Anxiety is a true mental disorder.
I have anxiety. I have always had anxiety.
However, I guess I was just too stubborn and prideful to accept it that I forced myself into believing that I could handle it, it wasn’t a mental disorder for me, and that I just overreact.
A few other members of my family have been diagnosed with anxiety, (as well as a few other things) and have been to therapists and been on medication. I never wanted to do that. Again, I was too stubborn and too prideful. I thought of myself as strong and able to handle it myself.
Throughout my life, it’s never been real bad. But then, in college, I started having a few anxiety attacks. However, I didn’t know they were anxiety attacks–I called them breakdowns. Not just school work, but friends, love life, finances, church responsibilities, personal responsibilities all piled up on top of school work. There was actually a week during the middle of the semester that I flew home because of the anxiety attack. During my engagement to Justin, he noticed an anxiety attack of mine, baked me cookies, and took me to see Hunger Games at 11 pm to help calm me down.
During the past three years of being married, out of school, and teaching, I’ve had very few. But, it started to exacerbate when I got pregnant. Now, anxiety and depression sometimes go hand in hand…they are cyclical and both cause each other. Although I was super happy and excited to be pregnant and finally have the chance to be a mom (I had been very baby hungry), I started to have a lot of down days…and they were continuous. I just thought it was pregnancy blues because of the effects of having my 1st trimester during the late fall/early winter. And, I had never heard of “pre-postpartum depression.” So, I pushed through it.
Last summer, with my pregnancy rapidly coming to a close, issues with credit for Justin’s graduation, Justin unable to find a full-time job, trying and failing to find an affordable place to live, and the decision on how I was going to teach, I had quite a few bad anxiety attacks–debilitating anxiety attacks–on the floor, crying, unable to eat or think rationally anxiety attacks. Again, I thought it was just normal stress from normal “becoming adults” situations paired with crazy pregnancy hormones. I thought I just let myself get carried away.
Then, after I gave birth, my confidence went down. I started to doubt myself as a mother, as a teacher, as a wife, as a Mormon, as an individual. Our situation wasn’t what we expected it to be those first few months of Rhys’s life–Justin still didn’t have a job or a full degree, and I was worried about Rhys’s weight gain and silent reflux, losing weight, and balancing all my responsibilities. My libido disappeared–I haven’t told Justin this, but I started to lose my attraction towards him. I didn’t necessarily resent him nor blame him, but those are two close descriptions. I tried to be happy–forced myself to laugh, forced myself to be kind, forced myself to be patient. All of those were hard. I snapped at Rhys and Justin, I yelled at my students. But, as postpartum went on, it got a little better. And, I just want to say, I never once resented Rhys–although I was stressed by him, that’s only because I wanted the best for him. I have never regretted him or thought violently towards him. So, I’m glad that my PPD wasn’t as bad as it could have been.
During the winter holidays, a thought came to me about focusing on myself. I am so thankful to God for putting that seed into my mind. I had been trying to spread myself too thin in being a good teacher, mother, wife, daughter, sister, Mormon, that I had completely pushed myself to the wayside. But, I really needed to care for myself. So, I began to think about my stress levels and what would make me calm and happy. I began to think about quitting teaching. I brought the idea up to Justin and my mom. Justin and I went to the temple, fasted, prayed, and listed pros and cons. We finally decided that it would be best for me personally, and by extension, our family, if I stayed home next year. Now, we were always a little nervous about what that would mean for us financially, but we decided to give it a year for a test run.
June came and I quit. Then, Rhys decided to go through a few more transitions, and I had a few more anxiety attacks. My PPD also started to return–it was the first time in my life since I was 16 that I didn’t have a job. I work well with deadlines. I work well with projects. I didn’t have either. I didn’t feel of worth. I felt like I was being a lazy couch potato bum who wasn’t helping with expenses and putting all that responsibility and weight on Justin. A few times my mom would come over while Justin was at work and tried to console me, take care of Rhys, and be the rational, logical one. She pushed and pushed, as well as Justin, that when I took Rhys in for his 12 month baby wellness checkup, I also talk to our doctor about myself. My mom decided she would go with me to the appointment to be moral support, but also to make sure I did mention it. Remember, I always thought I could just handle it on my own without needing medication or therapy.
I’m glad that I did. After describing what I had been feeling since Rhys was born, and especially in the month of June, my doctor saw through all my excuses and knew that I was suffering from anxiety and PPD. He also treats my sister, and with my mom there to give him her experiences, he was able to diagnose me. He has given me an anti-depressant which also helps with my anxiety. The first week or so that I have been taking it, I could feel a physical manifestation of it working–it felt like something was literally being pushed down in me. Whenever I began to think negatively, or stressed, those feelings were physically blocked by a wall–I couldn’t reach or access them. I just felt calm. That calmness has allowed me to feel relaxed and happy.
When I went back to my doctor a month later, at the beginning of August, for a follow-up, he said that he could tell just by looking at me and listening to how I spoke that the medication was doing it’s job. He said I looked taller, happier, healthier, and prettier. Now, I do have some side effects from the medication–again, a lowered libido, and about once a month, a physical manifestation of a panic attack due to side effects of the medication. It’s difficult and complicated to explain, but basically, when I swallow the pill, it feels like it gets stuck in my throat (it’s a tiny pill), and the feeling is immediate. Then, I have a heartburn-ish feeling. Both of these are normal side effects, we’ve learned. But, my body reacts to those side effects, causing terrible chest pain, heart palpitations, and a closed/swollen throat sensation. It is very painful and lasts for a few hours. We researched this reaction and learned that it is a subconscious panic attack. But, in the three months that I have taken this medication, it’s only happened three times…and I take the medication when I go to bed, so I just try to sleep it off.
But, I am glad to know that I have been officially diagnosed with depression and anxiety. It’s actually relieving to know that. And again, I am thankful that they weren’t extreme cases–so very thankful. I know how debilitating and negatively affecting it can be on not only the person, but their loved ones as well. I am so thankful that this medication works for me and that I haven’t needed to go to therapy–if that ever happens, that will be another big prideful that I will have to swallow and just be humble about.
However, since I have accepted it as a mental disorder, I have seen it more apparent and obvious in my life. I can learn from it and change the way I perceive the world around me. It won’t be a quick fix, but I can continuously work to control it with help from others. I think you might see some more posts here about anxiety and depression. So, just stick with me if I seem to be absent for a while without notice or quality and passion seems to be lacking from my posts. You will know that I am having an episode then. But, I thank you for your community and your continuous support. I love you all.
Other posts of mine mentioning anxiety or depression
One Thousand Gifts–using eucharisteo and His Grace to overcome anxiety and depression
I Am Anxious–an admittance to having anxiety attacks as a mom
Count Your Many Blessings–trusting in the Lord’s timing during anxiety attacks