That moment you’re on a roller coaster and you’re about to hit a frightening loop. That ache in the pit of your stomach is back – but this time it rushes up through your heart. It feels like it grasps at your throat. Causing you to cry out in pain with a voice you’ve never heard before. Tears explode through you. You hyperventilate.
And in that moment…you just feel helpless.
I’ve contemplated sharing this extremely personal story for so many years, but never felt the time was right. Well…here we go. Today, I feel like it’s finally time to share that I’ve been living with anxiety and mild depression for the past seven years.
I say it started in 2008, but as I look back on my life. I think it’s always been there. As a teen, I remember many sleepless nights, my mind racing, and a sadness that I could not shake. I don’t know why it would “go away” when it did. Maybe it just hid itself in the back of my brain. I do know that when it did return, it was with a vengeance and I couldn’t fix myself.
It began as sleepless nights and intruding thoughts. I would lie awake at night unable to shut off my deepest and darkest fears. “What if’s” ruled my brain and as hard as I tried to distract myself, it only got worse. I wasn’t eating much, I couldn’t sleep, and showering wasn’t an option.
There was an immense sadness I couldn’t even explain to my husband. A part of me was afraid to tell him. Because, I feared that it would somehow infect his brain. Like it was a contagious disease and he would start to feel the same way. And I sure as hell didn’t tell anyone else what I was feeling. I didn’t think anyone would understand or they would immediately think I was crazy.
Like a thief in the night, the panic attacks hit. It didn’t matter where I was or what I was doing. I could be walking down the hallway, trying to watch television or laying in bed. When, out of nowhere I would suddenly break down.
Every day it worsened. I couldn’t shut it off. I couldn’t help myself. I felt I lost complete control of my brain. I prayed to God for strength and for it all to just stop and go away. What seemed like months, turned out to be two weeks. One day, I held onto my husband’s arm, unable to loosen my grip. I was afraid for him to leave my side. I burst into tears and finally admitted that I needed help.
We immediately called my doctor and I was seen by a psychologist right away. I realize now, that this was the first and vital step in seeking help.
The next year was the most mentally and emotionally exhausting time of my life. I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and mild depression. At that time, I knew that in depth therapy sessions and medication was the right step for me. I weighed my options carefully and I took the route that I felt most comfortable taking.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Organization of America, 6.8 million adults or 3.1% of the U.S. population, is affected with GAD in any given year. Women are twice as likely to be affected.
With the help of my psychologist and a therapist, I was able to get to the root of my anxiety and fears. Let’s just say, it took a lot of therapy sessions, dedication on my part, tons of support from my husband, lots of prayer, and hard work to get where I am today. It was not easy, but it was all worth it. I’ve always claimed that this was the darkest time of my life. It was. But, like they say—there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Yes, I am still on medication today, with the hopes of being off of it one day. And I see my therapist whenever needed. I am not “cured” and don’t think I ever will be. I consider myself a continued work in progress.
My therapist has given me some amazing tips on how to cope with my disorder. Along with my medication and therapy—breathing exercises and physical activity have been a tremendous help in my day to day life.
I am not a medical professional by any means and your symptoms may be a lot different than mine. You should know that I am not here to tell you what kind of help you should get, if you are dealing with anxiety or depression. I just want you to know that you are not the only one.
I’m not going to lie – I feel anxiety just writing this. I’m scared to hit the “publish” button. This is probably the most personal thing I’ve ever shared here. I’m afraid of what some of you might think. But, then I think someone reading this might be going through what I went through or even worse—might attempt to hurt themselves or take their own life. And if I can help just one person, then it’s all worth it.
Please know, that if you are this person, you are not alone. Never think you are alone. Do not be afraid to ask for help. And there is no need to be embarrassed about needing it. Your life and your being is so amazingly valuable.
I am humbled to be able to have a space where I can share this life experience with you. This disorder may be a part of who I am, but I will not let it control me. I will strive to live my life to the fullest, filled with love, hope, and courage—without shame.
If you or someone you know is in a potentially life-threatening situation, get immediate emergency assistance by calling 911, available 24 hours a day.
You can call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Treatment Referral Helpline at 1‑877‑SAMHSA7 (1‑877‑726‑4727) for general information on mental health and to locate treatment services in your area.