Tag Archives: Zoloft

From Breakdowns to Breakthroughs

If you’re in the middle of what seems to be a breakdown, hang on – your breakthrough is coming. If you seek it, you’ll find it.

That’s the beauty of wisdom. It’s there, sometimes hidden behind a bunch of hurts and painful memories. Perhaps it is shrouded by a busy life. So busy you can’t see the forest for the trees.

Wisdom is waiting for you, and with it is the clarity that comes from a breakthrough.

If you’re in need of a breakthrough and have used all the tools in your toolbox (talking to good friends, meditation, listening to You Tube videos on the topic, yada yada yada) maybe it’s time to bring in reinforcements.

Funny sidebar: I often get private messages from Facebook friends asking for advice on our Word of the Week messages. I always preface any answer with, “Please keep in mind I am not a licensed therapist…”

While I’ve learned a bunch from the school of hard knocks and good books, I’m not qualified to give counsel to anyone.

I have great regard for those whose love for people and genuine desire to impact lives for good resulted in their pursuit of professional counseling as their life’s work. One of my most favorite people in the world is Anna Coker, who has one of the biggest hearts known to man and uses her sensitivity, kindness, skill, and insight to help people heal.

From my past experience, finding a good therapist is often like going on a series of bad dates until you meet “the one.”

There was the guy whose first instinct was to write me a prescription for Zoloft, which may be helpful for some, but simply numbed me to what was REALLY needing attention. And the woman who was so rigidly religious in her world view she couldn’t hear anything outside of it. Not to mention the toxic horror stories from my past church/cult life, where my deepest hurts were manipulated to control my life and rob me of my individuality.

And yes, some unqualified victims like myself were “made” counselors. I’ve already done that apology tour.

Church/cult experience aside, the other detours into less than helpful therapy still had some value.

Kissing the frogs helps you identify the prince (or princess) when he or she comes along.

Just like finding the best restaurant in town and wanting everyone to taste that particular, pillowy gnocchi, so too, when you find a great therapist, you (I) want people to know about them.

Sanna Carapellotti came to me miraculously through my writing coach, who recognized I had hit a creative wall. And he was sensitive enough to realize it had nothing to do with the book I was writing.

I followed this link to arrange a free, fifteen-minute consultation to see if we both felt she could help me. I knew within one minute that this was a “no BS” yet non-traditional therapist who could guide me to the answers. Her philosophy? You have everything you need inside of you. The answers lie within you. Sometimes you just need a little help to reveal them.

I went into the session thinking I knew exactly what the problem was. Which was, of course, someone else. THEY were the problem.

The tricky think about problems involving other people? You can’t change THEM. You can only change YOU and how you respond to life (and them).

Through a combination of skillful questions, interrupted by breathing exercises, guided meditation, tapping – you name it – we got there.

Oh boy, we GOT there.

My revelation came and it was truly like a light-bulb going off.

Just as profound as my Costa Rica Iboga journey, during which I saw myself shut down after my father’s death – unable to express or even be in touch with my feelings – this time I went further back.

To the incubator.

Born one month premature, I went immediately to isolation, hooked up on tubes and fighting for my life. Isolation separated me from human touch and the nurturing comfort a baby craves when entering this world.

I cried in…isolation.

Long after I finally made weight and could finally join my family, this deep-seated fight for survival stayed with me.

A pit-bull like fear ready to pounce on perceived threats and consuming endless energy has been my companion for these 56 years. This pit bull served me well, mind you. I appreciate its fighting spirit at the start and also at various junctures of my life when I truly fought for survival.

It’s such a relief to realize I don’t need to fight for something I already have.

My life is mine. I made it. I am fine.

No longer do I seek something I didn’t get those first few weeks of life from people or organizations or even my profession.

Unpacking childhood trauma makes the baggage of life much lighter.

And that’s the Reader’s Digest version.

Dear readers, I feel so free! So unplugged from negative energy!

It’s such a release to have clarity about why I have felt certain things and responded so extremely to perceived threats all of my life.

Remarkably, I’m not so touchy anymore!

Those same people who bugged the #$%@ out of me? I now feel empathy for them; even love.

Everyone’s story is different. This happens to be mine. What I can say is that help is available. And I hope you, too, love yourself enough to head off your breakdown and head toward your own breakthrough.

Interestingly, I recorded this week’s message BEFORE my session with Sanna. I think you will see a different, more relaxed face in upcoming video messages. How prophetic the new Word of the Week turned out to be!

https://youtu.be/YpGgKZinVRw

If you’ve hit a wall, EXPLORE the why.

If you are intrigued by my visit with Sanna, she has graciously offered a free gift, “The Healing Heart” to any of you who reach out to her and mention my name, Brenda Viola.

To your breakthrough!

xoxoxoxo

Brenda

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Under the Influence Of…?

We are all under the influence of SOMETHING.

Back in the day, it was usually a nice red wine or a very naughty Grand Marnier.

Because my feelings were on lock-down, I had to numb them.

When I started to allow my feelings to rise to the surface (thanks to getting off of Zoloft and eliminating alcohol), those feelings made clear what was TRULY influencing me.

Good feelings? Happy thoughts? Joyful intentions and a positive outlook? That means I’m under the influence of Source/God/Spirit…however you choose to refer to the Divine.

Stressed? Anxious? Feeling insecure and inferior? Oh, I have just unplugged my connection and I am all caught up in what I can see, hear, smell, taste, and touch.

The senses are very compelling, but they are only PART of the story.

There is a meta (above) physical reality that is FAR more powerful that what my senses can discern.

It is in THAT universe where unlimited potential, lavish abundance and boatloads of  creativity and inspiration reside.

One of the most powerful realizations of this past year has been that Brenda and Source are ONE.  I don’t have to strive for a connection; it is not sever-able.

I don’t have to be good enough, or praise enough, or be holy enough to make myself attractive to God.

That’s the unconditional part of love where traditional religion goes off track.

Conservative Christianity’s view that a God that is love – and unconditional love at that – could damn a soul to “hell” always troubled me; yet I was so entrenched, it terrified me to consider otherwise.  I felt guilty reading Rob Bell’s book Love Wins, yet I couldn’t pull myself away from the sense it made.

This awakening was the first of many to follow…and just like playing whack-a-mole, as soon as I learn something new I learn there’s more to learn.

We’re all on our own, individual journeys. Some of you are further down the road than I, and maybe I’m down the pike from where you are…but the best part is it doesn’t matter.

Ha! Doesn’t it often turn out that when you think you’re ahead you’re really behind (and vice-versa?)

This isn’t a competition.  No one has the corner on the market of spirituality and everyone has a little piece of the truth.

I have found that the safest, most peaceful space to live in is where love truly wins.

In that space, everyone wins.

My closing thoughts on awakening and the new WOW, coming right up!

Well, hello possibilities!  What risks are YOU going to take this week?

(I’m rooting for you!)

xoxoxoxo

Brenda

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Let Your Heart De-Light (and the New WOW)

The carol goes, “Let your heart BE light…” but I’m flipping it to “Let your heart DE-light” in honor of our recent Word of the Week.

There’s nothing like treats in the mail (instead of bills) to delight your heart, and my cup ran over with jelly and jam joy with this package from my Aunt Joan upon my return to Sarasota:

Aunt Joan gets regular shout outs on this blog for her constant love and support.  However, she will be scolded this week for totally blowing any semblance of my diet with her amazing “What are they called?” fruity, crumbly cookies.

I ate them all.

Myself.

But the pièce de résistance of her over-the-top gift package was the silver cuff that sits atop the jams in the above photo, engraved with these words:

Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations.

How true!  I started 2017 with the intention that it would be an “annus mirabilis” or “year of miracles.”  It was all that and a bag of chips, but the road was forged with grit and tears, hopes and fears marked by bold and brave moves that surprised even myself.

When the dust settled, I marveled at the complete and utter paradigm shift that had occurred.

My life had been completely upended, purposefully.

It was HARD.  Detoxing from Zoloft, settling into a single person’s life, finding a new rhythm and learning to love me, myself and I was a journey as jungle-like as my trek to Costa Rica.

My expectation was that I’d navigate this new way of life for a few years and then, maybe, someone might come along that I’d like enough to spend time with.

The universe had other plans, and now I find myself in love with a guy who wants to sit and map out our intentions together for 2018.

If I’m dreaming, please, nobody wake me up.

That’s not to say violins are playing and I have stardust in my eyes.  Life is real and relationships are the best opportunity to put to work all the spiritual truths collected over the course of a lifetime.

Here’s the kicker:  This is a man who laughs.  Alot.

He laughs when I get all wonked out about imaginary fears.  When I spill the soup all over the counter and miss the bowl, he chuckles.  I trekked him through an entire parking garage at the airport until I realized we were in the WRONG garage.

At every turn, I’m braced for the blow; the harsh, eye-rolling, “Brenda!” tinged with exasperation.

Yet the blow never comes.

Every time I get all heavy, Mark Roach gets all LIGHT.  And not in a diminishing or condescending way.  He just thinks that life is too precious to get all riled up about insignificant stuff.

These kind responses are healing another layer of my heart so bruised from being so darned hard on myself for far too long.

If you ever struggle with giving yourself a break, my closing thoughts on delight will hopefully encourage your heart.  Plus, we have a fantastic new Word of the Week (and Word of the YEAR!):

What do you want to be?

WHO do you want to be?

What do you want to become?

Where do you want to live?

What do you want to do?

These questions that I posed extemporaneously in this week’s video are the very ones I am asking myself as I head into 2018.  I hope you will ask yourself the same and we can begin INTENTIONALLY our year of TRANSFORMATION.

Much love to you all –

Brenda

xoxoxox

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Your Masterpiece is YOU (and the New WOW)

For our entire lives, we’ve been working on a masterpiece.

We may not call ourselves creative and a paintbrush may never have graced our hands – still, we are artists.

On my 4+ hour drive to Jacksonville to spend Thanksgiving with my friend Anita and her family, I had good company.  Joining me on the open road was the audio book of Don Miguel Ruiz’s “The Voice of Knowledge.”  A new friend had shared with me that Ruiz’s “The Four Agreements” deeply affected his life for good. He highly recommended the trilogy of Toltec Wisdom Books.

The word “Toltec” means “artist of the spirit.” In the Toltec tradition, every human is an artist, and the supreme art is the expression of the beauty of our spirit. To consider that we are artists (rather than mere humans), makes us creators – just like the One Who created us.

From page 47 of The Voice of Knowledge:

How do we live our life? This is our art; the art of living.

There are two kinds of artists.  Those who create their story without awareness, and those recover awareness and create their story with truth and with love.

To think that I – that WE – hold the paintbrush to our lives is an awesome realization.  Is there something that doesn’t fit into our vision of truth and love?  Paint over it.  Create something new.  We have the power to do this.

We were BORN to write our own story and have everything we need to make it a work of art.  Yes, people will come along who will try to impose on us what THEY think our lives should look like.

When I handed over the paintbrush to other people, I became something other than the authentic Brenda.

It has taken many years to get her back.  As the song goes, “Reunited and It feels SO good!

This passage from page 68 excited my spirit so much I wanted to share it with you:

You are the only one who can change your story, and you do this by changing your relationship with yourself.

Every time you change the main character in your story, just like magic the whole story starts to change in order to adapt to the new main character.

I think of one of my favorite movies of all time, Frequency, in which the main character is able to connect to his long-deceased Father through a miraculous ham radio.  At one point he mentions that “cigarettes will kill, you Dad…” as an off-handed comment.

Long story short, that suggestion led to a decision by his Father that resulted in him changing the course of his life…and his death.  The script was rewritten.

I consider my decision four years ago to stop drinking.  After years of wrestling with, “Do I have a problem?” I heard clearly in my spirit that if I kept it up, I would die prematurely.  When tempted to sip a Cosmopolitan, I have reminded myself of that revelation to keep me from turning back.

The clarity of sobriety has graced me with so many gifts; most importantly, a clearness about what I want my life to be and who I want Brenda to be.  It has afforded me a newfound ability to call a lie a lie and step away from pretense and performance.  Being clear gave me the courage to walk away from those things that no longer “fit” the true me…and the health in mind, body and spirit to enjoy a new way of living.

It was the first domino in a series that led to removing Zoloft from my life, journeying to Costa Rica to get back in touch with my wounded soul and begin this journey to wholeness.

What a ripple effect!

I’m sure there will yet be many more changes to the main character of my story, but my point in writing is to encourage YOU to take that paintbrush and adjust your masterpiece accordingly.

Paint your beautiful life with broad strokes of love and truth, my friends.

And what a great word to follow up these thoughts on CREATIVITY:

What a wonderful assignment for all of us!  It is NEVER too late to be who you “might have been.”

I hope you had a beautiful Thanksgiving.  It’s a holiday to be celebrated year-round…and my heart is overflowing with gratitude for this life I get to live (and create!).  I’m so blessed to share it with you.

xoxoxoxo

Brenda

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Clarity is Not for Sissies (and the New WOW)

This is NOT a manifesto against anti-depressants, but tells of MY journey to true clarity and the role that Zoloft (Sertraline) played in clouding matters.

You know that close to four years ago, I stopped drinking.  Haven’t had a glass of anything since November 11, 2013.  (Note:  It gives me goosebumps that I quit on 11:11, which is a power number. It seems the universe parted the waters that day, making a clear path for me to exit tipsy-land.)

Let me re-think the use of the word “tipsy.”  It is a euphemism, as is buzzed, to describe an altered state that numbs you from the pain of life.  

Such words make you feel better about being a drunk.

I quit alcohol because every bad decision or regretted remark or action in my life emanated from a booze-fueled state. Tired of being embarrassed, I no longer wanted to be voted “Most likely to break something” at every party. Some major falls led to a serious reckoning with how simply dangerous it was to navigate steps and life with a high blood alcohol content.

For me, clarity came when I heard in my spirit “If you keep this up, this is how you will die.”

Gulp.

So 2013 marked a new phase of clarity in my life.

Clarity is not for sissies.  You begin to observe things that didn’t bother you before; overlooked slights now hurt.  Suddenly, there’s fight in you, because you start to believe that you are worth better.

Sobriety and self-respect go hand in hand. As my self-worth grows, my capacity to tolerate disrespect shrinks.

Wait, Brenda – I thought you were going to talk about anti-depressants?

I am.

Sobriety fueled my recent life decisions.  What may have seemed to outsiders as a crazy, “Where did THAT come from?” action when I left my marriage, those who know me know I’ve never been more in my right mind.

But that action was just a beginning.

I’ve been on a quest for HONESTY.

As I continued to ask myself the questions necessary to peel away layers of dishonesty, I kept returning to a nagging question mark: My 10-year affair with Zoloft.

In the beginning years of my marriage, we went to Christian counseling.  The only thing I got out of it was a prescription.

Truly, that first 50 mg pill seemed like a magic bullet.  Perhaps psychosomatic, nevertheless, I felt instantly happier, more able to cope, less irritable and more tolerant.

When entering menopause, the script increased to 75 mg. When we moved to Florida, my new doctor upped it to 100 mg.

Patients should obey their doctors, right?

I visited my sister last year and one of my little blue pills fell on the bathroom floor.  She found it and, with trepidation, asked me what I was on.

I thought nothing of telling her – after all, my healthcare provider prescribed the drug!

The counselor had drawn a little cartoon that showed how serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) would build a little bridge to my brain, helping the happy feelings get back where they belonged.

Shirlee, unimpressed by the analogy but without judgment, encouraged me to read about the impacts of these drugs and to consider weaning off of Zoloft.  It took many months, but for me, the evidence was clear.  If I didn’t get off, I’d be on this drug for the rest of my life.

Thus began Brenda Clear Phase 2.0.

My doctor, knowing of my pending divorce said, “Do you really think this is the best time to detox?”

Taking control of my own body and decisions that affect it, I said, “Yes. This is the very best time.”

Since early June I have been on a steadily-decreasing prescription of Zoloft and last week, went to zero.

Clarity is not for sissies.

My body revolted angrily against the disappearing drug. Irritation has returned, flu-like symptoms, aches and pains, sleeplessness, headaches, cramping – yep, it’s been a real joy ride. But here’s the flipside: I FEEL again.

Yes, the difficult feelings were numbed, but so were the GOOD ones.  I now laugh more, cry more, and am more deeply touched by music and words and people.

I am alive.

Eventually, the physical symptoms will disappear.  It’s worth it to plow through them to get to the REAL ME.

I’ve missed Brenda.  It’s wonderful to get to know her again.

Here are my parting thoughts on CLARITY and the new WOW:

Hot diggity! (Wow, there’s a first-time use of THAT phrase.)

Let’s be INSPIRED this week.

Oh, and if my anti-depressant story has tugged at your heart, let me add that you should never cold turkey SSRIs.  There’s a careful way of weaning that your doctor can guide you through.  If INSPIRED to make a similar decision, I’m rooting for you.

And if you are not, please do not feel judged.  Everyone is on a different journey.  Some people have experienced great relief in temporary use of these drugs to get over a rough patch.  However, in my case, I found myself ten years later using the drug as an emotional crutch.

After finally ditching the crutches, I am learning to walk – and I hope to eventually fly.

xooxoxox

Love,
Brenda

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