As we have dived into the discussion of mental health over the last four weeks, the picture painted has been one of heartbreak and, in many ways, despair.

 Heartbreak affects not only the patient dealing with their mental health but all that surrounds them.

"Your family and the people close to you will probably notice improvements before you do," Dr. Darrell Brimhall said at my first appointment with him regarding my mental health. "Because you are already living with it, it takes longer for you to notice if your medication is working; others though, will see it much quicker.”

The first time I dared to talk about how I felt, with anyone, including health professionals, I was 33. Initially, my doctor concluded I was stressed and prescribed me Xanax three times a day. It offered a quick relief, but it didn't last. Before long, I took the medication to maintain and no longer cope with how I was feeling. Terrified I would become addicted without improving, I returned to my doctor and asked to be taken off Xanax after about 8 months. My doctor obliged and then diagnosed me with anxiety. I was prescribed the generic version of Zoloft (Sertraline) in a 25-milligram dosage. It didn't help, at least not really. At that point, I didn't give up on my mental health, but when the medication wasn't helping, my head started telling me I couldn't be fixed. I became withdrawn at my appointments.  I certainly wasn't cured, but gosh, surely I was better, right? That is what I told my doctor, "I am better," with little convincing in my voice. Over the next few months that lead into years, my doctor continued to adjust my Sertraline prescription. I went to 50 milligrams, then 100 milligrams. As a result of still no relief, my doctor put me on 200 milligrams of the Sertraline. By then, though, I was hopeless that anything would help, and I chose not to take the increased dosage prescribed.
 After a while of routinely swallowing a pill, I gave up on my mental health issues altogether. It was embarrassing after that long to be still not "fixed," and constantly describing how you feel when you have no idea what is causing it is exhausting. As mentioned in previous articles, I had hit bottom, and regardless of not wanting help, I knew I needed it. 

During the same time, staff changes had been made at Margaret Mary Health, located in Brookville. I started hearing how wonderful one of the new team members was, Dr. Brimhall. I also heard one of his specialties was mental health. I pondered the idea of a new doctor, then finally picked up the phone. I had been through this process a million times, but as I dialed, I could feel the tension and terror building up inside me. Scared to death I was traveling down another dead-end road. The receptionist in scheduling was kind and asked me if I wanted to establish with a new doctor. I did, but my tone played it off as something that wasn't needed quickly or an emergency. The receptionist then asked the question I was hoping to avoid. "Are you coming for physical issues, or are your struggles with mental health?" I mustered up the strength; "Mental health," was my response, and I fell quiet. As soon as the fears began to rise inside me, she reassured me how wonderful Dr. Brimhall was and that I would be in excellent hands. She was right. My first appointment with Brimhall gave me hope, for the first time, in a long time.

 Before he joined me in the office, the nurse came in and asked me a series of questions that only required a "yes" or "no." I can barely remember the questions, but I remember I answered them all honestly, for the first time in my life.What happened next changed my path. Dr. Brimhall joined us in the office, went over my responses, and quickly told me that he believed my life-long struggle to be Bi-Polar 2. A diagnosis was an important step, and I felt some relief that there was, in fact, something wrong that could be fixed. Brimhall confirmed that as he looked at me and said, "I don't accept the term 'better," we are going to figure this out until you come in and tell me you are great." That statement in its entirety left me speechless and filled with hope that I, too, could experience everyday life. He prescribed me a low dosage of Lotramine to stabilize my moods and continued the Sertraline.
 Brimhall stayed true to his word. I came back for my next appointment, and when asked how I was feeling, my response was, "better, I think." Brimhall reassured me he wasn't accepting that answer and we weren't stopping here. He tweaked my medication. I am now on 200 milligrams of the Lotramine and also 50 milligrams of Wellbutrin.

It has now been roughly 12 weeks since my new medication, and guess what? I feel amazing. Is it perfect? Not yet, but I do not doubt that with the right medical help, I will get this under control. I realize I will also need therapy, coupled with the proper medication, to continue down this journey's right path. Amazingly, it is a step I am willing to take.  Being able to take that step, in itself, is a win. My mind was so cluttered before, I couldn't even imagine trying to express myself to someone on an intense level. When that process starts, I hope to share how therapy has benefited me as well.Next week we will hear from Dr. Brimhall as he talks through mental health, stereotypes, and so much more.