Anxiety and depression have controlled my life for as long as I can remember. When I was pregnant with my oldest daughter, Gracelynn, my depression got much worse. I went to one of my regular appointments to check on her and my doctor gave me this questionnaire and I scored a 36. My doctor immediately prescribed medication, but after Gracie was born, there was a mix-up, and I had to stop taking it rather suddenly. I was nursing, and I didn’t want to put my baby through the struggle of getting back on it or risk her suffering any possible side effects, so I went back to just coping. It had become a lifestyle for me, something I am certain too many others can relate to. Mental illness prevented me from loving life because I always anticipated the bad that was sure to follow. Sounds silly, even a little irrational, but my mind had been conditioned to believe this. When she told me my score, it put things into perspective for me. The way that I was thinking, feeling, and living wasn’t “normal” and it didn’t have to continue to be. I had a mental illness and I knew it was time for a change.
Side Note: Depression is extremely underrated and taking medication for it, even more so. If you find yourself battling mental illness, understand that asking for help is okay. It is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength. If you are on the fence about what you should do, or where you should go for help, feel free to email me and I will do everything I can to help you.
My family is my source of strength. The same “strength” numerous medical professionals have said they are impressed with. “You are coping so well.” and “You are so strong.” were phrases that I heard all the time, but I felt like a fraud. Am I really coping? Is having an episode while sitting at the dinner table, fighting the urge to stab myself with my utensils, coping?? I suppose not giving into the urges is a success, but I wanted to get to a point where I didn’t constantly want to hurt myself. I didn’t want to feel like I deserved to hurt. There are so many reasons why I shouldn’t, my husband and my daughters being the most important, but when battling depression, grasping at all the reasons to be happy is about as easy as swimming with sharks.
Side Note: If you can find something to cling to, to strive to be better for, then forcing yourself to recognize that depression is an illness, and you don’t have to let control every aspect of your life, becomes a little bit easier. Not much, but every little bit helps. Your source of strength is out there somewhere too, you just have to find it.
Crawling out of bed everyday quickly became a monumental task. I did it, though, because I knew that as soon as I got up, I would walk into Gracie’s room and be greeted with her smile and a “Hi mommy” while she wraps her arms tight around my neck as I pick her up. Those few seconds are worth the struggle of getting out of bed. I found other ways of overcoming the daily tasks that seemed to get more and more difficult, things that shouldn’t be difficult at all. Gracie needed her teeth brushed (as did I) so, despite it taking a lot of effort, we would do it together. I brushed her teeth and she “helped” me brush mine. Eating was the same, we shared a plate, to make sure that I actually ate, because she enjoyed giving me “bites”.
I thought that I was alone in being able to get up, getting dressed, brush my teeth, eating, showering, etc… All those things should be simple, but, for me, they just weren’t. I know that there are others out there going through the same thing. The embarrassment of telling your husband that you couldn’t accomplish the simplest of tasks, like unloading the dishwasher, because it was “too hard”, and having that be true. The energy just isn’t there. I was moving through molasses everyday, struggling to keep up with just the basics and barely accomplishing that. I was so embarrassed by how difficult it was that I didn’t realize it was the disease too. Slowly creeping into every nook and cranny of my life that it could find.
Side Note: I quickly realized that I was not the mother I wanted my girls to see as they grow up. I don’t ever want them knowing the feelings of self-loathing the greeted me every time I looked in the mirror. I don’t want them being controlled by those feelings or to have nervous habits develop as a result of the anxiety that takes hold and never lets go. Between the anxiety and the depression, I have been unable to live the happy and fulfilled life that I dream of and that is the last thing I wanted for my children. I use my children as my motivation now. I fight to be better for them.
As I write this, I know what my friends and family think, I know what my readers think. I have so many reasons to be happy; the most important reasons being the two beautiful little girls that wake me up with their laughter every morning and the patient husband that kisses me every night as we lay down to sleep and whisper, “I love you.” They have been my source of strength through this uphill battle and the things I hold onto the tightest when horrible memories, followed by irrational thoughts creep into my mind. I have finally been able to put into words the thoughts that invade my head on a regular basis. They are like the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about; the weeds in the flower bed you can never completely get rid of.
I was told I was suicidal. But what does that even mean? If someone told me to diagnose myself, I don’t think that I would ever have used the word suicidal, just sad. Had I thought everyone would be better off without me? Yes. Had I thought about ways to end my life? Yes, often. But the questionnaires I had to take on a regular basis told my doctors what I could not bring myself to say. I am not good enough. No one cares about me. I am a horrible friend. I am a drama queen. I am stupid. I am fat. I am ugly. I am worthless. Everything that goes wrong is my fault. How could anybody ever love me? Why try to accomplish anything when I know that, in the long run, I will be unsuccessful anyway? Those thoughts were forever in my mind. Taking up space and controlling everything. Nothing I said, nothing I did could get rid of those thoughts, right?
Wrong. Those thoughts, as controlling as they were, are not want I want in my head or in my life, and if you are still reading this, then neither do you. Those thoughts are the disease. There was always one constant for me that supported those thoughts, fed the elephant in the room and fertilized those weeds that were overtaking my brain. Every insecurity I ever had was preyed upon and used against me. I didn’t want that any longer. I didn’t want to be controlled any longer. I wanted to be in control.
Side Note: That realization was the first step in overcoming this horrible disease. The next step in healing for me, was ridding myself of the toxicity in my life taking control of my life and my happiness. Now I am helping it grow into something that I have always imagined. If you would like to know the secret question I asked myself to reach this point, I go into more detail here.
For as long as I can remember, the disease made every decision in my life. That’s all it is though. A disease. I am sick, I have a mental illness. It has taken me years to actually admit this. I always equated a mental illness with someone who is crazy. But aren’t we all a little bit crazy every now and then? One doctor scolded me when I referred to myself as crazy “gotta keep the crazy under control” I believe is the phrase I used and he corrected me by saying that he does not treat crazy people, he treats people going through crisis.
Side Note: Joking about being crazy was just another coping mechanism I had developed. Until I changed the belief that I really was crazy, I knew I wouldn’t make any further progress in my recovery, not in the way I was hoping. In order to reach my goal of living the happy and fulfilled life I wanted, I had to change the way I viewed myself.
Mental illness in general is so underrated in today’s society. Too many say, “Get over it. Stop being such a baby. There are people who have had it much worse than you” etc… It’s because of those people though, the people who are ignorant to what exactly depression is, many cases go untreated. They believe the people that say, “You are just seeking attention, or you are just being lazy.” This is not okay. Mental illness is a result of a chemical imbalance and medication balances that out. It’s not a sign of weakness to get help, it’s a sign of strength. It’s recognizing that you don’t have all the tools you need to reach your goal, and asking for assistance.
For the longest time, I believed the words of other people telling me what to think, how to feel. Listening, and believing what they said, prevented me from getting the help that I needed. It wasn’t until one of my doctors told me to equate my mental illness with someone who has brain cancer. No, this is not in any way trying to diminish the severity of brain cancer, but instead, to put the seriousness of depression into perspective for those who are unfamiliar with it. Someone with brain cancer has to take medication to treat their illness, just like me. They have to go to chemotherapy, like I have to go to therapy. Would you tell someone with cancer that they need to just “get over it”? No…
Side Note: Another one of my (many) doctors put it into perspective for me, made me want to win this battle when she said, “You have a mental illness. You are battling major depressive disorder, and unless you fight it, it is 100% fatal. Don’t let the disease win.”
After awhile, they will (hopefully) get better, with the help of their medication, doctors and whatever support system they have in their life, but will still need lifetime check ups to monitor their disease, to make sure they don’t go into remission. They will never be 100% free from their illness, but they will learn how to live with it and not let it control their lives. Like I will never be 100% free from my illness, but I won’t let it continue to control my life.
I am not my illness. Not anymore. I am more than that. I am worth more than that. I deserve more than that. I tell myself these things every single day, and even though I still have days when I might not believe them, I will believe them someday, because the most important people in my life believe it. My little girls that smile at me when I enter the room, that wrap their arms around my neck, that cover me in kisses and drool and love believe it, so eventually, I can too.
I want to utilize everything I have experienced to help others battling their own illnesses. I want to grow as a person, woman, wife and mother. I want to help others grow with me and regain control of their lives from the demons in their head, thriving on their disease. It wasn’t something I thought I would be able to do, to take back control, but that is the disease talking. Not me. Somewhere out there, whether I know it or not, someone is reading this and beginning to realize their worth, and overcoming their own disease.
Don’t let yourself believe that you are in this fight alone ever again, because that couldn’t be further from the truth.