When I initially started writing in this blog, I intended more to focus on my goals of becoming a writer and the steps that I would take to accomplish this goal. As I have continued this journey of discovery, this blog has become so much more. It has begun to be a place where I can discover not only my passions and my writing goals, but also who I really am. I am coming to terms over the things that I have experienced and find catharsis in sharing them with the “world” as it is. Maybe one person here is touched by what I have to write. I am trusting that this is not a shout into the “void.” Today, I thought I would share a little bit more about my history with anxiety disorder and depression. I wanted to share this, because I think that for a long time I was accepting that “this is just how life was” and did not know that there was a possibility of treatment or relief.
When I first sought treatment for my anxiety disorder, I was in my 20’s. Initially, I was mistakenly diagnosed initially with PMDD (pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder). This is a condition that causes severe mood shifts, and symptoms of sadness, hopelessness, irritability and anger. The symptoms typically ebb and flow with the female menstrual cycle, and can be treated with birth control pills, or sometimes anti-depressants that are alternated on a schedule. The pills made me dead and zombie like, and never seemed to completely address the entire problem.
After that, I was diagnosed with and “adjustment disorder.” At the time, this wasn’t a far reaching diagnosis as I was in the process of transitioning from college to the workforce. I was going from living with my parents, to getting married and moving two hours from home where I knew no one. I was also struggling with a recent estrangement of my brother. At the time too, there was no Affordable Care Act that disallowed companies from discriminating from pre-existing conditions. As such, my psychologist told me that she was reluctant to diagnose me with anything “more serious” because I was not even in my mid twenties, and those kinds of diagnoses could be troublesome and heavy to me later in life. My primary doctor was reluctant to refer me to a psychiatrist either. So they attempted to manage my medication themselves. I later found out that I never even reached a therapeutic dose of the medication I was using at the time, and therefore was never properly treated.
If I am being honest, I would have loved to have just been diagnosed with the depression and anxiety then, because I was not overly familiar with ANY psych diagnoses and was utterly terrified not knowing what was really wrong. I constantly worried that it was something serious, and that I was one step away from being hospitalized. As such, I was somewhat guarded too in my sessions, afraid to share too much of what I was experiencing.
The year I turned 28, I became severely depressed and this was the first time I was referred to a psychiatrist. I did not know at the time that I was depressed, but I knew that there was something wrong. I was afraid to have the shades open, or be home alone. I was constantly checking the locks at the house. I was even pulling out my hair. I did not sleep well, and I was bombarded by repetitive, and intrusive thoughts. I wanted to go to sleep and just not wake up.
I was finally diagnosed, and seen for quick initiation of treatment.
To look back now, it is very apparent to me that the anxiety disorder has been part of me for a very long time. At 2-3 years old, I would obsessively line up the toys in the waiting room. I had nightly rituals before going to bed, checking under the bed, in the closet, behind the door, and sleeping in a certain position with the pillows only in a certain way so that the “monsters” could not get me. I avoided certain social events in middle and high school because I was afraid I would do or say the wrong thing. I was constantly made fun of, and as such I never trusted the people who were genuinely nice to me in school, afraid they were someone going to hurt me. In college, I would have panic attacks frequently, sometimes right in the middle of the day in the middle of the quad. I was labelled as “odd” and a “prude” in college, which didn’t help my anxiety at all.
Everything that has happened in my life has lead me to where I am today and the person I am. I wouldn’t change one bit of that. I am however hopeful, that by sharing my story and removing some of the stigma of mental illness by being open and honest about what it looks like and entails, others may not feel ashamed to reach out and seek treatment. That parents may encourage their children to pursue treatment if they see them struggling and they know what to look for too.
I wish anyone who is struggling the best of LUCK, and LOVE.