Over the next few weeks I want to talk about Anxiety and Depression. I don’t want to just throw my story out there and leave it at that but I also think its important for you to know my back story to give validity to my advice. So here is the “short” version of where my anxiety comes from, how bad my worst days were and what my triggers are.
I don’t want this to come across as a pity party, this is purely for informational purposes. If you are currently struggling with anxiety or depression and feel like no one understands I want you to trust that I do.
Where does MY anxiety come from?
I have a family history of anxiety and depression. I have been an anxious person my entire life. Before big events I would develop flu-like symptoms. I ran fevers, threw up, had diarrhea. This started in elementary school! I would get sick every year the week before school started. I went to a week-long summer camp in the 4th grade and was sick the week leading up to it and the whole week I was there.
My anxiety worsened as I got into high school, hormones and all that I guess. I was put on a mild antidepressant for a while and stopped taking it once I started college.
I have always had a bit of hypochondria as well. If anything was wrong, I automatically thought of something way more extreme and convinced myself that’s what it was.
So that’s me. Up until the age of 26. I had been married for 5 years, we had a 9 month old daughter. Life is great. Then my daughter gets sick, we take her to the hospital, discover she has a massive liver tumor. Queue the surgery for removal and six months of chemo. Worst case scenario here.
So what happened?
I somehow never lost my cool from the day we found the tumor until after she came off treatment. I worried but I never had any meltdowns. No days where I couldn’t get out of bed.
Little E came off treatment in March of 2015. I found out I was pregnant with a surprise baby in May 2015. This is when things started to go down hill.
Why did it happen?
Pregnancy hormones were a big factor here. I would have to say the bigger problem though is that I never emotionally processed the whole cancer scenario while it was happening. So I lost it. Like lost it yall. I thought I was dying every single day. Not from normal things though, from crazy cancers.
I was constantly at Urgent Care getting mild things checked out.
I went once because I had a headache on one side of my head and I was sure it was a brain tumor. I went once because my jaw hurt and I was convinced it was a mouth cancer. I had my husband look at my throat, under my tongue and feel the inside and outside of my gums almost every day. If he was working I would call him and have him describe the inside of his mouth to me so I could decide if mine looked and felt the same way.
I constantly had burning and aching in my throat.
The more it hurt the more convinced I was it was a cancer. I would slather myself with muscle cream so it would numb the area and I could try to ignore it until the cream wore off. I thought it could be a variety of cancers. Lymphoma, thyroid cancer, esophageal cancer, throat cancer…..
I spent HOURS each day on google looking up symptoms of each type of cancer.
I looked over the same symptoms multiple times a day and would try to convince myself that I did NOT have cancer even though I was absolutely sure that I did.
My whole pregnancy was miserable.
I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t function when I was awake. I was in constant fear of dying and leaving my children motherless. I kept telling my OB there was something wrong with me. That I was not feeling right and they all told me it was normal to feel anxious considering what I was going through but to “not worry”. I remember going into the doctors appointments and crying, saying I couldn’t function. They just dismissed me.
Meanwhile I was terrified for my husband to go to work because him being gone made my anxiety worse. I was calling him all the time while he was working. I would have panic attacks and he would have to come home and take care of me. My daughter was 2 at the time so I don’t think she really noticed. She loves TV so we spent lots of time in bed cuddling.
But I KNEW I wasn’t okay.
I KNEW I wasn’t supposed to feel like this.
I KNEW this fear wasn’t who I really was.
I just couldn’t get past it. I felt like there were two voices in my head. One that was rational and one that was irrational. It was a fight between the two of them every single day. At this point in my life the irrational voice was winning almost all day, every day.
When others can’t help
My doctors couldn’t see anything medically wrong with me. I looked good physically, my baby looked good, my blood work all looked good.
My family couldn’t see anything wrong with me. I would come to them with these crazy diagnosis and they would just roll their eyes and tell me I was crazy. Or tell me about how sometimes they had anxiety. To try yoga, or meditation, or prayer, or exercise, or eating healthier…..
No one understood what was happening to me. They didn’t understand why “you’re fine” didn’t make me feel better.
I prayed and prayed and I just couldn’t pray this away. Guys, I let this go on for almost a year.
Of feeling alone
Of feeling crazy
Of feeling like I was loosing my mind
I finally decided that I wasn’t going to live like this anymore. I made an appointment with a psychiatrist and a therapist. Making those appointments was one of the lowest points of my life. It was a final admission that there was something wrong with me and I couldn’t make it go away.
If this is where you are just make the call. Stop waiting to wake up one day and feel better. Stop thinking that you have to do this on your own. Stop thinking that no one will ever understand you. Stop using the word crazy.
Mental illness is real.
My husband has a hard time believing that anxiety and depression are “real”. He sees it as people just not putting their big girl panties on and dealing with their drama. I can assure you that he is wrong.
Mental illness can be managed.
Just like any other chronic disease I see several doctors for my anxiety and depression. I am on a few different medications and I really DO NOT regret having to take them. They make me feel normal. They allow me to be a present mother and wife. They give me a peace in my life that I couldn’t attain by myself or through the stress-relief, self-help advice that everyone gives you.
I have an actual diagnosis. While it sucks, it makes me feel better that I can actually put a medical label on what’s going on in my head. I have generalized anxiety and depression, with a mild case of PTSD and OCD.
This diagnosis does not make me crazy.
It means I am human, I am not perfect, I will never be perfect.
So now what?
I am on several medications at this point which I think seriously help! I no longer go days on end obsessing about a mole that I have had my entire life that I now think might be skin cancer. I don’t have my husband check out my mouth or bumps or anything weird. I’m not calling him and asking him to come home when he is working.
I also do a lot of stress-relief exercises that work in the moment to help me calm myself down when I hear fear whispering in my ear.
My diet is different now. When I eat poorly I KNOW my anxiety will increase.
I have discovered what my triggers are and I can prepare for some of them ahead of time.
I have a fantastic therapist which I see on a regular basis. Why? Because she is a third-party who isn’t a part of my day-to-day life. She has no vested interest in me other than to help me feel better emotionally. Its much easier to get advice from someone who will in no way benefit from my situation. Totally unbiased help.
So that’s where I am today. Where are you? Are you in the beginning of feeling like something might be going on? Are you in the middle of it and no one understands?