Depression, (Step)Motherhood, and Biofeedback: One Inspiring and Brave Mom’s Story.

Guest Blogger, Julie Franke

Being a mom with little kids is hard, being a stepmom is even harder, now add in major anxiety and depression… Yup that was my life and it was spiraling out of control. 

But for you to truly understand how I hit rock bottom we must start from the beginning… 

I was 15 when I first started to notice that I was feeling very sad and just in a funk.  I tried to hide it, hoping it would just go away.  I finally told my mom what was happening and off to my regular MD we went. After a few questions he said “yup you have depression” and here is a prescription for Zoloft.  Back then Zoloft was the new “fix all” antidepressant, so of course I was excited to get back to feeling like me again… Well that high didn’t last long… here came the side effects: migraines, vomiting, even worsening of my depression!! So, what do you do? Go back to the doc and get a new prescription, this time it was for Prozac.  All right I was feeling excited again, this one is going to work, right?  Nope, reality struck hard: headaches, joint pain, complete exhaustion, mood swings.  Maybe third times a charm? The medication of choice this time was Celexa. If I thought the other 2 medication side effects were bad this one was like tossing me into the middle of the ocean with no idea how to swim…  

I remember thinking; seriously how is this little tiny pill screwing with my body like this?  The side effect on the bottle listed tremors, well for me they were full body convolutions; it listed mood swings, wrong again I have never been filled with so much ANGER and HATE for anything and everything around me.  I remember the day I just broke down in my parent’s front yard and said enough, I can’t do this anymore, I would rather be sad then deal with all this crap!!  So, I did, I took myself off all the meds, dealt with all the withdrawal symptoms, which was 2 weeks of living Hell.  I was able to deal with all the withdrawals because I could see the light at the end of the tunnel, it wasn’t a blinding bright light, for me it was a dull and dreary light but I was ready to take on my depression drug free!! 

I went through the next 7 or 8 years just getting by, really trying to keep my secret monster in the closet.  If you were to ask anyone I worked or went to college with if I was depressed they would say NO WAY!! But what friends didn’t know is that it was all a show, and it took every ounce of energy to put it on. 

See that is how I managed to get through life.  I hid the true Julie from everyone, I could “manage” through the day, but at night I was home crying myself to sleep or being so depressed I literally could not move off my couch.  

Now fast forward and I am living in Texas, I have an amazing job and started to date this wonderful guy, who was truly crazy about me… well the pretty painted picture of me that is!  You would think I was on cloud nine, but reality of not being able to hide my dark secret anymore was scaring me to death. We decided to move in together, but it wasn’t just the 2 of us, he has kids… stop judging, I don’t hate kids but it did mean that the show I was putting on would have to now be 24/7. 

I could feel the depression and now major anxiety getting out of control, but I mustered through it without really letting anyone in; even my new husband. I was barley holding myself together at this point and then BAM!! I was pregnant… I decided to leave the job I loved so I could work part time (still for the same company) but the job was sitting in an office on the 3 days a week I wasn’t taking care of my step kids.  Anyone who has depression knows that being still and alone is a ticking time bomb, and was it ever! 

I was a hormonal mess, home alone raising my step kids and my bomb was ticking away. When I had my son Caleb I was terrified that I was going to have postpartum depression.  I mean, come on, I already have horrible regular depression so why would it skip me? I truly believe there is only one reason why I didn’t get it and it was God, He knew I was not capable of handling it, so he spared me. But one thing that did get worse was my anxiety. I joked with my husband John that he couldn’t pay me 1 million dollars to go to the Texas State Fair.  I mean, I couldn’t ride an elevator with multiple people because being in a closed environment with multiple people would cause an anxiety attack.  I refused to walk into a restaurant first, the thought of people looking at me would make my insides crawl. 

Remember my time bomb is still ticking… 

I found out I was pregnant again right after my son turned 1, it wasn’t a happy time due to a disaster of a 12-day family vacation to Rhode Island to visit my family. My depression started spinning out of control on that trip, I couldn’t handle it anymore. I can say that I was losing my mind!! We somehow all made it back to Texas alive. Trust me if you were one of the bystanders at Logan Airport you would have been placing bets on who was going to toss who out of the plane.  

I thought the bomb blew in Rhode Island but oh man was I wrong, now I had to tell John the truth about everything I have been trying to hide for the past decade of my life.   The next few months I hurt my husband in so many ways, every feeling I had bottled up came up and exploded out.  

Well months later our beautiful daughter Cayden was born.  I thought we had moved on with all of our issues. I wasn’t hiding what I was go through with my depression or anxiety any more, but we still had a long road ahead of us of healing and forgiveness.  

God brought an amazing Christian counselor into our lives and she helped heal and transform our marriage, but there was still a major pink elephant in the room and it was my depression. We went as far as we could go but one fateful day the horrible words came out of her mouth, “I think its time to discuss medication” NO NO NO, I’ve been there and done that and never going back!! 

She finally convinced me that maybe, just maybe, meds have been improved in the past 15+ years, and because of my past issues the psychiatrist will take it very slow and extremely careful when deciding which one he prescribes me.  

Wow here I go again, but I felt that there was no other option, my husband and children deserve a “normal” mom and I would do anything to make them happy.  

First medication prescribed was Pristiq, go figure side effects were horrible. Headaches returned and this time my insides felt like they were trying to crawl out of my skin.  Ok, time for med #2 Wellbutrin, had a few basic side effects but the one that was the worse was chest pain, literally felt like a heart attack multiple times a day. Now time for med #3 this time the doc thought he had it figured out, the answer is Cymbalta!!! Well I will give him some credit at first, I was kind of feeling “good”, I was smiling and not crying!!  So far, the worst side effects were the hot flashes, but I can deal with them, right?  Then the weight started to creep on me; 5lbs, 10lbs, 15lbs, 20lbs.  But I was still trying to convince myself that I was feeling ok and my husband seemed really happy with the “new smiling Julie”.  So I continued with the Cymbalta. 

Then I took my 2 kids to Rhode Island for a month (John was crazy with work). It was an amazing trip for my kids but not so much for me.  I didn’t realize how intense the hot flashes were because in Dallas everyone has central air.  In Rhode Island there are very few homes that have it.  Of course, 3 of the 4 weeks were hotter than normal and I just about died. I literally felt like a 1,000-lb. woman going through menopause living on the surface of the sun.  That’s when I had to say, enough I can’t handle this medication anymore.  

When I got home, and I told John I was done, you can imagine his hesitation, in his mind the medication was working, why would I stop! It was very hard to explain to him how I was feeling but I had to be strong on what I thought was right for me. Now the obvious question is what do I do about my depression and anxiety? I mean come on, I can’t expect my husband to go back to the old me.  

I was putting off going to see a kinesiologist for the past year or so because I felt I exhausted all avenues by this point in my life and I really didn’t feel like having another person to tell me to exercise, eat right and get vitamin D. But I wanted to get off my meds, so I had to show John I was trying.  

My life changed after that one hour appointment…  

He introduced me to BioNero Feedback.  A simple explanation for what BNF would be is a rebalancing of the brain back to healthy brain wave patterns.  Your brain is divided into 4 sections of brain waves, your Delta, Alpha, Beta and Theta.  BNF helps you to self-regulate and shift smoothly from one wave to the other.  I left that appointment beaming; oh, my Lord this make sense, it’s permeant so I would be off medication and I could be healed! 

John is very western medicine driven so of course he thought this was a bit nuts and when I told him I had to get off my medication for this to work he was like hell NO. But I knew that I had to try and was willing to risk it all to finally stop my depression and anxiety. I’m not going to lie, the first 3 weeks were rough as I was decreasing my meds. And if you have ever heard of brain zaps they are no joke, seriously your brain feels like it is literally getting electrocuted every few minutes.  My anger and irritability came back with a vengeance, but I knew it was the lack of meds and the new therapy battling it out.  

The doctor said it would get worse before it got better. I just had to pray and believe that BioNero Feedback was going to work.  Most people start to see a change in their reaction to situations within 4-5 sessions.  For me it was more like 8-10, but hey that’s ok, I was noticing the change but more importantly so was John. I started in August going 3x a week for 1 hour sessions. Trust me I didn’t mind, my kids said I went to see Miss Liz so I could watch T.V.   Hold on a minute, I know what your thinking T.V.??  Yes, all the brain training is done while watching tv while your head is connected to sensors that are connected to a computer and tv that monitor your brain activity.  When your brain waves start to shift from their ideal course the tv. screen picture starts to darken so your brain then pulls the wave out of the “rut” it’s use to going into.   The average person with depression and anxiety should only need 15-20 sessions, it took me 35, but dealing with this monster for almost 20 years and healing my brain in 12 weeks seems unreal.  But it was the most real thing I have ever been through. 

In just 12 weeks I have fixed my brain waves from going into my depression ruts or my anxiety triggers.  I am extremely proud to tell you that I have not had a massive anxiety attack since August. My depression is 90% better, I wake up and my first thought is not “how am I going to make it through this day”. My kids finally have the mom they deserve. My husband has the wife he thought he married all those years ago… I finally feel like the true Julie Franke God intended me to be.  




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