I have an anxiety problem.
Any of you who know me personally would probably laugh if I said that to you in person, and then go, “Duh!” afterwards. With good reason. It’s blatantly obvious that I worry and stress about almost everything too much. And for a long time I’ve known that too and laughed right along with everyone else. This year changed all that.
In the fall of 2012 my twins started school and were both diagnosed with autism. In January my husband was diagnosed with bipolar II. And currently we are getting our youngest tested for autism and ADHD. Somewhere in the midst of all this I started having panic attacks again.
Yes I said again. Yes it had happened before. But back then (before I had kids) it hadn’t been that bad or very frequent. I was able to handle the stress, anxiety, and even infrequent panic attacks and still carry on with my life. I thought I was fine, just a little stressed.
But now they aren’t that infrequent. Earlier this year I was having one or two panic attacks a week. I stopped watching action movies because when my pulse went up, I started to worry it was going to shift into a panic attack.
That’s not a fun place to be. But it is what finally opened my eyes to how bad I really was, even before the panic attacks resurfaced. My anxiety was inhibiting every aspect of my life. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t concentrate like I wanted to. I wasn’t getting all the things done I needed to get done. I wasn’t enjoying any of the things I was doing and the inability to accomplish anything was making me depressed, again.
Yes I said again, again.
Unbeknownst to me, after I gave birth to my twins I had a pretty bad bought of postpartum depression. I got through it without knowing I had it. I went through the next pregnancy without knowing I had it. It wasn’t until I was home from delivering my youngest, two years after my twins, that I realized the difference: I could function. I could sleep. I wasn’t crying all the time. I wasn’t sitting on the couch starting at the TV all day. The difference between having postpartum depression and not having postpartum depression was night and day.
But what is happening now has nothing to do with pregnancy. My anxiety is making me depressed and I am cycling through periods of depression and high stress. Well perhaps cycling isn’t the right word. Spiraling is a better one. And it was getting a lot worse.
Before this year I thought I could handle it. I thought I was fine. I thought I just needed to relax because I was too stressed. The truth is that I have an anxiety disorder and mild depression and I need help to fix that. Watching my husband go through a similar thing this winter with his bipolar, and seeing how much counseling and medication helped him, made up my mind for me.
I’ve now been in therapy for anxiety for a few months. It’s very early on and we are taking baby steps towards fixing what’s broken in my head. I’m thinking more carefully about things that stress me out and pinpointing why they stress me out, which helps me to not be anxious about them in the first place.
I’m learning to prioritize things. And in doings so, I’m making sure that taking care of myself is one of the things I’m prioritizing. I’m also trying to cut myself some slack and making sure that if something on my to-do list slips I don’t beat myself up about it. We are also looking at my depression to see if it follows a pattern and if medication might help or not.
Trying to unwrap the way my brain thinks is going to take time, and working on being less anxious is going to be hard. Be with the support of my family and friends I know I can do it.
So why am I telling you this?
This is not a pity party. This is not a post to excuse why I’ve been floating at the edges of social media for the past year or so. This is my story I’m sharing to hopefully help other people who might have the same problem. Being permanently stressed out and anxious is not something you have to live with, it’s something that can be overcome.
And yes, initially getting anxiety therapy made me anxious. But now, it’s making me feel better. And the same can be true for you. Fighting anxiety and depression is hard, maybe even harder than just having the problems in the first place. But in the end, peace of mind is something worth fighting for.
Title image by Ines Perkovic.