Feeding the beast. No, I’m not referring to any of my 3 boys (although it is an accurate description). The beast I’m referring to is anxiety. It’s depression. It’s obsessive-compulsive disorder. It’s Beast with a capital “B.”
I have always had feelings of extreme worry, ever since I can remember. I used to joke around that I was a “worry warrior.” Worrying was something that I couldn’t help but to do. Even though I am an optimist, a glass-half-full kind of person , I automatically think of the worst-case scenario and worry myself sick over it. One of the boys is sleeping more than usual? It must be cancer. I can’t get ahold of Momma? She must have fallen and can’t get to the phone and is hurt badly. That is how my mind works. I hate it.
After I had Joshua, I knew something was wrong with me. Well, more than normal. I lost interest in things I used to love doing. I had problems sleeping, even though Josh was a great sleeper right from the start. I would feel panicked when I thought about going somewhere, but lonely and isolated when I stayed home. I began to think that I was a horrible person, a terrible wife and mother. I demanded perfection of myself. The house always had to be immaculately cleaned. I spent hours every day making sure it was spotless. If I didn’t live up to my expectations, I felt like a failure. I started thinking that it would be better for my family if I were no longer here to be a burden to them. I wanted to leave, because I honestly felt that my kids and husband deserved better than me. I struggled with all of this silently and alone for three months. Finally, I reached out for help.
I didn’t want to admit to anyone how I was feeling. I felt ashamed and embarrassed. What kind of mother was I, that I couldn’t bond with my new baby? After an appointment with my doctor, I was set up to see the therapist that same day. She talked with me and, after two hours and many tears in my part, diagnosed me with acute post-partum depression, social and general anxiety disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. I was started in some medication and follow-up appointments with the therapist. That evening, when my husband got home, I told him everything that had happened and my diagnosis. I was expecting him to be supportive and encouraging, but instead, he was angry. He thought I was lying about my feelings and told me he didn’t think I needed a shrink or medicine to help me feel better. I felt ashamed and embarrassed, but continued to take my meds and kept my appointments.
My therapist helped me learn coping skills to help with the depression and anxiety, which helped keep my OCD in check. I told Mark that I needed his help, too. I needed him to understand that this was not just a “feeling” that I could just “get over.” It was a disease. One that literally took over every aspect of my being. Slowly, with the love and support of my husband, my friends, and my family, I started to feel better. I didn’t feel crazy all the time. I started to beat my disorders.
The funny thing about anxiety and depression is that one day, you can be feeling right as rain. Normal, even. The next, you are right back at the bottom of the abyss, clutching to any shred of sanity you might have left. It doesn’t manifest itself in the same way to everyone. For me, I have high-functioning depression, so even though I am having extreme lows, I still function much like anyone else would on a daily basis. I’m very good at putting on a brave face when I’m dying inside. For me, anxiety isn’t rocking back and forth. It’s automatically assuming the worst will happen and worrying about it. It’s wanting to be around people, but alone at the same time. It’s being irrationally angry over nothing. It’s feelings of extreme guilt when I lash out. Anxiety is feeling absolutely exhausted, but not able to sleep because your mind won’t shut off. It’s feeling like you aren’t good enough. It’s the obsessive thoughts (hello, OCD) that won’t stop. It’s a vicious cycle of anxiety and depression.
I struggle with it, everyday, and I’m trying to be the best mom and wife I can be. I try to stay busy, because if my mind is busy then there’s no room for the depression and anxiety. I wear myself out trying to stay sane everyday. Because of the anxiety, my reality is skewed. I have to ask Mark or my mom (people I trust the most) if something is as bad as I think it is, or if it’s my anxiety causing me to overreact. I have feelings of paranoia that go with the anxiety. I apologize to my kids and my husband every single day, for things I say or do, that I don’t mean.
There’s still such a stigma attached to mental disorders, which makes people feel embarrassed or ashamed if they are struggling. It’s been almost 3 years since my diagnosis, and while most days I am doing much better, I still have to fight it. There is no “cure” for anxiety. No cure for depression. It’s an ongoing battle. I’ll be doing just fine for a month or two, then out of the blue, WHAM! It hits me again, hard, and I have to claw my way back up to normalcy.