Well, it has been quite some time since I have posted and quite honestly, I had forgotten that I even started this blog. I have been inspired by my friend Tayla to start blogging again. If you need a good laugh, inspiration or just some good honest truth...check out her blog here: http://turtally.com/
A lot has changed in my life since I first started this blog so let me give you the run down. On March 11, 2011 my life completely changed. Yes, I will always remember this date because it's the day I stopped being me and became scared of my own shadow. I went to work as usual that day but became hot and felt sick at one point during the day. I didn't think much of it and brushed it off because I was going to see my best friend Ann Marie open for Rick Springfield that night at the Wildhorse Saloon.
I loved seeing my best friend on stage doing her thing and being the star that she is! It was a fun night with a few friends and I couldn't wait to go backstage and meet Rick after the show. Keep in mind, I'm not a drinker and NEVER have been. I was sippin' on soda the whole night and felt fine. After the show, Ann Marie came and got me to take me backstage. I can't really explain what happened next besides the fact that I became terrified. I felt dizzy and lightheaded. I couldn't breathe. I was sweating and burning up. My heart was racing. I couldn't think straight. I couldn't even stand up. Here I was, about to meet Rick Springfield and all I could think was "something's wrong...there's something not right with me."
Ann Marie noticed I wasn't feeling well and asked if I was ok. I could hardly respond. I was shaking at this point and had to sit down in the dressing room. Rick walked in to meet me (y'all like how I referred to him as Rick like we're BFF..ha!) and I said "I need help...there's something wrong." I don't think Ann Marie really got it though because she was busy packing up and thanking him for letting her open the show.
I can't remember much after that besides her friends from out of town being there (a mom and daughter) and they could see that I was clearly messed up...I say messed up because I don't know how else to describe it..as I said earlier..NO DRINKIN' and absolutely NO DRUGS. Next thing I know, I'm on the ground, shaking and crying...thinking...I'm dead..this is it for me..what's happening??? People were crowded around me and luckily a paramedic happened to be there and came back to check me out. She told them to call 911 because my heart rate was through the roof. I was scared and kept hearing people ask if someone slipped something in my drink. I knew that couldn't have happened because I got all my sodas myself and I never let them out of my sight. I was trying to text my friend David to see if he could come get my car but I was shaking so much I couldn't even text him. Thank God for Ann Marie because she was able to reach him and he got there about the same time as the ambulance. He told me he would meet me there and I think Ann Marie rode with me to the hospital. By the time I got there though, it was like nothing had ever happened. I felt normal again...besides being scared and confused.
The doctor told me something that I didn't expect. I had an anxiety attack and a pretty bad one at that. He told me it was nothing to be concerned about and it happens to a lot of people.
Let me take you back a few years when I was in high school (ok, more than a few but y'all just cut me some slack I don't like getting old)...I had an anxiety attack in high school but was able to bounce back quickly from it as if nothing had ever happened. It never impacted my life or ability to function in any way. It was an isolated event where I did go to the ER but it was not nearly as terrifying as this one.
Ann Marie and David took me home and I fell asleep hoping that I'd be ok the next day. I spent all weekend in bed feeling anxious and not myself. Even though I didn't feel great, I went to work the next week. I was not the same girl though and I found myself on edge all day, every day. I made excuses to leave work early or not go in at all. I just said I was sick, which I was, but I didn't understand with WHAT. God bless the amazing people at Brentwood Benson Music Publishing and Mark Box (my boss at the time) because I had only been at the job a few weeks and it already seemed like I was a slacker. They never questioned me though or made me feel strange in any way. I didn't understand why I felt like this. I avoiding my friends and doing things that I normally would enjoy doing. I stopped answering my phone. All I wanted to do was sleep. Within a few weeks, I was basically completely absent from work and was laid up in bed crying all day, every day. Why couldn't I snap out of it?
I decided I needed to go to see a doctor and get an explanation for what was going on. This was not normal behavior, especially for a fun loving and outgoing girl like myself. I loved people and parties. I loved going out at night. I didn't love my job but it wasn't horrible and I loved all the people I worked with. As soon as I saw my doctor I starting crying uncontrollably. He assured me that I would be ok and wrote me a prescription for Celexa, which is an anti-depressant. What? An anti-depressant?! You could not have convinced anyone in my life that I would ever be prescribed that or have a problem with socializing. I was the girl who was always smiling, laughing and making others laugh. Being around people and making friends was something I did effortlessly. Either way, I got the prescription filled and started it right away. Unfortunately, anti-depressants aren't magic pills. You don't pop one and feel better. A lot of times, it takes weeks to get in your system and even then you've only fought half the battle. Celexa made me terribly sick. I laid in bed for a week without showering, eating or sleeping. I ignored my phone, didn't check Facebook or Twitter (those of you who know me, know what a big deal that is, as I am a very active social media girl). I was so sick to my stomach and EVERYTHING hurt. I cried and cried and cried. My skin was so broken out because I hadn't washed it and I was so stressed out.
Thank God for my sweet roomie at the time who worked as a flight attendant. He was very concerned about me and sent my mom a free ticket to come see to me. I was so weak, I couldn't even pick her up from the airport. I felt crazy, pathetic, scared and wanted to die. When I say, I wanted to die, I meant it. I prayed that God would take me out of my misery. I just knew there had to be something terribly wrong with me. I believe that God puts people in your lives at just the right times and I am so thankful that I had Ann Marie, David and my friend Sarah to help me. Sarah picked my mom up from the airport and already had talked to a friend of hers who was a nurse at Vanderbilt and suggested that I go to the ER as soon as my mom had arrived.
When my mom and Sarah walked in the door, they were devastated. They had never seen me like that before. The only words I could say were "I need help...please take me to the hospital..I think I'm dying." They immediately took me to Vanderbilt where I spent the longest THIRTEEN hours of my life waiting in the ER. At this point, it had been a week since I had anything to eat and nothing to drink except Gatorade (which is what I suppose helped me make it that far along) and water. By the time they admitted me, I thought I was going to pass out or just die right there on the spot.
I thought maybe I would spend the night in the hospital where they would have this magic cure for me. That's not exactly how it played out. Next thing I knew, I was being admitted to the psychiatric hospital where they said I would stay until they thought it was safe for me to leave. I couldn't stop crying. I didn't want my mom to leave. I'm crying right now just typing this. Those memories are ones that I will never forget and I have never been so frightened in my life. I didn't know what was going to happen to me. I was exhausted and starving and helpless.
My mom left me with a nurse who gave me an Ensure to drink and weighed me and got all my information. I had lost almost ten pounds that week. They showed me to a room that I shared with another lady who was already asleep. All I really remember is crying until I eventually fell asleep.
They woke me up the next day at 7:00 AM and asked if I wanted breakfast. As soon as I woke up I just started crying again and couldn't even talk. They told me that I could come to their meetings if I felt like it. I didn't. I didn't do anything for the first few days except meet with a psychiatrist and lay in bed. They changed my medication to Prozac which ended up being even worse than the Celexa. I still couldn't eat and also had an infection in my mouth which made it hurt to swallow and impossible to eat anything.
Of course, they decided that on top of being depressed and having an anxiety disorder, that I also had an eating disorder. Um, that was my first sign that the hospital was not a good place for me. I understand that I needed to be there to get stable and be under constant supervision but let me tell you they will diagnose you with everything under the sun. They love to push pills, too. One night, I was so upset that they gave me a sleeping pill which knocked me out cold. I spent all night and all the next day asleep. It took me another day to finally wake up from the fog. I told them that I refused to take anything like that ever again. They did, however, give me medicine for my mouth which seemed to help a lot and allowed me to eat things like yogurt or mashed potatoes.
After a week, they decided that I was good to go. I didn't feel good though and I was still scared out of my mind. It was Easter and I had already booked a flight to go home. I still do not know to this day how I managed to get to the airport and make it on that flight. I was so anxious and uneasy the whole time. The fifty minute flight felt like an eternity. As soon as I saw my parents, I collapsed in my dads arms and started crying again. I couldn't do it. I was too weak. I was never going to get better. I spent the next three days on the couch crying and unable to eat. My parents didn't know what to do with me, after all, they had sent me to the hospital and they were supposed to make me better, right?
My mom spoke to my psychiatrist on the phone and they decided that it would be a good idea to admit me to the hospital again. This time, I was more willing to go. I knew what to expect and I was so desperate for help that I felt like I had no other choice. My grandmother flew to Nashville with me and spent the night with me because they didn't have room that day for me. The next day, there I was again, at Vanderbilt hospital. This time, there were new faces. I never took the time to get to know anyone the first time I was there because I basically cried the whole time and isolated myself. I didn't have the energy for other people. I was trapped inside my own mind and only had a small window of relief every day when I met with my psychiatrist who assured me that I would indeed get better. I didn't believe him but I tried my best to.
Let me tell you again that God is always in control..putting the right people in your life at the right time. At this time, I had only been friends with my friend Danelle for less than a year (I now consider her family, like a sister I never had) and although I knew she was a good friend, I really had no idea how great of a friend she was until this time. I was allowed to make phone calls and often called my parents, roommates, and of course Ann Marie and Danelle. I never call anything a coincidence because I believe that God creates our paths and directs our lives if we allow Him to. During the time that this was happening, Ann Marie and Danelle befriended a man named Miles Adcox who is the CEO of Onsite (I will tell you more about this magical place later). He was over at their house for dinner (Ann Marie and Danelle were roommates at the time) and they were explaining to him what was going on with me. They were scared for me and didn't know what to do or how to help. Miles, being the amazing human that he is, offered to help in any way that he could. He told them about Onsite and told them to pass along his phone number to me and my mom.
Ann Marie and Danelle seemed really excited about Onsite and wanted to get me out of the hospital as soon as possible. Danelle had studied psychology in college and was nervous about all the medications they were putting me on and knew that I was uncomfortable by my surroundings. Do not get me wrong, I met some truly inspiring people at the hospital and my time there really did put compassion and empathy in my heart that was never there before. I unfortunately felt the burden of all the horror stories I was hearing from the other patients. One girl had seen her boyfriend get shot and killed right in front of her and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder where she frequently had nightmares and flashbacks. Another man had recently come out to his wife, who refused to divorce him and ultimately humiliated him daily, and he had attempted suicide. One kid, had sex for the first time and ended up with HIV. He had been involved in heavy drug use which impaired his judgement and left him with a psychosis...for those of you who don't know what that is..it basically means you see and hear things that aren't really there. It was frightening to witness these things happening. My favorite person though was an extremely intelligent and witty guy named Kenny. He suffered from worse anxiety than me and knew a lot about it. He had suffered his whole life but it became unbearable when he started school at Vanderbilt. We spent a lot of time together talking and encouraging each other...actually, he really encouraged me more than anything else. He had been in the hospital for over a MONTH. Can you imagine that??? He challenged the doctors and ended up diagnosing himself with something they had overlooked. I'm so blessed that he was there because he really kept my spirits up when I felt the worst.
Back to Onsite and Miles...my psychiatrist was hesitant about me going there and really preferred that I go to the out patient program Vanderbilt offered. I wasn't crazy about this idea. I felt helpless and wondered if I would ever get relief. Ann Marie and Danelle looked into Onsite and thought it would be a perfect place for me to get the help that I needed. Miles assured me that if he didn't think I could get help there, he would find a place for me to get help. I talked to him daily on the phone and what a blessing that was! Here he was, running this amazing place and he took the time to talk to someone he had never even met!
A few days after I was out of the hospital, I was on my way to Onsite. I didn't have very high expectations but figured anything was better than the hospital and at least there would be more people like me who were dealing with the same things I was dealing with. I felt stuck. Everyone else there did to. The day I got there, they said "look around at this group of people..by the end of the week, they will become your family." I thought, sure ok?? We broke into small groups of 9 or 10 and were assigned a leader who would be guiding our therapy for the week. Essentially, you get a years worth of therapy in six days, can you say EMOTIONALLY DRAINED? I liked it there immediately though. It was in the middle of nowhere. There were horses and land and cabins. The people seemed nice and most were wealthy (Onsite isn't a cheap place and insurance doesn't cover it..but it is worth every penny and then some!). I felt more comfortable around these people than I did the people at the hospital. My roommates were very warm and friendly and I liked them instantly. I didn't eat at dinner, I was still living off Ensure at this point. I even brought enough for the six days because I couldn't fathom being able to eat.
I can't really explain to you what happened in those six days but let me tell you, I was a changed person. I grew to love the people in my group, and the people who weren't in my group, like family. I shared more with them than I had shared with anyone my whole life. I opened up wounds and dark things about myself that I never admitted to anyone. I was vulnerable and free to express myself. I was encouraged to say what I wanted, when I wanted. I wasn't judged, but embraced and loved. I felt safe and connected to people in a way that I never thought was possible. Within a day I started feeling like me again. It was a miracle. I started eating and laughing and having fun. I can't tell you how much those people mean to me. I still think of them daily and we even have a Facebook page where we all keep in touch and share our struggles and encourage each other.
One of my friends from Onsite even sent me a care package a few months after we got out. The support I got there was amazing. I faced a lot of my demons and admitted things to them that I couldn't even admit to myself or those I considered closest to me.
My whole life all I wanted was perfection. I wanted my parents to be proud of me. I wanted to be pretty. I wanted to be smart. I wanted to impress people. I wanted everyone to like me. I wanted to please everyone, even if that was at the expense of my true identity. I didn't even know myself. I only knew the Courtney that everyone expected me to be. I had goals and I was going to achieve them. I had controlled and planned my whole life. I was going to make it in Nashville. I got my education, worked hard at my internship and naturally I would land a good gig, right?? God is funny that way. You think you've got it all worked out and you're comfortable in your life and He throws you a curve ball and wrecks your world.
Let me tell you, I was living the LIFE in Nashville. I made friends everywhere I went. I was in music videos, commercials, went to concerts all the time, hung with celebrities, went to after parties, went out every night. I thought I had it MADE. My life was so fun and exciting and I was on top of the world. NOT!!!!!!!!!!!! I was empty, I had pushed my relationship with God aside for the spotlight and all the fun that came with being in the entertainment industry. I truly believe that all of this happened to me because God needed my full attention and it was the only way to get it.
Yes, Onsite did help me get better and I spent the next 6 months rebuilding my life and trying to implement the things I had learned there to better myself. This meant leaving certain friendships behind and really taking a long hard look at myself. This is hard to do when you were insecure to begin with. It was like starting over. I still didn't feel completely comfortable and never really went back to my old ways of hanging out all night at bars and hanging with the "IT" crowd. I surrounded myself with loyal friends who I knew were really there for me. The people who were there when the party was over and the makeup came off. This means that my circle got a lot smaller, but I didn't mind.
I really thought things were turning around for me so I slacked off with therapy and didn't continue to see a psychiatrist. I thought "I'm cured, no need for all that." I knew I wasn't the same person I was before all this started, but that was ok with me. After all, how can you go through something so traumatic and come out on the other end unchanged? What I didn't realize is that anxiety and depression are a part of me and probably always will be. It didn't develop overnight and it wasn't going to go away overnight either. It was something I was constantly going to have to work at.
After a wonderful Christmas with my family and New Years with friends from high school in South Carolina, I was traveling to Kentucky where I was working as a freelance stylist for Zappos.com. BEST GIG IN THE WORLD! I had been there for four months and loved the people and the models. I also loved clothes and it paid REALLY well. I had fun at home but was excited to get there and see how everyone had spent their holiday. On the way there, the weather got really bad. I realized that I couldn't see and my car was swerving on the road. It was so bad that I knew I couldn't make it to the next exit. I pulled off the road and called my mom for advice. I had never been in such bad weather in my life and had no idea how to handle myself. I was smack dab in the middle of where I was coming from and where I was going. The next thing I know, I look over and see an 18 wheeler coming straight for me. I thought this was it. My life flashed before my eyes and I screamed. I just knew this was the end. Luckily, it wasn't. I was helped out of my car by a nice man who had seen the whole thing happen. As luck would have it, while waiting in his car, another truck hit him while I was in it. I ended up spending the night in a shelter because all the hotels were booked. It was traumatizing.
I was okay though. I was only banged up a little bit and was thankful to be alive. God really protected me and I didn't even have an anxiety attack. I was proud of myself for keeping it together under these conditions. Again though, something changed in me. I felt that familiar terror once again. Yes, anxiety. I started having anxiety attacks every day and became even more depressed than I was before. Why was this happening to me again?! I was discouraged. I did the only thing I knew how to do which was lay in bed and cry. For weeks, I avoiding my friends, too embarrassed to tell them what was going on with me. My parents were calling and I wasn't answering. I was humiliated. I thought I was strong. I thought I could handle anything. Why was I having to relive the terror all over again less than a year later?
It was a Wednesday night and my dad called me...I was crying. He said "Do you want to come home?" I said "yes." That was that. In less than 48 hours I was packed and ready to move back home to South Carolina. I didn't even have time to say goodbye to anyone (which was probably a good thing looking back on it now) besides my best friends and roommates. I didn't know what I was going to do but I knew that being with my parents felt like the safest option and my doctors in Nashville really weren't helping me anymore.
I felt like a failure. I never thought I'd ever leave Nashville. I had survived such a difficult time and I was determined to make it. I had nothing at home besides my family and a very small group of friends. I had no plan and no idea what to do. The first week at home was good because I was busy unpacking and catching up with my best friends Lauren and Amanda. They were happy to have me home so I felt slightly better with my decision. On the other end though, I was talking to my best friend Ann Marie daily and missing her terribly. I knew I did the right thing by coming home though.
The feeling ok again quickly ended when the boxes were unpacked and I realized that my family would be at work all day, every day, as well as my friends. I was alone and sad. I started seeing a new doctor and a therapist. My medication was adjusted and for about a month or so I finally started to feel like myself again. I was working at my family business and enjoying spending time with my family. The unfortunate side to my medication is that it causes weight gain. I thought it was time to try something new and tried to taper off. BAD IDEA. Within a week and a half I was so depressed that I was crying all day and begging God to just kill me. It took me another few weeks to get the medicine back in my system but I still didn't feel great.
So, here I am, writing this blog. I don't really know if anyone will care to read it but I guess it's kind of a bit of therapy for me to do so. I just went and saw a new doctor and started a new medication today. I have felt ok the past few days and even managed to spend time with friends on the 4th of July. However, I still don't feel confident enough to go back to work or live my life the way I did before.
I hope one day I can look back and read this and know that this was part of my road to recovery. Until then, I hope maybe this can encourage someone who may be going through the same thing. Depression is lonely and you feel like you're the only one in the world who feels that way. God has us here for a purpose though and I intend to find out what it is. I know that this will always be a struggle for me but I'm hoping that I'll start having more good days than bad and I can regain the confidence to go after my dreams.
Until next time....