Anxiety & Depression: My Unwanted Friends
Updated: Sep 16, 2020
I have what some might call a cocktail of mental health concerns. I just say that they are a pain in my ass. I have anxiety pretty much all of the time. I should also mention my looming depression that pops up at the most inconvenient times. Being diagnosed is relatively new to me however, living with and experiencing symptoms are something I’ve never lived without. Think about that…having harsh sometimes scary symptoms and never realizing that something is the matter.
I never thought anything was wrong. I thought I was just a serious person or a “glass is half full” person. A pessimist. No, a realist as I would prefer to describe myself. It became more evident to me that something was wrong when specific situations would spiral me into an extreme reaction like overactive negative racing thoughts and bouts of crying. Keep in mind these episodes had happened many times over a span of years, but the more I experienced them the more evident it became.
What was my final straw you ask? What made me seek a diagnosis? My middle son breaking his arm and going to the ER. He entered the ER with my husband, and I exited triggered and having a full-blown panic attack. On the way home I was fuming with anger, then I spiraled into crying, and eventually ended up hiding in bed. I couldn’t get out of bed for two days.
During my spiral, I just so happen to catch an episode of the Netflix show called One Day at a Time and in the episode, the mom character was having the exact same episode I was having. Except she had been diagnosed with PTSD. She eventually decided to get help and go on medication. That episode truly helped me see myself and see I needed someone else's help, and it was ok that I did.
I began seeking help. I went to my primary care physician which was interesting because it seemed like my primary care physician was only able to provide a quick sort of band-aid approach aka medication right on the spot. I pushed harder for myself and got referred to a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist asked me questions no one had ever asked me. “What does your anxiety look like for you?”. That was a confusing question because I never concerned the face of my anxiety before. From her, I learned that I have sprinkles of depression as well. Oh, how fun. So, those times where I would lie in bed under the covers, crying, in the pitch-black dark in the day or night was depression rearing its ugly head. When I would go and go and not stop until I had everything perfect, or worried myself sick about things to be done, or stayed up at night worrying about everyone was my anxiety. If it ever happened at the same time people needed to move aside because it was a shit show. At that moment I realized I just blurted all of that out to the psychiatrist. She very delicately told me I have PTSD along with anxiety and depression...a triple whammy. The next big question she had for me was, “Have you ever considered medication?”. Huh? Meds? I didn’t think they were for me. I am too strong for that. I am capable of dealing with this. I will just do more talk therapy. I probably didn’t work hard enough during my years in talk therapy. Maybe I needed to change my cannabis and find a new strain. The reality is therapy and cannabis is helpful, but I needed additional help. I needed a buffer. My brain simply was not able to keep me even. How will I ever know if meds can help me if I don’t give them a chance?
Of course, because I have anxiety, I began talking myself out of it immediately. I went over all of the horrible things that could happen because of anti-depressants. I convinced myself it wasn’t worth it to try them. I forced myself to shut up and decided to lovingly accept the help of medication. That was one of the biggest and most liberating decisions of my life. We started me out on the lowest dose. An “elementary dose” she called it. The goal was to get me acclimated and then slowly raise my dosage. After a while, I asserted for myself that I don’t have to raise my dosage. I am in control. I can do what works best for me. I could utilize diet and lifestyle change, cannabis, talk therapy, and anti-depressants to help my anxiety and depression symptoms.
The hardest part was giving myself permission. Overcoming those deep-rooted beliefs society has about mental health. Not to mention what our own cultures and religions preach to us about mental health. Medication isn't necessary just pray harder. Go somewhere and meditate. Getting help is a weakness. Talking about your mental health struggles is a downer and no one wants to hear that. I learned there are people who want to avoid the topic, but more so I learned there are many others who want to hear my story. My story mirrors their own and vice versa. Our experiences are uniquely our own but can be shared and received as ways to feel included and not excluded.
I challenge you to look beyond what you see in front of you, trust your gut, and reach for the unknown because the unknown is scarier and harder, but its where the real change happens. Be honest and speak your truth and you can't go wrong.
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