More Than Serving Tea



The Vitamin L Diary: Year Four & Seeing the Light

A few years ago I posted about anxiety, depression and being on an anti-depressant. I go in every few months to follow-up with my primary physician. Drugs are not the cure-all, but they can help. I’ve told my doctor I don’t ever want to stop taking my vitamin L, but she reminded me that the end goal isn’t to stay on the drug but to make sure the drug is helpful and necessary.

Any who, I am now four years into this journey. My goal is to “talk” about anxiety and depression to take away some of the stigma, embarrassment and shame. Perhaps someone out there will take one step closer to loving & honoring herself/himself or better understand depression and anxiety. My hope is in Jesus. Treating my anxiety and depression has only deepened my hope.

I love fall, but I don’t love what this season eventually leads to. The vibrant colors against a sunny fall morning give way to shorter days and longer nights. I know that a regular schedule including sleep and exercise are critical to keeping my depression & anxiety managed well.  Actually, everyone should keep a regular schedule of sleep & exercise! But I dread the long nights of winter.

I am also still on Lexapro, one little pill a day. I also have on hand alprazolam, just in case for anxiety and panic attacks – the kind that actually sent me running to my doctor in the first place. I currently am not seeing a therapist, but I still see my PCP regularly to discuss treatment and decide whether or not medication is still helpful and necessary. I’ve had to wrestle with my own conflicted feelings about seeking professional and pharmaceutical help because, let’s face it, mental illness makes people uncomfortable.

By and large, the national conversation shifts over to mental health issues only when there is a mass shooting like we saw in Washington D.C. or someone prominent like Matthew Warren, megachurch pastor Rick Warren’s son, commits suicide. There is empathy for the family and friends when someone takes their own life, and it can be easier to shift the attention on the grieving and trauma of the surviving family and friends. In the case of a mass murderer, mental health becomes one way we can other-ise the person’s sinful actions. Even when we can talk about mental health, we aren’t sure how to treat it. A third of all Americans – and almost half of American evangelical, fundamentalist or born again Christians – believe prayer and Bible study alone can help someone overcome serious mental illness. My experience has been that prayer alone didn’t heal me or take away the stigma of my mental illness once I started talking and blogging about it.

And that doesn’t even get to access to information about or treatment of mental illness. I know I’ve got several privileges in play – access to health care, the finances to pay for things insurance doesn’t cover, the means to get to multiple appointments, etc.

So among other things I am passionate about and committed to writing about every now and then is my mental health journey, now four years in. It means answering my youngest child who is almost 12 and was reading over my shoulder as I wrote the start of this post.  He asked, “But isn’t ok because you have us?” His question broke my heart but it was a great moment to make talking about something he may likely face in the future. I told him that I love him and his siblings deeply and that being their mom brings me great joy. I explained that my depression isn’t the kind of sadness or disappointment I normally experience when we would normally be sad but that my body and my brain aren’t producing the right mix of chemicals to keep my emotions and perceptions of the world around me accurate to what God created our bodies to do. And then I hugged him, kissed him, and made sure he was OK.

That is what the journey can look like.

For the past two years I’ve thought about buying myself a little light box to see if light therapy might help me during the weeks indoors. I don’t have full-on Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), but winter doesn’t help my depression. I’m not an outdoorsy person. Being in my garden, taking a nice walk or a short run is perfect. Shoveling snow or building igloos is less perfect and makes me cold and crabby.

We were at the store a few days ago, and I finally bit. It was one of three impulse purchases. (The other two? A pair of wool base layer pants/leggings to keep warm and a 12-pound pork shoulder to divide and throw into a crockpot.) I figured it was worth a try – the light box, I mean. It’s worth a try because there is a little part of me that is scared to go into the winter.

Can anyone relate to the joy of fall and the dread of winter? Has anyone used a light therapy box to help with the winter blues? Yay or nay?


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Comments

  1. * DJ Chuang says:

    Thank you Kathy for taking a bold step off aith to share your journey of mental health. I too stay on my daily dose of Vitamin L and sleep and exercise. It’s a routine I’ve needed to stay on course for about 12 years now, and once in a while I’m blind-sided and side-swiped by a different trigger that overstresses my being and I have to recalibrate. That is to say, my triggers are not seasonal, seasons don’t affect me as much as drastic changes, expectations, and things in the stress category. Sometimes when I think I’m prepared and can do something, it turns out my emotions can’t keep up and I veer into a tailspin. By the grace of God and encouragement of a few loved ones, I continue on… I share your hope and dream that we can break the stigma in our generation.

    Like

    | Reply Posted 6 years, 3 months ago
  2. * Esther says:

    hi Kathy, i’m a Chicago-born Taiwanese-American now living in NYC. MDD and PTSD have been affecting me for years, on and off (http://estherogen.blogspot.com/2011/10/true-sense.html). autumn is particularly lovely and difficult (http://estherogen.blogspot.com/2012/10/this-very-present-darkness.html).

    at times the incomplete theologies of well-meaning friends have added isolation to the stigma that already is there. but Christ’s mercy is for them, and me. i drop by your blog for your well framed posts on intercultural communication for Asian Americans (women in particular) especially within the church, but living with mental/psychological ailments (also within the church) requires patient boundary-crossing dialogue too. you are quite skilled and positioned for this discussion: thank you for your courage in availing your story and this discursive space. i trust we’ll chat some more, sister. keep hoping in Christ, and Christ in you–the hope of glory.

    p.s. my brother in Seattle swears by his happy lamp in the grey winters.

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    | Reply Posted 6 years, 4 months ago
    • * Kathy Khang says:

      Many thanks for stopping by, and now for sharing your story with me and my dear readers as well. For all of the more “controversial” issues that I periodically take on, it really is the personal stuff – the parenting, the marriage stuff, the friendship stuff, the depression – that keeps me writing publicly. I look forward to our future chats, sister.

      And I am looking forward to using my happy lamp!

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      | Reply Posted 6 years, 4 months ago
  3. * estherjulee says:

    my friend sent this blog post to me. thanks for sharing. makes me feel like i’m not the only one on this journey. a lot of times i still struggle with why i have to take medication and why god can’t just heal me. i mean.. this is not what he had intended for creation, right? and after knowing christ, aren’t you supposed to be restored? is this supposed to be the thorn in our side to make us remember how weak we are. but being depressed doesn’t seem like it helps with being a good witness. i dunno.. maybe along the way my theology has gotten screwed up after hearing so many people preach different things. it’s just been a long journey, and i can only hope that this is not the end.

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    | Reply Posted 6 years, 4 months ago
    • * Kathy Khang says:

      I am praying for you that this is not the end. You aren’t the only one. You are not alone. I imagine there are others who have chronic illnesses who also struggle with the frustration and sorrow of not finding healing. But being depressed isn’t your witness. Jesus, the One who associated himself with the outcasts, unclean, untitled, is our witness. Being on medication doesn’t make you or me weak. It’s our courage and humility that allows us to ask and receive help. Much love, Kathy

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      | Reply Posted 6 years, 4 months ago
  4. Thanks for this post. I’ve been battling with these two as well, as you likely know. I’m off meds now and had been enjoying the return of intense emotions and (for me) the ability to cry. But now after a year of struggle, and down turn and a troth I cannot pull myself out of I’m thinking of going back to meds. Therapy is important. I’m doing that. Health is important too, but I don’t even have the energy to work out. Eating a chore like taking a vitamin, I do it out of necessity not joy. Thanks for sharing your path. It will and does encourage others including me today.

    Like

    | Reply Posted 6 years, 4 months ago
    • * Kathy Khang says:

      Happy birthday, friend! Thanks for reading and sharing your journey through words and images as well!

      Like

      | Reply Posted 6 years, 4 months ago


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