Every time I log into Twitter, the first thing I do is check the Trends. Sometimes I click through a few of them, often times I don’t, but today there is one that really hits home for me. That one is #growingupwithanxiety.
I was diagnosed with social anxiety disorder and generalized anxiety disorder soon after my second child was born and my marriage to my (now ex-)husband was ending. Up until I sought out a therapist, I really believed that everything I had struggled with in my entire life was normal. I thought panic attacks were normal. I thought not wanting to be around people was normal. I thought everyone felt like their chest was going to cave in when they were upset. I thought it was the norm because it was my norm.
I’m so thankful to the amazing team of therapists that I got to know during that time. My regimen to “get better” began with weekly therapy, bi-weekly peer counseling, and a suggestion to begin taking anti-anxiety medication. I began the therapy and peer counseling right away, but meds? Why would I want to be a zombie? Why would I want to put all these unnatural chemicals in my body? What would my crunchy mom friends think?
I declined to begin a medication regimen and continued my therapy sessions. For a while this worked beautifully. I was happier in my day-to-day life and I found myself having fewer panic attacks. I still felt like my heart leapt up into my throat every time I tried to back out of a parking space while someone was waiting to take my spot, but it was progress and I was positive that it would continue to get better.
…but then it didn’t.
If anything, it got worse. I tried to hide how I felt behind smiles and laughs because I wanted everyone around me to think therapy was working.
…but it wasn’t.
I didn’t know what to do, and I felt lost. I didn’t want to share with anyone what I was going through because now I knew it wasn’t normal, I assumed they wouldn’t understand. The mere thought of talking to someone about it, even my therapist, had me shaking and nauseous. So for a while, I swallowed all the pain I was going through and I kept on truckin’.
A few years passed and I found myself managing a local organic market. Customers would often come in with lists of supplements to take for this or that, and one day a woman came in with a list for her anxiety. “This is it, I can take these!” I thought I had found the golden ticket. Plus, these were things I wasn’t afraid to tell my crunchy mom friends I was taking. Some magnesium and some passion flower, perfect! I knew this would help!
…but then it didn’t.
They seemed to help for a little while, but I now believe it was wishful thinking. I decided that anxiety was something I would have to live with because nothing was going to work. This was it for me….
…but it wasn’t.
In 2015 I met an amazingly strong woman named Angie Porter, the owner here at The Jacksonville Doulas. Over the past year she has shown me so much love and compassion, even though I didn’t always deserve it. The best part is she’s the kind of friend that doesn’t tell you what you want to hear, she tells you what you need to hear. And what I needed to hear was that I needed medication, real medication and not herbal supplements. With being around me daily as we built TJD from the ground up, she knew that my anxiety was taking over. I was beginning to have panic attacks almost every day and it was affecting my quality of life.
Nearly seven years after the first time I was told that I should consider medication, I went for it. I was diagnosed with social anxiety disorder again, but now my generalized anxiety had been replaced with panic disorder. I began a regimen of Zoloft and I want to share something with all of you.
It was the best decision I ever made for my mental health.
I understand that medication isn’t the route for everyone, but it was the right path for me. It was a turning point in my life that I will never forget. My panic attacks completely went away. My over analyzation of every moment of my life stopped. Within weeks the people in my life knew something was different and it wasn’t that I was a zombie. No I was normal, well, whatever that even means. I got my life back! I could breathe again.
Looking back, it was the stigma that surrounds being medicated that kept me from this life changing drug. I almost lived my life in a near-constant state of panic to avoid having to tell my more natural-minded friends that I was taking medication. This is not okay. It reminds me of something that Kristen Bell heard from her mother, “The world wants to shame you for taking medication to help yourself, but it’s important to remember that in the medical community, no one would deny a diabetic his insulin.”
If you thought that going at this illness alone was working…but it’s not, please don’t be afraid to seek out help. There is a great place right here in Jacksonville that can help you with whatever you’re going through, anxiety or otherwise, called RHA Mental Health. They even have a mobile crisis unit that can visit you wherever you are, even if that somewhere is having a panic attack in the Taco Bell Drive thru.