I have anxiety.
I take anxiety medication each day to keep me feeling calm and “normal.”
This is not something I share with others. It’s embarrassing to admit. In fact, I can count on one hand the number of people who know this about me.
Recently I had a conversation with a friend and she told me she was struggling with depression and anxiety. As we talked it got me thinking. Anxiety and depression aren’t normal topics of discussion. Why is this? Why do I feel embarrassed talking about it?
I think many moms (and people in general) struggle with anxiety and depression for a variety of reasons, but don’t necessarily talk about it. Society has placed a negative stigma on those with emotional and mental conditions. Others joke and say we are “crazy,” we are looked down upon because we need to take medication to help control our feelings and thoughts, and people feel sorry for us.
Maybe it’s because they just don’t understand what it feels like. They don’t know how it feels to wake up with a nervous feeling in your stomach and a tight chest or to feel like you could cry at any moment. They don’t know what it means to constantly have irrational fears running through your mind and feel worried all the time. Or to feel tired and run down all day long; to feel your heart pounding in your chest as if it’s about to jump out. To feel like no one understands what you’re going through.
But not understanding is not a reason to judge.
Until two years ago I never struggled with depression or anxiety. I watched my father struggle with severe depression from the time I was 6-years-old all the way through my college years and beyond. I saw firsthand what depression can do to a person and those around them.
Then two years ago when we moved to Columbia for my husband, anxiety gripped me. I was excited to live here, but the move took more of a toll on me than I anticipated. When I moved to Chicago from New York eleven years prior, it was for me; for my job. I was in control of the situation.
The move to Columbia was for my husband. It was a different feel. Not only that, when I moved to Chicago, I was on my own. This recent move south involved our whole family. It involved finding a preschool for my son, my husband starting a new job, finding new doctors, a church, friends, military base … having to start all over again.
Add on top of that the worry of sending my son, who has life threatening food allergies, to school for the first time and wondering if he will be okay. I was trying to figure out where I would fit in. Would I find theater classes to teach like I was doing in Chicago (which was essentially my whole life)? Would I find a close circle of friends? Would we be okay financially with me not working?
It all overwhelmed me and everything came crashing down around me.
Anxiety set in. Panic attacks occurred. My stomach was upset every day, I lost weight, I was having trouble sleeping and I felt jittery a lot. It wasn’t long before I found myself sitting in the doctor’s office telling him I just wanted to feel normal again. Embarrassingly asking for a prescription so that I could live my daily life without constant fear and worry and feeling sick.
It wasn’t something I could have predicted.
It wasn’t something that was expected.
It just happened.
And that’s how it is for so many people. You don’t just decide all of a sudden, “I’m going to wake up with depression and/or anxiety today.” It just happens. It sneaks up on you and threatens to take over your life. You feel like things are out of control and you’re losing a constant battle with yourself. It’s wondering why this is happening and feeling like you want to be “normal” but you don’t know how to make things better.
That’s what so many people don’t understand. Sometimes I feel like others think I can easily control it. I’ve had someone say to me, “just try not to worry so much.”
Anxiety is way more than worrying. So much more. And it’s just not as simple as that.
That’s why I take medication; that’s why so many people take medication for anxiety and depression. Because we need it to help us feel normal; to help us function each day. Was I happy with having to go on medication? No. I wasn’t. But does it help me? Yes!
And, you know what, as embarrassing as it may feel, it’s OK to be on a daily medication for your anxiety and depression.
There is no shame in that. It doesn’t matter what society tells you or how they perceive those with anxiety and depression.
You are not your condition. You are strong. You CAN talk about it without feeling shame and embarrassment.
And we should talk about it more. Talking can help bring healing.
No more hiding in the closet. No more being ashamed of suffering with anxiety or depression.
And if you have others around you whom you know have anxiety and/or depression, don’t judge.
Don’t judge because you never know when it could hit you.