The Dark Passenger

Written a million varying ways, I contemplated whether to share this post at all. The Chad was against me even opening my door, but I am just that, highly open, never shameful, fearless, full of snark, and ready for whatever comes. But I am ever inspired by the women who wrote heartfelt posts, as part of a meme, that I knew I needed to share my story.

karie herring, the five fish blog, thefivefish.comMy life is not all rainbows and effing sunshine. I do keep a positive attitude because really, if you let it get to you, the cliche of “misery loves company” could not ring more true. In 1998 I had a ruptured appendix and suffered from peritonitis which is a nasty infection of the abdomen. Basically I was within hours, after spending days with a ruptured appendix, of enjoying the last bits of my young life. I suffered from many complications which included an abscess and later a tubal pregnancy resulting in the loss of twins after trying to conceive for over two years. Finally though The Chad and I successfully conceived our oldest child Grant who was born in 2003.

2003 was a tumultuous year. Jobs, moving to another state, jobs, money. Did I mention we were pregnant? We put our house in New Mexico (and in case you didn’t know…its the state between Arizona and Texas) up for sale and moved. We depleted our savings, moved into a TINY apartment, put down our beloved fur baby before Grant was born and then delivered a baby and tried to become overnight parents. No problem.

That was the year in a nutshell. Then add that we were in desperate need to move out of our tiny Scottsdale apartment into a home. Lots of pressure. Add that The Chad and I were both working full time and we were both laid off the week after Christmas due to our office downgrading from retail to wholesale only. Now we are searching for jobs again, to which we found right away. Then closed on our house a few months later and then a few months later found we were pregnant with twins. Again. Total fluke…not planned.

I was fired from my job…over the phone mind you…for being pregnant…AGAIN…and so I went back to work for the employer who laid us off since I found they were doing retail business again. But in the meantime we found we were pregnant with twins….that we were losing. They were mono-amniotic (identical twins sharing the same sac) and they were aborting themselves. I was devastated. I have a whole post about it.

At some point after The Chad and I struggled to find where we fit together along with our life and our child I got terribly lost. I did not feel right. I believe my feelings had to do with delivering, via a miscarriage, at home a 16 week twin pregnancy. Alone. In pain. In shock. Alone. I was depressed, I am sure I suffered from post-partum depression following the loss of the twin pregnancy. Plus I was a mid to late 20s woman trying to finish figuring out my life and juggle being a new mom and the pressures that come with the job of being a mom. I admitted I needed some help. Somewhere. I talked with my mom and she suggested that I do talk therapy and I couldn’t agree more. So I found a physician near home and work that I could commute to for my sessions. I made my first appointment in August of 2004. That is when my life was turned upside down.

My first appointment assessed my feelings of my life, my child, my marriage, my life outlook. I was guarded to be ├é┬áhonest, not sure what to share until I finally began to let loose that I was frustrated. A LOT. I would lose my cool and feel anxious and angry and the feelings became overwhelming at times. I admitted that my smoking habit was growing as no matter how many cigarettes I smoked….I still was anxious and I never had a calm. Forty-five minutes later I walked out with a diagnosis and a prescription. I thought HALLELUJAH! I know I am a mess and this will make it better.

My first prescription was Celexa. I was blown away the first time I took it. I just felt like I was on a cloud. Like when you are buzzed drunk, just totally euphoric, giggly, at ease. I could manage life on Celexa for about a few months. Then came the severe aggression, the raw ugly feelings of pain and anxiety, sweats, then came the fear I would physically hurt Grant because of my frustrations. Another office visit, explaining exactly those feelings and 15 minutes later I was out with a $40 co-pay and a new prescription of Wellbutrin. Huh, well I hear this can help you quit smoking too so this should be good.

Nope. The doses were tweaked at least once a month until I found a point where I was semi-operational with complete lack of feeling. I loved my new numbness. But with my numbness came disconnect and the need to just be me. I took care of my responsibilities as a wife and mother, but I had no connection. I was a soulless being on a path of unknown life, albeit robotic if you may.

Finally the killing blow. I went in to see the doctor again, “I have a new drug that I would like to try that is more driven for the anxiety…..” and everything she said was a blur. No more than five minutes were spent in her presence, I waited longer than I saw her and a new prescription for Effexor was written.

The Effexor was wonderful for a good period of time. Until I would go out for dinner and drinks with the hubs and end up in a pool of vomit in my toilet because drugs and alcohol do not mix well. My inhibitions were slowly depleting and I was living more of an independent life everyday. If you could count the days. While on Effexor my sleep was staggered. A nap around two in the afternoon for 10 minutes bed by 11pm, up each and every morning around 3am, 4am if I was lucky. I was revved and charged to go at these hours. I was superwoman. Or so I thought.

My work began failing because I was too busy playing the social butterfly due to the extended loss of my inhibitions. The lack of complete feeling towards anything. I felt no emotion. If I felt any emotion it was rage, anger, drive, the loss of control fired these emotions. Which were followed slowly by sadness, pain, which I began to drown with spending. I explained some of these feelings to the doctor and so she upped my dose and again I reached a minimum of euphoria before falling into the same patterns. I would fall asleep with a racing mind of bills, kids, work, anxiety about a stupid conversation, what to wear, my looks, my weight (which surprisingly I lost 30 pounds that year) and whatever I could think of to worry about I would dwell on and fall asleep spinning about. My waking moments were to tackle those worries, at the same time. I was a mess.

Soon I began to self medicate my medications. Shopping. Food. Starbucks. And more. Whatever I could grasp I would use as my new addiction to fuel and feed these feelings. I had to get rid of these feelings. I could not feel. I would not feel. I had to get better, I had to take more to deal with these feelings. Yet another appointment which resulted in the nail in the coffin. My final dose was upped to a point where I completely lost my mind. I was a full blown manic depressive on the medication. I called The Chad when he was on a business trip in Memphis in 2005. I unloaded on him. I shut my office door and hit every corner in a circle of minutiae that made zero sense. I could feel my grip in reality slipping. I called the doctor. She told me to reduce my dosage to where I was prior.

By this time my body was almost convulsing while I was at work. I excused myself and picked up Grant. I called The Chad again…..he insisted the medication was hurting me more than helping. I knew this. The little bit of me that was corned by the dark passenger of my addict, my addict that told me to never feel and these drugs would help me to never feel, my glimmer of myself told me STOP. I had called into work for an extended weekend and began to stop taking my medication almost instantly that day. Bad choice and good choice.

January 2006 I basically entered myself into an at home detox and intervention via a phone call from my husband, my step-father, and cursing my doctor. I stopped taking the Effexor immediately because I wanted control over my life again. My life has spiraled so far gone I had no idea who I was anymore. I would rage on in anger and then cry and want to kill myself within breaths. I was unsafe. Blessed by daycare at the time, I let Grant go there during the day while I tried to figure my shit out. Until my step-dad came over. Seeing how far off the handle I was detoxing off of SSRI’s he removed all the guns from the house. Locked me in and returned with time to drive me to North Scottsdale to pick up Grant from daycare. He stayed with me until I reached a moment of stability until The Chad got home from Memphis.

Over the next week I detoxed. If you have never witnessed or experienced detox, it is pretty much the way Hollywood depicts. I was sweating. Pissed off. Dry mouth. Crying. Rocking in a corner feeling anger, depression, wanting to kill myself, wanting an answer. I called my doctor. The quack tried to diagnose me during detox as bi-polar. Looking back now I should have reported her to the medical board. Hind sight is always 20/20. During my detox she agreed to help lessen my pain by offering me an anti-psychotic. She also offered me in patient treatment…no actually she almost convinced me I was crazy enough to be admitted. Sadly, The Chad and I both considered the idea. My mother (the R.N.) however, KNEW otherwise. She knew that my behavior and actions were driven by the medication and that in-patient treatment would only make this worse. I needed all the drugs out of my system and a clean slate and a clean doctor to assess me.

Ignorantly I took the prescription for the anti-psychotic and became a prisoner within myself. I sat for two weeks staring aimlessly into space. Eating. Staring. Eating. Shivering. I had brain shivers. I felt twitches along my spinal column I can only explain as electrical shocks. I could hear myself yelling in my head. A little version of me yelling to wake up. Wake up. WAKE UP! And I did.

Two weeks later and 20 pounds heavier I woke up and quit cold turkey every bit of medication I had ever taken in my life. Tylenol and multi-vitamins included.

I got on on the phone and began to call more talk therapists. I needed help. I needed answers. I found them. My problem was my failure to accept, process and bargain with my feelings. I came from a dysfunctional home where feelings were never spoken, acknowledged or heard. You don’t feel in an alcoholic enabled home. You don’t feel, EVER. For over 20 years I dealt with oppressed feelings. Coupled with personal feelings of loss and inadequacy surrounding the loss of multiple twin pregnancies and the birth of a child and trying to cope with doing the right things as a parent and wife.

But the unfortunate reality was that I destroyed my life, my marriage, and almost my son for 18 months because of medication. Excessive spending, questionable behavior, actions of self-loathing and self medication pushed every inch of our envelope and my own. February 2006 is when I became drug free and a stay at home mom. My dark passenger drove me there. I find a blessing in going through such a horrific experience but will reassure people that being a medicated mommy is not always the best case. I found that dealing with my family of origin and the deep seeded issues of being raised in a full on dysfunctional family of emotional oppression is what the root of my problem was, not just the postpartum issue after the loss of a second trimester twin pregnancy.

I also found after my sobering experience is how addicted I became to such a “non addictive” drug. Wanting so badly to reach my high or numbness I found I was an addict and in turn picked up other addictions while fighting within myself. Sometimes I wonder how much emphasis is stressed for people to take medication than to process life organically. I am not denying that taking medication for a short time would have been beneficial, but I also wonder if we just play chemistry with people for cash.

20 Replies to “The Dark Passenger”

  1. Wow – I’m breathless right now. So clear, so honest. Often times diagnosis can be harmful -it tells you what you are & you believe it. I went through a crazy time in my early 20’s as I think many of us do.

    I watched my best friend go through her crazy time with a Mom who pampered her “sickness” and doctors who fed her an ever changing cocktail of meds – all with side effects of their own , leaving all sorts of chemical imbalances behind as they’d move her on to the next one.

    I went through mine. Tried Prozac once – I didn’t feel like me, so I went off. I lived it and it was scary. I lived on my own and when I’d get fish eyes ( that’s kinda what it felt like) I’d clean like a maniac – always seeing every spot of dirt. But I did it. It made me stronger. For years, I’d be able to see the edge coming and was able to back further and further away as time went on.

    My friend – when she gets to the edge , she falls off. She is a teacher who has had to walk out of her classroom never to return again. She traveled to France and ended up in a homeless shelter in England. It was the medicine & the diagnosis. She’s still on meds. Trying to find “the one”.

    I am so thankful no one ever told me there was something wrong with me – I would have believed it. Now I feel centered and healthy.

    You said it all when you said -Sometimes I wonder how much emphasis is stressed for people to take medication than to process life organically. I am not denying that taking medication for a short time would have been beneficial, but I also wonder if we just play chemistry with people for cash. You said it perfectly.

    The dark passenger is a part of you and your story. I’m so glad you know it and can speak it. And even if it visits you on occasion, you know it and that is what makes it just a passenger.

    Hugs & more hugs.

    1. Jamaise, you know it is so sad and true that we do believe it because we want answers when something is wrong. We want clarity, so we do believe what we hear, even if it is total minutiae. Just sucks that people would rather give us drugs than to give us the time to help us process life organically, that we, as Seal says it so well, “we all get a little crazy.” So why not embrace our bit of crazy and return to normalcy or some resemblances of what may be normal in a crazy world. I hope your friend finds her zen outside of medication, I found mine and its a rough road, but well worth it. I love you woman…so glad you are healthy too!

  2. Never hesitate to tell your story. You never know how many people you can help! (((hugs)))

    1. Melissa, you know I do hesitate which sucks. But I have reached a point where I don’t care what people think of me who have no bearing on my life, however as you said, if I can help that is what matters. To share my story so someone can say “OH EM GEE I totally know that feeling!” makes me feel awesome because I have been there.

  3. I can’t tell you enough how well-timed this post was. Thank you Karie. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  4. Although our life experiences are varied, I know where you are coming from, and I am still working to break free of my dark passenger. Thanks for sharing. Hugs to you girl!

  5. Oh Karie! First here is a great big ole hug! Second thank you for being brave enough to speak up. I know what you are talking about, but from the spouses perspective. Donnie has been clean and sober now for 1.5 years. Everyday is another day we struggle. He is bi-polar, but has strong addictive tendencies. So pain pills (even Tylenol pm can’t come in my home!)

    I have never been one to like taking pills, so I have never seen the need doctors have to write you a prescription for everything. Our bodies were not made to have to process the numerous chemicals in a medication. While, yes they can help, and I would never deny someone who truly needed the medicine being able to get it. I feel like the prescription pad is an easy fix and allows the doctor to feel all powerful. Plus it saves them the trouble of getting to know the patient. They can see loads of patients a day by spending 5 minutes with them and then whipping out that pad.

    Loves you girlie and will keep you in my prayers!

    1. Brandi, you know I needed to share just to get this off my chest. I poke fun at myself calling myself “Little Miss Perfect” because I am SOOO not perfect. Addiction and the addictive personality is so strong…it takes hold and it’s when you least expect it. My father is an alcoholic and bi-polar so I know what you deal with. I am just blessed and thankful for such a wonderful family and a DAMN GOOD husband for helping me through that time in my life.

  6. its sad you had to go through so much but i am sure you are a much stronger person now. yes the prob with a lot of dr is they dont really listen as is their job

  7. Thanks for sharing this story. I think more people need to share their stories of struggling with depression and anxiety. It seems to be everyone’s dirty little secret. And there shouldn’t be shame in it. No one feels shame from having the flu or cancer or any other illness. But mental illness still seems to be so taboo. It is very unfortunate.

    Having struggled with depression and anxiety I just cried when I read your story. Because I had felt the same way before.

    I am so glad you found your way out and are stronger for it.

    1. Steph, you are so right. Seems like mental illness even if temporary due to your body’s natural imbalance from child birth or what have you is so taboo and a dirty secret. We all get sick and its how we heal that should be important. But alas this goes back to my healthcare problem, that some physicians make a killing by keeping people sick and writing prescriptions. What else is sad is that we are judged for being bad parents for having awful feelings at times. I admit, somedays, I don’t want to be a mom. But I take a moment, recenter and know I felt that way because I was frustrated or angry. I process the feelings, and know I love my kids and know I am a good mom. Period. Amen.

  8. Hugs to you my friend. We all have our story. I didn’t do well with babies, post pardom for like 3 years.Then came Paxil and credit card debt!! I’m almost done paying off my post pardom depression.. Woo Hoo. So glad you’ve come out on top!!

  9. That is a scary and sad story. Addictions seem to be so unpredictable – who they grab and who can avoid them. My father is an alcoholic and so I’ve grown up assuming that I could be an addict too.

    Although those 18 months sound just horrible. I think it’s so good that you were strong enough to pull out of it.

    1. Not only did I pull out of it thinking I was totally messed in the head but I found such clarity. I also had a new appreciation for my life, my family, and a strong respect that I cannot let myself go there again. PERIOD. My father too is an alcoholic so I know my family is prime for addiction.

  10. Wow, Karie. Thank you for sharing your story. I know it was hard for you, but I imagine it was also freeing, too.

  11. Just hugs hun. Some of your experiences mirror my own. I’m glad you came out of it. All I can do is send cyber hugs your way………

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