Monday, October 4, 2010

Depression, Anxiety, Alcoholism, Addiction, Solutions

We spent the weekend out of town visiting friends. I love my friends and I love their kiddos. Even though, we always have a blast, what I don’t love is the extremely high levels of stimuli in a house full twenty people for 36 hours. Maybe someday I won’t feel so anxious and overwhelmed by the noise and hustle and bustle of these get-togethers.

I didn’t use to feel this way before we all started have kids ten years ago. I didn’t used to when I was still drinking 7 years ago. I didn’t use to 3 years ago when my anxiety and major depression disorders where under control. But, now and for the last two and a half years, despite working my 12 step programs and continuing to work with my doctor on medication options, I still experience symptoms of the aforementioned mental illnesses daily.

My doctor told my husband and me this week that 53% of patients on antidepressants continue to experience symptoms of anxiety and depressive disorders even while on medication, although the medication does make the symptoms less intense. The other 47% are completely relieved of their symptoms once on medication. She also said that it is common in women for the mental illness to get worse as we get older due to hormonal changes after childbirth and during pre-menopause and menopause.

As I wrestle with the effects of “chronic, recurrent depression” (as my doctor put it) --and I mean the biological, chemical imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain type mental illness-- and alcoholism, which 12 step program literature describes as a spiritual illness or a sickness of the soul, I often feel like they tag team me. The most frustrating aspect of having both mental illness and alcoholism is when my symptoms worsen, I wonder if it is because I am slacking off in some part of my spiritual program or is it because I need to talk to my doctor about the possibility of medication burn out (it has been proven in research that psychiatric medicines will loose their effectiveness in many patients after they are on them for some time.)

I spoke with my sponsor about this issue and she, who has both depression (although completely controlled with medication) and alcoholism (recovered via a 12 Step program for 27 years now), said that for her, when behaviors and/or symptoms continually occur over and over again or repeatedly for many days or weeks in a row, especially when they are unrelated to any identifiable triggers or stressors that are out of the ordinary, she calls her doctor about it.

On the flip side, when symptoms pop up during specific instances and then shortly pass as a result of working the steps, she attributes these to her character defects versus symptoms that require medical attention. This has been my experience when dealing with character defects as well.

My experience has also shown me that my symptoms of mental illness, on the other hand, do not pass without medical intervention and most importantly, not only do they not pass, but THEY GET WORSE and keep getting worse to the point that I have thoughts of harming myself.

My life is good. I have a supportive, loving husband, two healthy, loving kids, an extended family that would do anything for us, and a host of friends both in and out of the programs who would also do anything for us. My relationship with God is the best it has ever been since I started drinking, quit drinking, and now don’t drink at all. I am well-taken care of by caring, competent doctors. I do service work both in and out of the program. I work the 12 steps daily. I have no resentments at the moment nor do I usually and most days I am not fearful of anything or anyone.

So, why do I still get overwhelmed/over stimulated and fatigued when I am around a lot of people for any length of time, or when I am out of my daily routine, or when I am gone from the house for too long, or don’t have hours of time to spend in complete silence everyday? For me, I think it’s a chemical-brain thing.  But, honestly, I don't know anything for sure.  And…

It’s ok. I’m ok with it. I accept this. I accept me. I love me just how I am because I know that God loves me just as I am and I believe his will for me is to love myself just as I am and to also love others just as they are. What a wonderful gift! To be loved and to be able to love - just as we are...just like God does.

And if you have depression, anxiety and/or bipolar disorders like me, you’re ok, too. I know it hurts. I know it’s painful. I know that sometimes you feel like you cannot bear it one more day.

When I am in the depths of these emotional abysses, I have to force myself to call someone, my sponsor, a trusted friend, a spiritual advisor, my husband…and always my doctor if I start to have thoughts of suicide.

I have to force myself to ask God what is it he would like for me to learn about myself?

I have to force myself to thank God for the pain, knowing that someday, as he already has many times in the past year, he will send others my way who will need someone’s help…someone who has experienced and lived through the type of pain they are in…someone like me.

For me, while mental illness and alcoholism may manifest themselves in similar ways, they have different causes if the mental illness is biologically based (meaning the brain is lacking in certain chemicals that regulate moods.) I am and always will be first and foremost an alcoholic. I work a 12 step program to treat my alcoholism. I also have mood disorders caused by chemical imbalances in my brain for which I take medication prescribed by my doctor . I thank God for both solutions. I need both solutions.

Finally, I must humbly admit that I don’t know anything. I believe that all I am really called to do is to share my experience, strength, and hope with those out there who still suffer. And really - don’t we all suffer at some time or another?

So keep sharing. No story is right or wrong. Every story is important because God uses our stories to bring others to him, whether we know if we do or not.

The paths to Him are many. Keep an open mind, be willing, and be honest and you will find the path that works for you. I promise you will, if you just don’t give up!

And whether I know you or not…I love you all…


  1. I've got depression and am in recovery from Alcoholism. My depression is untreated at the moment due to lack of insurance (I'm working on this diligently this week).

    I sometimes get in to that guilt of "I'm not working my program good enough" when my symptoms are strong, as they are now. I need to remember that though my depression affects my alcoholism (and vice versa), they are both seperate and can't be treated the same.

    Thanks for posting this. It was helpful.

  2. Boy did you read my mind today. I need to accept myself, and let go and let God......

  3. Marie your openess is always a blessing to me...i do have problems with anxiety and so does my son...i think in some ways it does help to open up and talk about it...keep on sharing...i will continue to listen and be blessed. Hope you have a calm and happy Tuesday. :-)

  4. I have major depression which I have learned how to manage (by the Grace of God) for today without medication. I am not saying that everyone should not use medications, but it is the best choice for me.

    Part of what makes that work is knowing what I can and cannot do , and not judging myself for it. I could not spend 15 minutes in a house with 20 people, including children, in it. I would be suicidal - and I am not kidding.

  5. I know the pain of seeing a person I loved, my mother, suffer from deep depression. She was on meds and also had to have ECT. I hope that you will find what helps you.


Thank you for sharing!