by Alicia Brennan
I now know that the obsessive tendencies and feelings of guilt for things that I had no control over were not really me- they are hallmarks of the illness and are treatable. Most people who know me wouldn’t even have realised these feelings were there, but I knew- whether I could hide them or not, they still existed. Another symptom of the illness is that sufferers have chronic joint and muscle pain. I know that one quite well - it has been a constant companion of mine for years. It also means, for me at least, that any inflammatory injury I suffer either takes forever to heal or doesn’t ever heal fully. I’ve been on and off anti-inflammatory medications for years, and I spend a lot of time with my physiotherapist.
My physio is absolutely fantastic with my assorted myriad of bizarre injuries and unusual healing times and he somehow manages to keep me on my feet so that I don’t miss out on too much of the fun that comes my way. He makes it possible for me to stay somewhat involved in my sports, which is very important to me. I admire his patience- I’m sure that most people would have thrown their hands up in exasperation and quit by now. I know I would have.
My current psychiatrist tried me on several of the same anti-depressant drugs again, just to be sure that they didn’t work. I was very clear that I wasn't happy with this idea right from the beginning, but I had long since run out of other options. I hate being on any kind of medication- I've been prescribed so many different cocktails of drugs over the years that these days I usually have to be to the point of nearly passing out before I will take even a simple painkiller.
Unfortunately, anti-depressant drugs tend to make me worse than before. At one point early this year I was hallucinating, at other times, I was completely unaware of most things that were happening around me. I have had bouts of insomnia again, followed by weeks where every night I’ve woken up screaming from nightmares. I’ve had months of nausea where I’ve thrown up every morning and also after any exercise. I've spent days in bed so I can try to go out for a while in the evening. I've also been depressed and teary, or sometimes basically not cared one bit for the people around me.
Thankfully my closest friend is absolutely fantastic. She’s stood by me- no matter how crazy, miserable or downright furious and frustrated I’ve gotten at times. She sees the beauty in me that no one else besides my family seems look deep enough to see. Sometimes I can't even see it myself, but she always finds it. Her incredible strength and her constant belief in me have helped me to keep my perspective over the years. She loves me unconditionally and defends me from those who don't understand what I go through whenever it is needed- giving me the courage to try again every time I'm prescribed something new. Many times I've wanted to give up, rather that take yet another drug and start again with the cycle of symptoms and side effects- some of the drugs have turned me into someone I hated being. I can always count on her to tell me the truth, and to let me know when I am acting irrationally, even if I’m totally unaware of it.
She is the truest friend I have ever known- she's been with me through everything for many years now and has never faltered in her support. She seems to see straight to my soul and we understand each other on the deepest level. We’ve been through a lot together, but I don’t regret any of it- it has given us the most profound level of understanding I’ve ever experienced. She knows me well enough that she doesn't judge me on the way I can sometimes act when I’m having a bad day. Many people I’ve known will just hang me before they actually try asking if everything is all right.
Alicia Brennan is married to a wonderful, supportive man, whilst keeping busy looking after three amazing kids. Making cakes in her past time and volunteering as a basketball scoretable official is something Alicia does regularly, all whilst deaf in one ear and slowly losing her hearing in the other. Living with MDD,CFS & other health issues for the past 20 years, Alicia has taken the opportunity to get out all of her pain onto the page - so she could 'accept it, let it go, and live her life to the best of her ability'. What an incredible woman!