The Ugly Truth (unfiltered)


May 17, 2016

So recently I found out that this month was Mental Health Awareness Month. I'm not one to just post random stuff, especially random banners or ads. I like personal pictures. Usually that's all I really care to share, but when I found out about this I just couldn't keep it to myself. This is something I want people to know about. Not just because it's a good cause or because it's an easy way for me to "support" a cause, but because I know the hell of which mental disorders can bring to the lives of the people it affects. I know I shared a post a couple of months ago about some of the big struggles we have faced here in Miami and my struggle with anxiety and depression, but today is the unabridged version. It's my story of what God has brought me through and how He has transformed me. 


I want people to know they are not alone. I want those who don't know much about it to understand that it's not just some manifestation of fears people have. It's real. Your brain can do some crazy things to destroy your life. It almost destroyed mine and by God's grace I can sit here today and share how far I have come. I wouldn't be here without the loved ones in my life, without grace and without the drive to get help. Stand strong, if you or someone you know struggles with these scary disorders. You are not alone and there is still hope. 


So here you go. Here's the ugly truth, unfiltered. There is somethings I want to share that I haven't even shared with those closest to me. 


I have struggled with anxiety and depression for years. After talking with my counselor and thinking of past behaviors I have symptoms of this disorder for years. We just use to think of it as extreme stress. But I really started to notice a significant impact of anxiety and depression my freshman year of college. I moved away from home and didn't know many people. At first I just started pulling away. My closest friends I pushed away. I became a hermit in many ways. I lied my way out of just about all social activities. Then just like 75% of my family I started struggling with insomnia. HELL. It was HELL. If you have never experienced long periods of time without sleep, you have no idea how it effects your body and mind. I was up between 5-5:30 5 days a week to get up and run and most nights I probably slept 3-4 hours. I didn't have any energy to do fun activities and if I did, I just didn't want to put forth the effort to get to know new people. I would sit in my room and cry or just lie on the floor praying for sleep. All I did was school, run, church and "sleep". Next thing I knew, my anxiety started manifesting itself in my body image. I was running for my school and I was top on my team and there was one phrase that stuck with me all through college, one thing my freshman coach said (not even directly to me), but one thing to this day I have not forgotten: "You all have a little too much junk in the trunk." BOOM. It stuck and I became obsessed. It took over my life. I was restricting my diet to 300-1000 calories a day. On top of that I was running/working out almost 2 times a day everyday. I wasn't sleeping and I didn't want to hang out with anyone. Most social engagements involved food and I never wanted to eat out. I had the few things I would let myself eat and the rest made me so anxious that I had melt downs. I remember my senior year when I was struggling...I went to Chick-Fil-A and wanted to eat a chicken bagel and I literally couldn't, I had to eat the oatmeal. I just sat and cried in my car because I felt so trapped. I became so engulfed in achieving the perfect body, not only to look good, but to perform perfectly.  My freshman year, I started experimenting with binging and purging. It was awful. AWFUL. Part of this was because if I ever let myself eat, I couldn't stop. I was so hungry and my body wouldn't let me stop. But then I would freak out and try to think of anything to keep me from "gaining weight". I struggled with this of and on all through college. I learned the importance of eating, but it was hard for me to balance that with training. I spent so many days crying. Once in the laundry room on the 3rd floor of Gosser because I couldn't stop thinking about my weight. I would wake up at whatever hours to run and burn some calories. I had several runs at 2:30 or 3 am because I couldn't sleep. And I was always thinking about the next time I would work out.


Junior year I got on some medication and it helped. Junior year was life changing and the best one at Ouachita. I had friends and family who knew my struggle with eating and had encouragement and great distractions, but after a good year I got off my meds and it hit again.


Senior year was hard. There was a lot of change to come and I was finally dating a guy. :) But my body and mind were distressed. I had been on Ambien for about 3 years at this point and it was beginning to start to wear off. There were nights that Ambien sounded good for more than just help sleeping. I was working out so much and eating not enough. My running performance started suffering. I became anemic. I was tired all the time. Then there was a night that I got some hard information and I was so anxious about everything else going on in my life that I wanted to try another outlet. So I went to the lake by myself sat down by the rocks and picked up a couple of small sharp ones and cut myself. It wasn't really helpful, but I tried it. Then I just got SO angry and just screamed and threw the rocks as hard as I could. My mind was consuming me. I could never shut it off and I was so desperate for a reprieve. That's why I worked out so much, it was a way to distract my mind. 


I wanted to be perfect at everything: running, body, friends, church member, discipleship, school and family. So during this time not only did I get anxious about social activities, or food, but I felt so trapped and depression crept in. Nights I wanted to sleep so badly my mind wouldn't shut off and I would think of any way to make it stop. I thought a lot about overdosing. I didn't share that ever in school. 


Then senior year came to an end and more big change happened. The year between school and marriage was so much harder than I ever admitted. I was working at a church and my anxiety really developed in being the "perfect" example to the students I served and the people I served under. I remember days that I drove to the office and my head was spinning so much that I was afraid to drive. I was so anxious and tired that I was truly scared to drive. One morning I was pulling into the church and I drove over the curb and I stopped to cry because my mind was in such a fog that I couldn't focus on driving and I was freaked out. I spent so many evenings crying in an empty room because I felt so helpless and overwhelmed by the world. I had what is called crying spells multiple times weekly. I would go to my room at our little apartment and lock my door binge on ice cream or chocolate then sit and purge and tell friends I was sick and couldn't hang out. Then just cry. I did this before a lot of social engagements. Even though I knew they would be good and better than staying home, fear would just take over. I can't explain it. It didn't even make sense to me and it's my brain. I lied so much. I lied when I was at the gym so people wouldn't worry or feel rejected because I chose the working out over them or I didn't want them freaking out because they knew my struggle with eating. Eventually the struggle with eating overshadowed the real struggle with anxiety and depression. It didn't help that I was afraid to take some types of medication because I was afraid they would make me gain weight.


So marriage came. I was so thrilled. I thought it would fix so much. Little did I know that it was going to explode. We moved and the first month we got along. We fought some, but the thrill of starting life together covered up the problems going on. So after the "honeymoon" stage wore off. Life got hard. Rusty and I fought so much. Most of the time because I would freak out over something little and overthink what Rusty was suggesting or saying. I couldn't sleep, even on medication. I started a job and melted down everyday before I went. I was so anxious being around people or falling on my face. I couldn't get out of my head. I started having panic attacks regularly. So I quit and thought just finding a job with a better fit would be better. So I tried again at a running store. Several weeks before things got really bad, Rusty left on a trip. He was worried about me and rightfully so. I don't think I've ever thought that much of "escaping". Rusty was the reason I couldn't overdose. I knew it would kill him to come home and find me sick or not breathing on the floor. It was at this point that I knew things were really bad. I had a friend offer to fly me home for the weekend and hang out. So I we decided for me to go back to Arkansas after I had a panic attack in the car with Rusty which ended with me walking out and crying on the side of the road. It was okay. I was not all there. So after I got back, I got the job at the running store, I thought things were getting better. Then after two weeks of working there and after selling the wrong pair of shoes to a man because they weren't technically out yet, I started having panic attacks more frequently. 

We had some friends coming in, Brittany and Logan. I was nervous but excited. But the week they got here I was having panic attacks everyday before work. I didn't know why or how to control them. Rusty was at a loss. He felt so helpless. Then that Friday came. I just couldn't handle it any more. I wanted to escape my brain. I wanted my thoughts to stop so badly. The day before I told Rusty I had thought about taking some extra Ambien. So that day before I left he asked if the bottle was full. I lied and told him, it's all there. Then I drove to work. I was having a panic attack again. I knew it was happening. That morning I grabbed 11 Ambien pills, I left some because I knew Rusty would check. I looked up the night before info on how much that was fatal. I knew the 11 wouldn't kill me, but I was hoping it would allow me to pass out for a couple of days. I was hoping I could finally sleep. So around 10 am I drove to parking garage across the street found a secluded parking spot, turned off my car and grabbed the 11 pills from my pocket. I took all 11. My friends and my husband were at least aware enough of my state that they had worried after I left. They called me. They went to my work and I wasn't there. Then they used the phone locator and found where I was. I was not knocked out, but I was so loopy and sweaty. Rusty called our pastor and he drove us to the emergency room. Rusty, Britt, Logan, and Greg were with me at my worst. I lied in the bed and vaguely remembering them asking me questions. They asked why? Through foggy thoughts and tearful eyes I pleaded my case. I told them I was so desperate for an escape. I was living in hell and I couldn't handle it any longer. Then that night came and I barfed, a lot. And I didn't sleep, but my husband and friends were by my side. Rusty woke up when I couldn't sleep to watch a movie with me, so I didn't have to be alone.

I tried to justify this so much. I felt so guilty for all of the feelings, I thought I had control over them. I felt so horrible for how I was. I can't explain the guilt and shame I faced. It seemed to me that mental disorders are just a lack of good behaviors and habits, not something medically wrong. It was at my lowest in the pits of hell that I knew there was more to this. My anxiety and depression had control over me and I desperately needed help. I couldn't just fix myself, I needed healing and medical help. So the road to recovery began. It is long, hard, painful and deep, but well worth it. 


I can't express the toll this took on me, my husband, my friends and my family. I took me 2-3 weeks after the whole thing happened for me to even talk to my parents on the phone. I was so ashamed and so guilt ridden. I literally sat on the couch bawling while Rusty called my parents and told them how things were going. After about 30 minutes I finally mustered up the courage to talk to them while crying. My husband stood firm when I couldn't get out of bed. He loved me as I fell the the ground crying over nothing. He held me when I couldn't hold myself up. It was HARD. I started going to counseling. I saw a physiatric nurse and got on the right meds. I have talked a lot. And everyday I still have to make wise decisions to stay healthy. I have to be honest and it's challenging, but by God's grace I have found restoration. It's still a journey and it will be a lifetime one, but there is hope. 


This is my story. Mental Health disorders are real. You're not crazy or making it up. They can destroy our lives. They effect more than just the people who experience them personally, but the ones around them that care and love them. We can make a difference. It's the people that stood by my side and reminded me that I am not alone that got me through the hardest season of my life. If it weren't for them, I would not be where I am today. So thank you to those who prayed, pushed, loved and challenged me to do the right thing.


You deserve to know you're not alone and you are worthy of help and love. 



Sometimes it's good to just embrace the crazy, our family has made this a motto in our home. 

Jo ButlerComment