life. Life goes on after they are gone.
I made a choice to cherish all things from the past as better things for the future because I grow from the experiences and can pass them on to all who affect my life. As long as I can hold the promise that they are not lost from me forever, not gone from me completely, I can learn to live with peace in my heart knowing that I may one day again see my loved ones in Heaven. I can’t touch them or see them right now, but I can always feel them in my heart and in my spirit. I’ve chosen to live life to it’s fullest in the time that has been allotted to me on this earth.
For years, I’ve experienced health problems with constant infections and constant use of anti-biotics, and I had no choice in the infections that invaded my body. I became bitter and sad and always wondered “why me?” when I was housebound for weeks and sometimes months with bronchitis and pneumonia. The more I felt sorry for myself, the sicker I became. I went way down into the depths of self-pity and despair and thought there was no way out. I’ve hidden all my fears from others and suffered very much alone. I was too embarrassed to have anyone know how I really felt inside and too embarrassed because I couldn’t work like other women and help out in our family financial matters. I was so severely depressed that my body just broke down and said “no more”! There was no one (at that time) who even came close to understanding what I was going through except my faithful God. That was then – this is now 2007. Yes, I’m well again because the good Lord first gave me my health back and then I made some serious choices in my life.
I made a choice….after I was healed physically. I made a choice to clean up my environment that was full of chemicals, to get some allergy shots, to take some good vitamins. I made a decision to live the rest of my life choosing to be happy. Choosing to look at the positives rather than the negatives. Choosing happiness instead of gloom and sadness. I’ve chosen to change my way of thinking so I never ever return to that ugly place.
I’ve been down on that floor, where people have kicked me and abused me verbally, where life has blown me over with tragedy, where love has failed me, where the ‘what could have beens’ and ‘should have beens’ took over my thoughts. I continuously looked over my shoulder into my past and said “those were the good old days – where have they gone?” I deserve to have them back!
I made a choice ..to live one day at a time, not looking into the past or into the future, but looking at what I can do about today. I’m going to fight for survival in this world and then I’m going to fight a little harder after that to maintain a healthy lifestyle. I’m gonna grab hold of my back pockets and pick my sad ass off the floor and I’m gonna stay alive and I’m gonna be happy while doing it! Now, that’s tough self love!
I react to the circumstances of life the same as everyone else. I get mad, get upset, get frustrated, get downright sad, but you know what? My past experiences tell me that I’ll get over it – if I choose to get over it.
I made a choice…to fight for happiness! If I don’t do it, nobody is going to do it for me. No-one ever told me that life was going to be easy but it has been said that life is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get. So, I’m going to make the best of it regardless of the different kinds of chocolates that come with life. I made a choice to call myself Happiness in my D-Spa depression site because I now know that MY HAPPINESS DEPENDS ON ME and I’M WORTH IT. It’s taken me a lot of years to come to this realization. Maybe some of my learning experiences can help some of you younger ones have an easier life.
Where am I at now? Almost 9 years later?
As part of my health recovery, I retrieved my medical records from my doctor and tracked my medical history going back about 10 years.
- I tracked and dated all the times I was on antibiotics and found that I was taking them at least twice a year for that previous 10 year period.
- Then, beside that, I tracked and dated all the stressful times in my life.
What I found was that there was a correlation between stressful events in my life and sicknesses. Each time a stressful event would happen, about two weeks later I was on anti-biotics.
Today, I continue to be mindful of the stressful situations in my life and take extra vitamins and some Echinacea during those times to keep my immune system healthy.
I keep a close eye on my physical and emotional well being. I watch for anything that can weaken my immune system and try to do something about it before it escalates into something bigger.
My body is healthy now and much stronger. I have only taken one set of antibiotics for an infection in the last 5 years. I no longer get panic attacks and I sleep very well. Yes, I’ve put back all those 18 pounds and then some!
Mentally and emotionally, I am stable because I handle life’s circumstances much different now because of the many changes I’ve made in my life. I now realize that my happiness depends on me, not on other people or outer circumstances. My happiness does not depend upon another’s feelings toward me – it depends on how well I like myself. My happiness does not depend upon my income, on where I live or what I own. My happiness depends upon how clearly I can see the spiritual reality behind all appearances.
I thank God repeatedly for His constant care in my greatest time of need. At times when I thought I was all alone in my depressed state, I knew there was at least one person who would never leave me and that person was my Lord!
He has answered my prayers and has healed me – on this earth. I find myself praying more now – for myself and for others – especially those who are suffering from any symptoms of depression.
God has blessed me with a very caring and understanding family who took over the household duties when I could not and tried to help, even though they did not understand what was happening to me either.
Personality tests that I’ve taken say that my level of anxiety is high – my level of anger is high – my level of emotionality is high and my level of vulnerability is high. So, I’m still at risk. I cry a lot easier these days but now I’ve learned to recognize the symptoms of depression and know that help is available if I need it.
I’m so fortunate to have a super caring doctor who allowed me to come into his office 2 to 3 times a week just to sob and grasp any slight morsel of assurance.
At this time, I feel compelled and feel a passion to help others find their way to good health as well. I’ve been involved in a depression support group at my church, along with our Parish Nurse, and have started an MSN group called D-Spa for Healthy Living, for persons suffering from Depression – Stress, Panic and Anxiety. I have learned a lot from this experience and would like to share it with others.
If someone happens to come to you and says “I’m suffering from depression” – never take those words lightly! Depression is real and it’s extremely scary. What that person probably really needs is a good doctor, some good education, some supportive friends, possibly some medication and more than anything …..a good listening ear.