In honor of May being Mental Health Awareness month I have collaborated with a couple of blogging moms who to bring you our stories about Anxiety and Depression.
1 in 5 American women suffer from Anxiety & Depression, a number that climbs higher as women give birth and suffer from Postpartum depression and anxiety. There is a stigma that has surrounded mental disorders for many decades and we are going to help break that stigma in this series by showing how daily life can be when you suffer from anxiety.
I have been lucky enough to find and surround myself with hard working mothers in the blogging community who are open and supportive of this journey. Whether it be parenthood, daily life, blogging, or mental health, these women have built a strong community of support.
We hope that in this collaboration we can bring you some comfort and understanding if you suffer from anxiety and help reduce the stigma that surround mental disorders.
I want to tell you about my experience in finding a doctor so that you know not to give up, even if you come across the worst of health “professionals” in the process.
I have, apparently, suffered from Anxiety and Depression the majority of my life, however I never bothered to seek treatment (or even mention the fact) until after I had my first son seven years ago.
I was in college, a single parent, working and perfectly happy. I was busy but not to an overwhelming point. It had been a few years since I had suffered a panic attack and I had forgotten that I even did those things. I was sitting on a bench outside my classroom on my college campus experiencing what I like to call “sitting death” – a panic attack – shallow breaths, blurred vision, amplified sound. Externally I was just sitting, motionless, eyes wide and filled with tears. I didn’t move for 3 hours. When I finally could breathe I went home and probably went to bed, because shit like that is both terrifying and exhausting.
I went to doctor in town and thus began the most horrific experience of finding a decent fucking doctor who actually gives a shit about your mental health.
Having anxiety causes you to do irrational shit and truth-be-told I had anxiety about going to see a doctor about my anxiety. I thought it was an irrational fear, but I would discover quite the opposite.
The first thing he said to me as he walked into the room and sat down was, “So, you’re crazy – what is making you this way?” I shit you not – this is what he said to me. I responded with “I’m not crazy.” But then I burst into tears and he literally wrote on his clip board in bold capital letters CRIES A LOT. Thanks, dick.
He asked me if I was depressed, if I were unhappy with myself, why I was so busy and why I left my child while I worked. He grilled me about some visible acne scars on my chest, insinuating that I was into self-harm. He didn’t believe when I told him I had bad skin and proceeded to examine my acne scars as if they were pertinent to my visit.
He ordered blood work for my thyroid because he said, “That might be what is making you crazy.” He also prescribed me Lorazapam “in case you panic” and Adderall for good measure on account of what he called my “inability to focus on the right things” and sent me home, but not before telling me that I didn’t need to “dress up” for my next visit. I was wearing a sundress because it was fucking summer. I hated him.
I returned to him a month later to update him on the progress with my medication (there wasn’t any) and to get the results of my thyroid test. “That’s not what is making you crazy,” he said. “I am going to give you some valium – maybe later we can send you to a psychiatrist – would you like that?”
Uh, fuck no, thank-you-doctor-dick. Here was a doctor literally calling me crazy every time I stepped into his office and then telling me I needed a psychiatrist. I was terrified that I would get locked up or lobotomized. My irrational fear of the Psychiatrist manifested in a scary movie asylum. I took my tranquilizers and stimulants home and left them on my shelf, untouched. Occasionally I would take a Valium for a panic attack.
I decided within a pretty short amount of time that he was a fucking idiot and I should probably find another doctor. I started jogging every day and doing yoga. I felt a little better. I managed to keep myself occupied and irrational anxiety inducing thoughts out of my head by reading – devouring – books and information. Looking back I have always been hyper focused on certain things, and that focus has allowed me to push irrational fears out of my head, subdue panic attacks and function pretty well.
I went to a new doctor who had a better bedside manner, but still thought that my original doctor was on the right track with my prescriptions.
When I got pregnant with my daughter I was only taking Diazepam on occasion if I had a particularly bad panic attack. I breastfed her until I got pregnant with my son, so there was a solid 2 years that I was entirely un-medicated. After I had my last baby a little over a year ago I was having panic attacks that were preventing me from leaving the house.
I found a new doctor who put me on Zoloft. Yet another thing that I hated taking. This new doctor, however, gives a shit about my health and when I said I didn’t like he said “stop taking it, we can find something else.” This doctor is the one who has actually gotten me to talk about my anxiety. He has brought me to a point where I am comfortable explaining to my kids how I deal (or don’t, in some cases) with things that cause me anxiety. This is important because sometimes it is my kids that cause me to have a panic attack. He has helped me discover knew techniques to ease the daily anxiety and to figure out a way to work through the inability to leave the house that sometimes comes with this disorder.
I have become a master of working through panic attacks. Over the many years of having them I have succeeded in fully carrying out a task while in the throes of fully debilitating panic attack. I have continued to wait tables, give speeches, care for kids and other daily tasks while under the heavy blanket of an attack. It will appear that everything is mostly normal – but my heart rate is through the roof, my head is pounding, I can’t breathe, sometimes my vision and hearing is distorted and yet I am able to focus on one thing and carry on functioning at the minimum until it passes. I know that I can step away from a situation and put myself in a dark and quiet spot until it passes also. I take “quiet breaks” with my kids sometimes, and although they don’t really do the quiet part very well. It’s still exhausting. It is a rare occurrence, however. I have managed to keep the attacks at bay with some strategic self-evaluation.
People with anxiety are sometimes over-achievers. If I can take all my nervous energy and focus it towards a particular task I am unstoppable. Also having to deal with daily feeling of inadequacy drives me to do things that are above and beyond.
What I am most comfortable about now is my doctor. I am lucky that I didn’t just give up after my experience with that first asshole. I have still not discovered a medication that works well for me but now that I am no longer pregnant or breastfeeding my options are more open.