Oh, hey Tuesday! | Anxiety
It took me a long, long time to realize that it is okay to not always be okay. It is okay to not be always put together, always smiling, and always on my game. It is okay to just exist and get by. Again - it is okay to not be okay.
Let me back up a bit. This story has been told in segments throughout my social media platforms, and I decided that in an effort to be upfront with my clients that I would also post it on my blog! Not because I am proud of it, but simply because it’s part of my story. As a photographer, I work very hard to ensure that I tell the story of your marriage, your family, your business - whatever story you are seeking to have told. So... stories are kind of my thing. ;) So, while I sit here in a McAllister’s Deli, let’s get the show on the road!
While I don’t remember super far back into my childhood, I can tell you all that I have always been an anxious person. I can remember a lovely story my mom told me when I was younger about how in Kindergarten, I used to get so upset that I would vomit (sorry - it’s just a bodily function folks LOL!). But I would. Apparently, my teacher told my mom that she wanted to put a bucket round my neck because I so often got sick. I am scared of bad weather. By bad weather, I mostly mean tornadoes. If I get a whiff of there being a chance of tornadoes, I am making my game plan. I am packing bags of essentials to take with me to the basement if I’m home, making sure my son has all of his favorite “friends” and such so he’s comfortable, and that my pets are safe as well. My husband is the one who likes to watch the storm pass by, but I usually make him come to the basement too because - again - I worry he won’t be okay if he doesn’t come to the basement. I worry about my health - which is probably hilarious to some of you as I am not the healthiest looking person (haha), but I do. I have a family history of some pretty significant ailments and illnesses that I should take better care of myself. And I will... I’m working on it. But in the meantime, I just stress and worry about every little ache, every mark that has been there for years but I just happened to find, and every hair that falls off my head. I used to be a major WedMD-er, but not as much anymore. In fact, I don’t often even Google my symptoms anymore because when I do, everything leads to some sort of irreversible disease or terminal cancer and I start giving my possessions away. Okay okay - slight exaggeration - but you get my point, right? I am majorly, without a doubt, anxious.
I never really did anything about it except deal with it until I had my first “real” job. I say real only because it was the first job that I ever had where I had benefits and worked full time. It was at this job that I grew from a newly graduated college kid to an adult with money to spend, bills to pay and responsibilities to be had outside my own household. My actions at the workplace not only affected me, but they affected my coworkers, our customers, and in the big picture, the company. As I climbed up their corporate ladder, my list of responsibilities grew... as did my anxiety. I found myself at times unable to breathe, and I would wake up in a major panic in the middle of the night worrying about death and all sorts of crazy things. I started suffering from constant headaches, I was unhappy and just completely miserable. I finally went to see my Doctor about it who I didn’t feel like took me seriously. He put me on a medication to treat the headaches which did help temporarily but it didn’t treat the root of the problem (hindsight), so I was still miserable AND now have side effects even still from it, and I haven’t been on it in more than 10 years. When we moved back to Decatur, I was feeling better, I thought, because I had left that job. I finally landed in a new career field and it was great for a while. Eventually all of those breathing scares, feelings of dying and now added mood swings came into the picture and enough was enough.
I had my son in October of 2012, and as much as I LOVE that boy, he was not an easy baby. And throw in the feeling of new mom failure, along with a fussy baby, with a side of equally stressed husband and the above issues?? I was trapped. I talked to my OBGYN and was given Zoloft for PostPartum Depression. This is a topic in itself that isn’t discussed enough, but I will save that for another day. Needless to say, my baby grew out of his fussy phase, I realized I wasn’t a horrible mother and things in our home calmed down so I weaned off the medication. I had no idea that it was treating a SLUE of issues, so about three months after stopping the medication, everything previously came screaming back to me in a fury I had never felt before. I needed help badly.
I had established with a new Doctor in Decatur, and I broke the whole story down for her - and her being the nurse practitioner - and finally, I felt like she listened and actually heard me! She took me through a few different things and found that not only did I have GERD, but I was also suffering from Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I searched the Web for a REALLY good source to define this, and I landed on Web site for the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, which states the following:
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is characterized by persistent and excessive worry about a number of different things. People with GAD may anticipate disaster and may be overly concerned about money, health, family, work, or other issues. Individuals with GAD find it difficult to control their worry. They may worry more than seems warranted about actual events or may expect the worst even when there is no apparent reason for concern. (For more and to see this source, click here.)
I cried in her office. I always felt like I was anxious and struggled with anxiety, especially after I had a bout of PPD, but boy oh boy to have it confirmed with answers and options… it was like a wave of relief washed over me. I slept that night like I hadn’t slept in years. It was a definite turning point for me.
Another fast forward a few years later and I was feeling trapped again. I was still taking the same medication - Zoloft - for my anxiety, but I wasn’t feeling helped any longer. I wasn’t sure if I was being dramatic, if it was just the fact it was getting close to winter, or if I was just so unhappy with my job that I had reached a new low. It was likely a combination. It wasn’t long after that that I was reached out to for a job opportunity I never really thought about - Clinical Office Manager of a Pediatrician’s office. I was so excited and nervous at the same time.
The rest of the story is pretty mundane - I changed jobs, where things improved for a while. But it wasn’t enough. I ended up switching to a new medication - Venlafaxine - and upping my dose to 150mg, which has done the trick. That’s not to say I’m perfect. In fact, as I stopped writing this blog for the moment, I had my very first truly frightening panic attack. It was just a few days before this blog was posted (a Thursday), and I was waiting for my son at the bus stop. Suddenly I just didn’t feel right. It felt like my breath was clicking (the best way I can describe it - crazy, I know). Then, I felt a rush of cold and warm all at one in my chest and my left arm was tingly. I started to panic but kept taking slow, deep breaths. I got my son off the bus, drove home and told him to buckle in his seat because we were going to mommy’s office. I reached out to one of my close friends, who happens to be one of my nurses, and asked if she could meet me at work to check my blood pressure because I didn’t feel right. She thankfully could and did. I did in fact have an elevated blood pressure and heart rate. She stayed with me until my best friend, who also happens to be one of the Doctors, arrived for a separate reason (timing, I tell you). She got caught up on what was going on and told me to go lay down on my left side, so I did. A couple of hours later, some tears, some water, and some great conversation from a super cool freshman, my friend told me I had just had a panic attack. It was at that moment I knew that I not only needed to continue working on my mental health, but I also felt a push to make an appointment at my PCP (primary care physician)’s office to make sure I was actually okay health wise too. It was as if I needed to have the panic attack. I know, you’re really thinking I’ve lost it now, right? Well, stay with me.
I went just today to my Doctor. I explained that my family has a history of a lot of different ailments, including diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, and hypertension. I told her I have a 6 year old boy at home, a job I love, a business that is my passion and a husband with whom I want to grow old. I have so much life ahead of me, and I need to get a handle on my health... so, here I am. What’s wrong with me??
My weight and my blood pressure.
I am 33 years old and taking blood pressure medication now. I go back to the Doctor in 3 months to make sure I am doing well, and my PCP gave me a goal to lose 10-15 pounds. I go tomorrow for lab work to make sure there’s nothing else going on that can’t be seen by looking at me. I am relieved. I got in the car when I left the office and just said, “God, thank you for that panic attack.”
If you’ve stayed with me this far, congratulations. My story is long, and my story is mundane I’m certain. But it’s mine, all mine, and I own it. Some of you reading this may think that anxiety isn’t a real thing, or that I’m just exaggerating. Friends, I am here to tell you that if you really believe that, please do not ever say it out loud to me. Those very thoughts are some of the most unproductive and hurtful things to say to someone who suffers from anxiety, or really any and all mental illnesses. If you don’t understand, ask questions. Research. Don’t assume and risk really hurting someone, or worse - making it worse. Some of you reading this may have a loved one who suffers from anxiety, and this helps you to understand them a little better. Some of you are anxiety sufferers yourself, and this speaks to you. Some of you may want to tell me that my faith can cure my anxiety. To that, I say this: With God, all things are possible. I know this. And God also communicates with us in numerous ways. Sometimes the language is easy to understand and the direction is obvious and comfortable. Other times, it’s bumpy and more intimidating. Sometimes, it looks like a panic attack that leads me to the Doctor to find out I have hypertension and need medication. Remember above where I thanked God? I use my faith every single day. I know God is in control of my anxiety. He has a purpose for it, and every single day I learn what things I am to do. But I am meant to live with this and I am meant to use it to help others.
I wanted to write this really long, expanded blog to really open the dialog about mental illness. It’s such a taboo topic that people don’t like to talk about because it’s embarrassing, or because no one will take them seriously if they talk about it so instead they just deal with it internally. Please, ask your friends if they are okay. And if you aren’t okay, THAT IS OKAY. It is perfectly normal to be in a state of not okay. But, if you’re feeling dark and like you can’t do it anymore, seek help immediately and don’t let your mind lie to you. You are strong, you are capable. You are worth every single breath of life left in your body. Continue to tell yourself that until you get to that safe place.
I also want you all to know that at the end of the day, I am okay. Some days are amazing, and some days are horrific. Some days I want to spend time with people and do all the things, and some days I don’t even want to be around my husband and my son. But I am always okay. I don’t want you to feel bad for me, or caudle me, or make me feel weak. I am far from weak. The fact that I can talk about this in such a public space - my BUSINESS PAGE for that matter - is living proof I am a strong woman who has a voice and a platform to speak to and reach hundreds of people. I am so blessed for that fact too. I want you, instead of feeling sad for me, to use your emotions to empower you to ask questions, start a conversation and educate yourself. Help someone else. Pray for someone else. Maybe even talk about your own struggles that you have desperately been trying to hide away.
You will be okay. I will be okay. We ARE okay.