Start Where You Are

Suggested song pairing for this blog post: Sweet Architect by Emeli Sandé


I started curled in a ball on the blue carpet, in the little space between the end of my bed and the cherry wood dresser. It was just enough space for my little body to squeeze all the tears out – for my vocal cords to vibrate with frustration, anger and protest. 

Who was I yelling at? Myself? My mother? My father? My husband, who??

My older sister, my younger brother, my precious children?

I went down the list…no one stuck, so I just kept yelling.  I began yelling at life itself. Yelling at the lies, the facades I felt all around me. Yelling at the empty promises, the rules I followed, the disappointments I felt.

My vocal chords began to raw, but I cried until I was empty. Then I crawled in bed and went to sleep. When I awoke, my eyes could barely open, puffy from my tantrum. My head was a big grey cloud. I felt useless, defeated, ashamed and exhausted. Where was I to go from here? This tantrum felt like years of bottled up frustrations – it felt like a line in the sand – do something different for G-d’s sake! Anything, just DO SOMETHING!!

Then, an inner voice spoke, “You’re a smart girl Jess, you can fix this, you know how.”

Then, another voice, “Think of your children, your husband, your mother… you can’t let them see you like this.”

And another, “Stop being so pathetic, pull yourself up and FIX THIS!” 

The next day, I took the most effortless action I could at the time. I called for help.  Don’t ask me who I called first, or where I got the number. I honestly don’t remember, but I soon found myself in the office of a therapist.

The first one was an older, heavyset woman with long curly hair. She had me go into a bathroom stall at her office, wave my arms, and scream the words “get off by back, get off my back!“ while she guarded the door.  My therapist from college never did stuff like that, but this was Boulder, Colorado, this place was filled with weirdos. 

The second therapist I tried was an older man, tall and lanky with grey hair.  He gave me a career interest survey. I’m pretty sure it was the same one I completed my senior year of high school. I didn’t feel compelled to go back to him again. After much trial and error, I eventually landed in an office of a full-fledged M.D. Well, not in his office specifically, but in the office of his nurse practitioner. She was kind enough, and after hearing the account of my search for the perfect talk therapist, she handed me a clipboard, a pen, and then left the room.

Looking down at the clipboard, I read,

“Patient Health Questionnaire“

“How often do you experience the following – Not at all, Several days, More than half the days, or Nearly every day”

1) Little interest or pleasure in doing things

2) Feeling down, depressed, or hopeless

3) Trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or sleeping too much

.   .   .

20) Thoughts that you would be better off dead

My heart floated into my throat.  Am I really at this point now?  Am I really sick, not just sad?  Wow, maybe I am.

The Nurse Practioner came to collect my survey, stepped out of the room for five minutes, and then returned…“Looks like you could benefit from some medication, let me tell you about what’s available…”  I was partially appalled….”Seriously?!” I shouted at myself, “You couldn’t fix this on your own?!  You idiot, you weak little girl, you failure!”  But then, I was partially relieved…”Oh thank G-d!  That means that its not my fault, I have a chemical imbalance, its just science, its molecules and neurons and receptors.  It’s out of my control, I was playing a game I couldn’t win.  I need medication, I need chemicals to fix my illness.  I’m sick. Sick people can, and should ask for help, from real doctors!

It took some time to get the cocktail of medications right – each mixture had its list of potential side effects, and once again, it was a process of trial and error to find the right fit.  In this case, it was simply the one where the pros outweighed the cons.   “How about 10 mg of this each morning and evening, and then 5 mg of that at bedtime? Try that for a few weeks and then we’ll evaluate.

Four weeks later:  “How’s the cocktail treating you?”

“Okay. I’m not so sad, but I’m tired most of the time.”

“Okay, let’s make some adjustments…”

Eight weeks later …”How’s the cocktail now?”

“Okay. I’ve got more energy, but I have trouble falling asleep.”

“Here, take this pill before bed, that should do the trick.”

12 weeks later…”How about now?”

“I guess I feel pretty good.”

“Great! Let’s stick with that concoction for a while. Why don’t you come see me again in three months. Here’s a few refills to get you through until then.”

Three months later…”How’s the cocktail?”

“Good, I guess.”

“Great! You’ll just need to check in every few months or so, but as long as you’re doing well, just stick with this cocktail, sounds like a winner!”

Three YEARS later…”Still doing okay?”

“Yeah, I’m okay.  Actually, I’ve decided to go back to school and get a second degree, in accounting.”

“Great! Sounds like you’re cured!  Stay on the meds for a while longer, just to maintain.”

“When do you think I can stop taking them?”

“Well, most people need to slowly wean themselves off, it may take several months, maybe even a year or two. In fact, it’s perfectly safe to stay on the meds forever…"






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