Anxiety and depression seem to be the most talked about mental health struggles these days, and yet I feel like they are the most misunderstood. People in the public eye are committing suicide and dying from overdoses left and right. This has been a reality for decades, but in recent years I think it’s become an epidemic. The narrative has changed and people are coming forward more and more versus the ‘keep quiet and keep up appearances’ generations of the past. I knew more about my mother’s hysterectomy and hormone replacement therapy than I did about her anxiety when I was growing up. Which is odd looking back now.
In the world of medicine, research and treatment options are always evolving and if you have watched any number of commercials in the past 10 years I bet you can name at least 3 medications used to treat anxiety or depression. Even with all the treatment options, the statistics on deaths caused by anxiety and depression is staggering. How is this possible and what is are we failing to do? Why is there an abundance of information about anxiety and depression, yet we are still losing loved ones because of it?
In the seven years that I have been treated for my mental illness, I have been prescribed 8 different medications. Weaning off one to introduce another. I have finally found one that works well, however, the side affects are no fun. But neither are weekly melt-downs and panic attacks, feeling like I want to take my skin off, hiding in my dark closet and not leaving the house for days.
I didn’t receive a diagnosis for my generalized anxiety disorder until I did my processing out of the Navy at the age of 28. In hindsight, I am not sure how I ignored all the red flags that I was suffering from mental illness in my twenties. I want to be clear here, I sought medical attention more than 15 times in my 11-year career, and was with misdiagnosed or completely dismissed and sent back to work. Fit for duty is the primary goal after all.
I wake up with the feeling you get when you are about to be in trouble for something you did. The feeling that causes you to take deep breaths because you can’t seem to get enough oxygen in your lungs? For me, this is everyday, sometimes all day. My brain and my body feel like they are in constant “fight or flight” mode. I can’t remember a time in my adult life that I felt ‘relaxed’ in my body without a foreign substance being introduced.
This is why addiction is so scary and real for people like me. Before I was being treated for my daily struggles, I would feel unhinged and raw all day long until my first drink of alcohol and after I was treated I traded booze for pills. I traded feeling too much to feeling too little.
During the last seven years, I have not only tried with every fiber of my being to feel good in my own body, I have tried to be a good wife, a good mom, employee, friend and daughter. And when I am nailing it one aspect of my life, I am failing miserably at the others.
The person who has suffered the most is my daughter. Anxiety and depression can make it almost impossible to be a half-decent human being. Think about how hard it is to care for another person when you struggle to care for yourself. I suppose this is why my own mom threw in the towel and l left me with my dad before I could even walk. I nearly depleted myself physically trying to keep my head above water and keep the attention on what a good mom I was and not how deeply I was spiraling. I hid it pretty well, until my appearance caught up with me inner battles. I think at my worst I was self-medicating in private and weighed about 110 lbs. I can’t even look at those pictures now without crying. I was in such bad mental shape.
My anxiety has created issues in my daughter, she worries about my mood and yesterday said, “I am so glad you didn’t freak out mommy, I am so proud of you.” She is 4 and this absolutely breaks my heart. Traffic and being lost are triggers for me; and unfortunately I stay lost without a GPS and other people are allowed to drive at the same time as me so…
I guess the point of this post is really 2 things. To remind people that sometime the deadliest diseases are the ones you can’t see. We don’t need much more proof that anxiety and depression can directly result in addiction and suicide; even with all the advancements, research and treatment options. Keep an eye on your loved ones and care enough to have that ‘uncomfortable’ conversation, it could save a life. People tend to ignore situations believing someone else will intervene. It’s called the bystander affect and it happens everyday. But then we teach our youth to not put off for tomorrow what can be done today. Hypocrites.
The second point of this topic was to let someone else out there know that I know. I see you. I hear you. And I love you.