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My Personal Journey with Mental Health, Functional Medicine, & Self-Compassion: Part 1

My personal journey with mental health, functional medicine, and self-compassion—

Everybody has a story, even me.  I just haven’t ever believed that my story is very interesting or particularly compelling—not compared to the stories that my patients have been shared with me over the years within the comfort and safety of my 4 office walls. 

Unlike so many functional medicine practitioners- I didn’t go into functional medicine because I was trying to heal myself from a chronic condition that conventional medicine had failed to give me adequate solutions to. That isn’t my story. I healed myself because functional medicine awakened me to the fact that I needed healing.

Ashley and ChloeI started my training in functional medicine in September 2014—mainly because I wanted to figure out how to bridge my worlds of nutrition and psychiatry.  I wanted to offer my patients better solutions than just a prescription.  

About 3 months before- at the age of 36- I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder- which completely blindsided me but also was the most validating experience of my life.  

I had been prescribed an antidepressant after the birth of my first daughter in 2008. In hindsight I don’t even know if I had postpartum depression or if the intense sleep-deprivation and the extreme frustration and difficulties I had around breastfeeding were just what was causing my low mood and anxiety.  I loved my OB-GYN and I didn’t question the prescription he gave me for Prozac nor the refills he kept authorizing. My story went from “I’m struggling with postpartum depression” to “I have depression. I am depressed.” This story gave me an out when I was feeling exhausted, when I couldn’t get tasks completed, when I was paralyzed with feelings of overwhelm, when I binge-ate, when I lost my temper easily, when I wasn’t sleeping well.  

I stayed on Prozac through my second and third pregnancies—though I tried to discontinue it when I got pregnant with my second and had terrible anxiety from what I now understand was withdrawal, but at the time I just took as validation that I NEEEDED to be on Prozac because without it I was a hot mess. 

Fast-forward to 2014 where I am 2 years out of my psychiatric nurse practitioner program, 1-year into starting and growing my own private psychiatric practice, and I have a 2-year old, 3 1/2-year old, and 6-year old at home.  Despite still taking Prozac my mood was terrible— and I was feeling awful about myself. I felt like I couldn’t manage anything—I couldn’t manage running a practice, I couldn’t manage taking care of my patients, and I couldn’t handle keeping up with the demands of being a mother to 3 young girls.  I have this very specific memory where my oldest daughter- who was in first grade at the time -came home and handed me a bunch of papers from school. I had a total meltdown looking at the papers in my hand because I couldn’t fathom how I was going to read through them, how my brain was going to process the information contained in them, and then execute what needed to be done (permission slips signed, money sent in, dates put on the calendar).  It was too much- I couldn’t take it- the feelings of overwhelm sent me into total paralysis. I couldn’t make decisions, I couldn’t prioritize what needed to be done, I just felt like I couldn’t function. I felt like the most incompetent loser—I mean I couldn’t even handle keeping up with my first grader’s school papers, what was I going to do when I had 3 kids in school? This was affecting every area of my life and because I couldn’t get anything done my anxiety got worse and worse. My story was “I just can’t cut it—I’m not cut out to run my own practice, I’m too incompetent.” Physically I felt awful too—I was 25 lbs overweight, I was tired all the time, I had terrible heartburn,  I had constant GI symptoms, my acne was always flaring, and every morning I woke up my first thought would be “maybe I can get a nap in between these 2 patients…”

In desperation I reached out to one of my psychiatric nurse practitioner colleagues for an appointment—hoping she could recommend a different antidepressant or just to hear what her recommendations might be in general.  In our appointment she asked me a lot of questions about my symptoms, my medical history, my family history. After she had thoughtfully considered everything I shared with her she looked at me and asked “have you ever considered that you might have attention deficit disorder?” 

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