Stacy Stuff Headline
Depression. Anxiety. No one ever really wants to talk about them. In fact, I asked no less than 7 other fellow accounting professionals who I know are either currently suffering or have in the past if they’d let me mention them in this article, and only one was comfortable enough to say yes.
I get it - I totally get it. Many people still perceive depression as something you can just “get over”. Or as a sign of weakness. Or… whatever. It doesn’t really matter, right?
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote an article about how it can be hard for me to find the time to get in a bike ride every day, and while I was talking to some colleagues, I mentioned that for me, finding that time isn’t just about looking good in my favorite pair of jeans - it’s about mental health as well.
Here’s the deal. I thought I’d share my story with all of you - when I say it’s about mental health, I mean for real. Getting on that bike is the way my doctor and I weaned me off of Wellbutrin.
Depression and anxiety run in my family, and I’d never experienced either until after our daughter was born in 2002. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had a serious case of post partum depression. Our son was born in January of 2009, and it wasn’t until a few months after that I figured out that I’d had it with our daughter - and I only did after I went to the doctor for help.
It took me a while to recognize that something was wrong, even though the signs were there all along. (Warning, this might be TMI for some) I would panic if I couldn’t get to my breast pump EVERY TWO HOURS to pump - even though Arik took a bottle of formula or milk, he didn’t care – he just wanted to eat. I wouldn’t carry him in my arms over concrete - only in his car seat carrier to take him to the car or in the Mobi wrap when I had to go in the basement, because I was afraid I would drop him. Then there was the utter pit of despair I fell into when I thought I might not pass my Advanced QuickBooks Certification Exam. The final straw - or straws, I should say, was when he finally started daycare and I would have these debilitating anxiety attacks if I wasn’t at least in my car to go pick him by 3pm, if not already there by then. For the record - that time came from nowhere. There was no reason that I had to get him at that specific time. Our daughter got out of school at 4pm, and I could pick him up either before her, or after. It didn’t really matter. It was nothing but my depression and anxiety causing all of it.
Another thing? It was really, really hard to run a business with that going on. Self doubt, no motivation. The mysterious physical aches that made it so difficult that I was barely able to get out of bed. I look at my year over year P&L and 2009 has the lowest numbers in the 10+ years I’ve had my business. It wasn’t hard just because I had a new baby. I had plenty of friends, family and a fabulous daycare to help with him. It was the depression and anxiety. I wasn’t working as fast as I normally do, I had to check my work more often, I was struggling to make basic business decisions and wasn’t interested in getting new clients. It was all so overwhelming.
Finally - I went to the doctor and explained all of this, and we decided, at the time, to try Wellbutrin and therapy. We tried a low dose, and chose that one because it had the least amount of side effects. Within a week, I remember texting my husband and telling him: “I love these meds. This must be how normal people’s brains work!!!” After just a few weeks, I noticed the difference. Better concentration, the anxiety attacks were dwindling, I had more motivation and the therapy was giving me the tools to deal with the attacks when they did happen; to recognize and avoid triggers. I was more efficient at work, seeking out new clients, looking at streamlining the processes I had in place, and rewrote the ongoing five year plan I had for Kildal Services LLC.
My doctor had mentioned that because of my family history, I would most likely be on some sort of med for the rest of my life, but at 36, I wasn’t really ready for that as an option. Don’t get me wrong - if that’s what it takes, then I’m a firm believer in Better Living Through Chemicals. However, in 2012, I approached my doctor and my therapist and asked what we could do to start weaning me off. After much debate and research, we decided on a plan that involved drastically changing how and what I eat, adding some amino acid supplements and rigorous physical activity, and the key, we decided, was that it had to be something I LOVED. There were some false starts – like when I hired a personal trainer and didn’t enjoy or really benefit from it, but I finally found that just getting on a bike and going is what works.
For about a year now, I’m off meds. I try to ride 8 -12 miles every day, but that doesn’t always happen. I rarely have anxiety attacks, I’m probably happier and healthier than I’ve ever been in my life. I can, however, tell when I haven’t been on a bike in a few days - less focus, I’m jumpy, I snap at my kids more and slack off from work - I can literally feel myself sliding down that slippery slope. All of that doesn’t mean I won’t someday be taking Wellbutrin, or something else. I’m pretty sure that I will.
Carrie Kahn was the one that agreed to let me use her name, and I thank her immensely. She went through a similar experience as me – she went on meds after her divorce, and with the help of her doctor and exercise, recently weaned off as well.
I’m sharing all of this with you not because I think everyone should exercise to get off meds - that’s missing the point. I’m sharing this because I think depression is a common issue that makes people squeamish to talk about and I wish it didn’t. I’m sharing this because I’m hoping that if you see parts of yourself in any of this, you’ll seek out someone to ask for help.
Editor's Note: It takes a special kind of bravery as well as a concern for others to share this kind of a personal story, and in our opinion that makes Stacy a very special person indeed.
We at Intuitive Accountant hope that publishing such a story will not only 'get the message out', but in some small way help others gain the confidence they need to seek assistance if they are suffering from these all too common conditions.