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Mental health support at Cornerstone

Cornerstone’s Corner

Writing about mental illness, even during mental health awareness month, is a difficult task. I find that the stigma creates a barrier that prevents the natural flow of ideas from making it to the page. The issue tends to compound when I attempt to share my own story. I can talk and share about my struggles long past with ease, but the more recent pieces are more difficult. Maybe, because I am still attempting to process them. So here it goes…

As many of you already know, I have struggled with major depression for the majority of my life. Last September into early November, my mental health took a major decline. I had been doing well managing, or so I thought, my mental health. I figured that the issues were probably situational, stemming from some minor family conflict, shifts at work, helping my dad move back to Tehachapi, running a mental health clinic, etc. As those life issues started to smooth out my mental health was still declining. I found myself in a constant state of apathy, my creativity withering, severe brain fog and the simplest tasks became nearly impossible to complete.

My coworkers and friends began noticing the shift as I sunk deeper and deeper. Thankfully, one of my friends and supporters offered to send me to the Amen Clinic to have a SPECT scan, which measures blood flow in the brain. The closest appointment was in January with the doctor my friend recommended. After two days of testing, I sat down with the doctor over a Zoom call. First, we went through the written tests and saw a definite increase in depression and some lower, but still within an acceptable range, scores for other emotional areas. Then we went to the brain scans. The first area the doctor pointed to was my thalamus, which was red hot (high blood flow) and over active. Which is indicative of depression. The doctor then pointed out that two other parts of the brain were also red hot. Those three areas together, when over active, are called a trauma diamond. They point to some early childhood trauma, my biological mother passing when I was 9, and continued traumas, losing lots of family to cancer and being a chaplain during COVID.

The doctor was not surprised to hear that I was struggling and said the medication I am on is either not working or the images would be much brighter without it. The doctor moved on to show me that when I am focused my cerebellum and prefrontal cortex go to sleep, i.e. lose blood flow. The doctor diagnosed me with Inattentive type ADD. The last portion of the appointment focused on a treatment plan.

I expected to leave the appointment hopeful, I finally had answers and a holistic treatment plan so I should have left relieved. Instead, I was devastated. Frustration and helplessness crept in. Frustration because I had spent more than a decade in therapy and psychological testing and neither of these issues had been seen or diagnosed. Helplessness because, as the doctor pointed out, my subconscious is so good at masking and hiding the symptoms and root causes that no amount of testing would have shown the trauma and ADD. They needed to see my brain in order to see beyond the masking. As all the pieces came tumbling into place, I realized how much life I had lost because of the trauma and the ADD. I grieved the relationships lost or never started because of rejection sensitivity. I needed to grieve the fact that even though my depression was being treated the unknowns and attempts to cope kept the scale sliding upward and making getting healthy nearly impossible. I could fill pages with the number of puzzle pieces that left me grieving, but the most painful one is that it took 34 years to get answers.

In the five months since speaking to the doctor I have come to a place where I can honestly say that I am thankful that it only took 34 years to get answers. I am able to focus, think more clearly, my creativity is beginning to spark again, and for the first time in a long time I find myself feeling some contentment. I meet weekly with my therapist to work through the trauma and mange the ADD. Every six weeks I meet with the doctor from the Amen Clinic as we work to find the correct medications and dosages for my depression and ADD. I still find myself grieving over the should haves and what ifs. I still have bad days, but thankfully they are not as bad as they were. The mountain of work ahead is not as insurmountable as it first appeared. I am constantly reminded and reminding others that the journey to mental health can only be done well with a community. I am thankful for the community I have for encouraging me and providing a way for me to get the answers and treatment I did not even know I needed.

If you are in need of a mental health community my team and I at Cornerstone are here to provide the hope and healing you need.

If you have any questions about our approaches to substance abuse treatment and/or the harm reduction approach please do not hesitate to reach out to us. Our phone number is (661) 750-0438 and our email is [email protected]/.