Mental Health Awareness Month: It Was All In My Head

Big grey world by GordanaPhoto

Since this is mental health awareness month. I figured I should share a story, I have not always been aware of my own mental health.

For those of you who are new here, I have anxiety, depression, and ADD/ADHD. Those of you who know me also know that was always blatantly obvious, to everyone but me.

I didn’t know having worst case scenario thoughts weren’t normal. I didn’t know being sad with no real cause wasn’t something people just did. I talk about my journey to get help in these two posts, but today I thought I’d share my ‘Ah Ha!’ moment with you. The moment I realized something was wrong with how my brain put thoughts together and why I was always so stressed.

It was after I’d been going to the psychologist for a couple weeks. As one of my exercises, the doctor told me to try and notice when I was having doom thoughts and making up worst case scenarios. Then I was supposed to write down the thoughts, whether they made sense, and what might be another less drastic thought that could be closer to what was really happening. I didn’t think my thoughts were that big a deal, but I was wrong.

One night, Pat stopped at his mom’s house on the way home from work, but he was there a lot longer than I thought he would be. So I called his cell. No answer. Then his mom’s house. No answer.

A normal person would think: oh they are busy talking or maybe they are outside and didn’t hear the phone ring.

My first thought? There was a gas leak and they are all dead.

My next thought (and I’m guessing your next thought) was: What? That’s crazy! Why would I think that?

That’s when I realized that every time there was a problem and I was stressed my mind came up with the worst case scenario first. And every time it did, I agreed with it right away, without giving any of the other thoughts a chance to even appear.

The most eye opening thing about the phantom gas leak thoughts were not that I was having them, but if I hadn’t been paying attention the way I was, I would have worried about it being true till Pat eventually came home. AND even though I did notice that it was a tad on the crazy side, the thought didn’t leave my brain or lose all its credence. Something was definitely not right and I needed to get it fixed.

That’s when the doctor and I decided to try medication. And it worked! Which proved two things: a) It was not my fault I was anxious, it was my brain being chemically unbalanced. b) Those doom thoughts were usually so far off base, after I was on meds, my mind wouldn’t even consider them.

Two days ago I got my meds adjusted again and I am feeling great. It was a long road to get to this point, but I made it.

If you are having problems with anxiety, depression, or anything else please consider getting help. Sometimes counseling is enough. Sometimes you need meds. There is nothing shameful in getting help. And you have nothing to gain but peace of mind.

Trust me I know.

Title image by GordanaPhoto.

Peace of Mind

Soft Landing by hopeimages

A lot has been going on lately. My youngest started his special pre-school after the child study team finally decided to test him, and low and behold he came up autistic. Quelle surprise! We were all sick with a “flu like virus” for a week and half (which I’m pretty sure just means we had the flu). And it has snowed every week since the beginning of the year. In addition to the normal ups and downs of having three special needs kids and keeping up with my editing job, you would think at this point in the year I would be at my wits end. And up until this year you would be right.

But something amazing happened to me in January. Something that was long overdue. I finally went to see a psychiatrist about my anxiety and depression, and he, in his infinite wisdom, put me on anti-depression/anti-anxiety meds…AND THEY WORKED!

They didn’t just work a little either. After three days on half a dose I felt completely different! What does that mean for me? Let me explain.

My whole life there has been this running commentary in the back of my head. Anytime I would have to think over a problem or something would go wrong, my brain would start working out how to fix it and/or how it could be worse or how it was worse or what tragedies would befall me or people I love because of whatever it was I was thinking about. This kept going until a new thing would pop into my head or needed addressing.

I didn’t do it on purpose. I didn’t want it to be happening. But I couldn’t make it stop.

Three days into the meds something amazing happened. My mind was suddenly silent. The running commentary was gone. The constant chatter of a thousand worries had quieted. For the first time in my life, I could sit in peace and think about nothing or (and this is even more amazing) I could think about something, and then I could stop! My worries and cares no longer sat on top of me all day. I could still think about problems I was having or try and work out solutions, but the thoughts no longer haunted me hours later.

The closest comparison I can come up with is imagine you have tinnitus. There is a constant buzzing in your ears 24/7. Now imagine one day…it just stopped. The feeling is incredible.

I never really knew what other people meant when they said “relax” or when people talked about being at peace until now. I thank God my husband kept on me to go and talk to the doctor and that the first thing he prescribed me worked. There is still a lot in my life that needs fixing and organizing, but now I feel like I have the presence of mind to do it.

I am sharing this post because I know there are a lot of people out there who are afraid to go to a therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist because of the stigma of mental diseases. I am here to tell you that you have nothing to be ashamed of and everything to gain from getting help. Anxiety and depression can be fixed, sometimes with therapy, sometimes with medication. I lived my whole life not knowing what having a peaceful mind meant and now I do. And I couldn’t be happier. Please, if you think you need help, get help. You are worth it. 🙂

Title image by hopeimages.

Anxiety

Escape of the Dandelions by Ines Perkovic

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.