Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A Journey from Darkness to Light: One Woman’s Journey out of Depression (Part I of III)

In this three part series, one of our avid TUS readers (with a background in mental health) shares with us her journey through anxiety and depression and how she found peace in natural remedies. Perhaps this story is yours. If you are struggling with anxiety and depression or know someone close to you that is, please share this series.

By: N. Chartier

"Today is the tomorrow we worried about yesterday." ~Author Unknown

I think it is safe to say that at some point in our lives, we all worry about something. We worry about how we are going to fare on tomorrow’s big test. We worry about whether or not we turned the stove off after scrambling eggs for breakfast before rushing out the door to our jobs. We worry about retirement and whether we will have that nice-sized nest egg we all hope for. Then, we worry if our house will burn down because we left the stove on. Or if one of our loved ones will be killed in a car wreck on his or her way to work today. Then we panic. Our hearts pound. We can’t breathe. We begin to sweat profusely. An overwhelming sense of impending doom strikes us. Our mind races like a bullet train speeding through a maze of tunnels with no destination in sight and no sign of stopping…

Okay, did I lose some of you there? Not all of us worry to the extreme I just described. Of course some worrying is normal. It is what keeps us performing well on that important test. It is what reminds us to check the stove before we walk out the door to start our day. But, when worry turns in to a debilitating, destructive pattern it becomes a “problem” like it did for me.

I have ALWAYS had anxiety. I just did not always know it. As a child, I would stay awake all night worrying that a masked monster would break in to my bedroom window and kidnap me right out of the safety of my bedroom. Often, I would stay awake the entire night. Some nights, I would quietly tip-toe down the hallway and across the living room over to my parents’ room where I would curl up on the floor next to their bed and try to fall asleep. You might ask yourself, “Where is all this fear coming from? Why is a child suffering from insomnia?” And why should a child be worrying about being kidnapped from her bedroom in the middle of the night and being murdered?” Yes, murdered.

I was a child believing in my heart of hearts that I would be snatched from my room at night and murdered by a sick serial killer. Was it a story on the nightly news I heard that planted the seed? Was it remembering that I heard my mom talking to my dad about a little girl who was kidnapped from a sleepover and that her body was later found in a trash can that was keeping me awake at night? I believe that the media was a big part of what contributed my childhood anxiety. Additionally, I believe some of us are more prone to being anxious than others. It is only now that I am an adult that I can look back and say, “Yes, I was an anxious child. Yes, I suffered from insomnia.” No one really knew that except me (I kept my fears my secret). Some might chalk these behaviors up to being influenced by normal childhood phobias and fears. We all knew the one kid in the bunch who couldn’t watch certain cartoons or movies because they were too “scary”. But what about the one child that no one suspects has anything wrong, but who rarely sleeps because of an impending sense of doom? I will tell you. She grew up to be a woman diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. That woman is ME.

Thomas Szasz, Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at the State University of New York Health Science Center in Syracuse, once said, “Psychiatry is probably the single most destructive force that has affected American Society in the last 50 years.” I could not agree more with this proclamation. It is not my purpose in writing this to “bash” Psychiatry or to denounce any of its practices. My sole purpose is to share my personal experience with depression, anxiety and with psychiatric treatment. Although, some of what I say here may offend or surprise some of my readers. That is not my intention. I simply want you to know how psychiatry negatively affected ME and how my rage towards what psychiatric drugs has done to my life pushed me in the direction of searching for natural mood cures.

In this blog series, I would like to share my experience with you and share those natural cures with you that I have researched, tried and have found to work for me. Further, I must also explain that although I worked in the mental health field for just a month shy of three years and have a minor in psychology, I am knowledgeable on this subject (I’m not pulling information out of my rear-end!), but I am by no means an expert. So please, I invite you to sit back, make sure to have a pen and paper handy (you might want to jot down some information down later) and read MY story…

Try to imagine that feeling you had right before you gave your first speech either in elementary school or in college. Can you remember trembling a little? Can you remember not being able to sleep the night before? How about feeling sick to your stomach? Was your heart racing? Sweaty palms, perhaps? Now imagine being jolted out of your sleep during the night or in the morning when your alarm clock starts blaring. You’re sweating. Your heart is racing. And suddenly, an overwhelming sense that something TERRIBLE is going to happen sweeps over you. You are not sure what, but you are absolutely sure either the world is going to end today or that something horrible is going to happen to you or to someone you love. But, why? No one told us that something bad is going to happen today. The sky is not falling. The Grim Reaper is not standing at the edge of our bed with his scythe, ready to sweep us away to our demise. We just woke up feeling it. This is how I woke up feeling every single day. It was not always like that for me. I mean, it was not that way my entire life, but rather daily for extended periods of time, then other periods of time I would wake up feeling what you might call “normal.” Without getting in to too much detail and going too far back in time (we would be here all week), and for the sake of this blog, I will begin telling of my experience starting in December 2006...

December 16, 2006 marked one of the most memorable and satisfactory days of my life. On this date, I was honored and proud to walk across the modestly decorated stage at the Leon County Civic Center to accept my Bachelors Degree from the Dean of Criminology at Florida State University. I was proud that my hard work had finally paid off and even more proud of the fact that I already had a job interview lined up down in Naples, FL on December 19th. I celebrated my commencement by accompanying my at-the-time boyfriend and my dear friend, Jason, to a BT concert the following night in St. Pete. I was happy. I was proud. And I had no idea what chaos would lie ahead in the not-so-distant future…

So, allow me to fast forward a little bit now. I got the job in Naples on the spot and was told I would start January 16, 2007. I rushed to pack all of my belongings from my two-bedroom apartment in Tallahassee all while scrambling to find a new apartment in a city six hours away, and not to mention shopping for suits and heels for my new career. It was a busy and hectic month, but I was excited. And I was, of course, nervous. The move went well. We found a really nice apartment in a part of town not far from my office and I jumped head first in to my newfound passion- helping people with mental illness navigate through the legal system. Little did I know, I too, would soon be a psychiatric consumer.

Maybe it was the stress of moving and life taking such a drastic and sudden turn towards “adulthood.” Maybe it was the fact that my job entailed facing rapists, murderers and child molesters one-on-one while checking my personal biases at the jail cell door. Perhaps it was the fact that the relationship I was in was crumbling. Or the fact that I felt that simply earning a Bachelor’s degree alone was not good enough. I was confused. I was lost. And most of all, I was anxiety ridden and becoming really down on myself about it. All I wanted to do was sleep. I was beyond tired. I was exhausted. I would go right home from work and go straight to bed.

At work my colleague would introduce me to the various professionals I was required to coordinate my cases with, but I would stand frozen in fear. Silent. Only muttering a shy, “Hello… Nice to meet you,” or something of the sort. Soon I began to have panic attacks on the elevator in the courthouse. Hmmm, I thought, maybe I have claustrophobia? But what I had going on physiologically was more than claustrophobia. I started to lose weight because of the stress. I was waking up in the morning absolutely sick to my stomach at the very thought of getting out of bed to start the day. The moment my alarm would blare, the anxiety kicked in. Then I would get depressed because I was anxious. Many mornings I would cry the whole time while getting ready for work. Once it was time to put on my mascara, I would have to force myself to stop crying, put in a few drops of Visine, and then muster the strength to continue getting ready so I could make it to work on time.

I kept thinking to myself that I just had to keep it together on my own until my health insurance kicked in. Once I had insurance, I planned to visit a psychiatrist.

Little did she know, her journey was just beginning...


About the Author:

Nihcole is a Florida native and a Florida State University graduate with a Bachelor’s in Criminology. She worked for three years as a Forensic Mental Health Specialist helping adults navigate through the legal system who are suffering from mental illness and who are incompetent to proceed or not guilty by reason of insanity on their felony charges.

On October 16, 2009, she received the greatest gift of all: her daughter Madalyn. She currently lives in Naples, FL, with her daughter Madalyn, boyfriend Richard, two dogs and two cats. She is a stay at home mom and is planning to return to school this fall in order to work towards a Masters in Occupational Therapy. She strives to live an organic and green lifestyle and spends a lot of time researching healthy eating and natural alternatives to conventional medicine. She enjoys spending time with her family, exercising, reading, swimming in the pool with her daughter, and spending sunny days on Naples beautiful gulf beaches.


  1. Thank you for sharing this it can't be easy.

  2. Knowing this I am not alone and that others go through it gives great comfort. Thank you.

  3. You should be proud of how strong you are. You came out of this with fight in you for a better tomorrow. And you are strong enough to share your journey, and all the difficult details, with others. Like you said, even if one person finds comfort, you've done what you came to do. I feel blessed you shared this here. xoxo me


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