Rory: Hi Keira Lane, thanks for being the first guest on the Write Place.
Keira: Thank you for having me, Rory.
Rory: So we are here to talk about your experiences with mental health. How are you doing these days?
Keira: I think the normal and socially acceptable response is to say, “I’m doing great” or “I’m doing okay” even if that is furthest from the truth. So if I am being honest, I think I am managing. There has been a lot of personal turmoil while also trying to balance the state of the world right now and it is trying to weigh me down, attempting to pull me under. How are you doing?
Rory: As you said, the socially acceptable response would be that I’m doing great. But I’m still trying to balance antidepressants with mood stabilizers, and some personal matters have been making that difficult. But I could be doing worse. If you don’t mind, can I ask if you have ever been diagnosed with a mental illness?
Keira: I don’t mind at all. I think it is important that we be honest, not only with ourselves, but the world around us about mental illness as this fights back against the stigma that has consumed society since the beginning of time respectively.
I, years ago, was diagnosed with depression. The sad thing is, oftentimes for women specifically, we are misdiagnosed with depression when there is something at the root of all of it that isn’t depression itself. For me, I ended up being diagnosed with moderate combination ADHD with moderate to severe General Anxiety Disorder. Which when left untreated, will cause depression.
The worry for me was that manic depressive, bipolar disorder, among other things runs in my family on my mother’s side. So it is something I am actively monitoring with regards to myself and our children.
Rory: It is very important to be self-aware enough to identify risk factors and symptoms for sure. Misdiagnosing mental illness is unfortunately done very often, which makes treatment difficult. What symptoms did you initially experience, and how did they change over time?
Keira: I think for me, because it has always been the way things were for me growing up, the early symptoms weren’t realized until they began to manifest themselves physically about seven years ago when I was pregnant with our last child.
My husband was gone for three months in another state for job training which left me here by myself, pregnant and raising the three other children we have. Something heavy had happened right before he had left between him and I. So I was struggling to come to terms and work through the issues the situation caused.
It was then that I ended up taking myself to the emergency room because I felt like I was having a heart attack. The pain started in the center of my chest, moved through the right side of my jaw, settling into my temples. After an EKG and work up they found nothing. At my next OB/GYN appointment I mentioned the experience and she sent me to a cardiologist. He found nothing. I spent the next five years questioning my sanity because these attacks were still happening and no one could figure out what the problem was. I went to neurology, had MS testing done, went to an ophthalmologist, etc. There was nothing.
It actually was a friend of mine, who sadly passed away, that listened to me explain the symptoms and asked if I had ever been tested for anxiety. He told me it sounded like it was intramuscular and severe anxiety can manifest in some serious physical ways when left untreated for so long. I am 37 years old and have struggled with severe anxiety due to childhood experiences that were left untreated.
So I listened to my friend, my saving grace, and went to get tested for severe anxiety. Which turns out, that was my problem the whole time and that the untreated ADHD exacerbated my anxiety even more.
Rory: I’m sorry to hear about your friend. Support is very important with any health issue, but with mental health it can be life threatening to not have that support. Who else was affected by your untreated illnesses?
Keira: Oh Rory. Asking the important and hard questions. Lol It took me a long while to understand the scope of the ripple effects this has had on me and those around me. Every person I met, every relationship I built but was unable to maintain because of not having the tools to cope and handle the bag of feral cats in my brain is a good start. More central to me, however, are the relationships close to my heart, like my children and husband.
I think in a lot of ways, on my end, my first marriage is a testament to the destruction that untreated illnesses can cause. My older children are from that marriage and while it pains me to the core to say this, I was not a very good mother early on. I was unprepared to raise little humans because my big human self couldn’t function properly. My executive function was almost non-existent which means forgotten doctor appointments/dental appointments. It means not well planned out birthdays or helping them to finish school projects on time. Time blindness means they sometimes ate dinner really late and went to bed even later. The emotional distress I caused them because of my own emotional distress was hard too.
My oldest bore the brunt of a lot of my failures, and it breaks my heart. I failed to recognize his needs because I didn’t recognize my own. I didn’t see that his failures at school and behavior wasn’t tied to his being an undisciplined child but rather his inability to executively function. He was dealing with the same things I was and I just missed it with him because I missed it with me.
About four years ago, I finally started to understand that there was more to the puzzle with him and fought to get him tested. He tested Level 1 ASD, OCD, Inattentive ADHD, with a writing disability, and GAD. I cried for months every night because of all the times I yelled at him, grounded him, etc for something he couldn’t help. His younger brother was tested for ASD earlier as his symptoms were much worse. He lost his words, presented with sensory issues, etc which alerted his PCP who told me I needed to get our three year old son, at the time, tested. Once I got him diagnosed, Level 2 ASD with severe speech delay, that is when I realized that maybe there was more to me and my brain than I realized. I was the common denominator in all of it. My oldest from a previous marriage and the younger a product of this current marriage.
Rory: I think it’s important to try not to blame yourself so much. My own mother has depression, she was diagnosed around when I was born I think, and she also has thyroid cancer. She was always so tired, and I was the youngest child, that she didn’t always have the energy to fight with me when it came to my own issues. I experienced depression at a young age and she didn’t recognize it, not because she didn’t care, but because she was so exhausted just trying to survive that she just didn’t have the energy to think more on my behavior. I finally went to her about seeing a doctor because I was having so many difficulties. I never blamed her though, because it wasn’t her fault. I know a mother will never stop blaming herself for her children’s illnesses, but it’s important to know that it wasn’t because you were a bad mother.
To be continued…