A personal story about anxiety & depression

by Karen on August 27, 2009

This is a post I’ve been thinking about writing for months. In the beginning, I wanted to keep this blog about money. But now that I’m writing more about lifestyle and well being, I feel like it’s appropriate to share something personal about myself that I wasn’t sure if I wanted to share here.

Several months ago, I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression.

I know, in this day and age, what’s the big deal? It seems like everyone has some sort of mental health issue. Diagnoses of anxiety and depression are a dime a dozen. But I’m sharing this here because when it happened to me, it didn’t feel like a dime-a-dozen diagnosis.

For my whole life, I’ve been unhappy for no reason. I thought that when I found the right person, we’d live happily ever after. Then I found Tony and everything was perfect, but it still wasn’t enough. I thought I needed to lose weight to be happy. I lost 40 pounds, and I still felt unhappy. I was working in a job I hated, or struggling with money, or I was unhappy with our location, or I wanted a baby. I always had an excuse for my unhappiness.

Finally, several months ago, Tony and I had a serious talk about it. “It’s always something,” he told me. “I don’t want you to look back 40 years from now and think that you were never happy because something was always missing.”

I decided to see a therapist. We talked about my constant unhappiness. Even though I knew I was blessed and saw all of the reasons I had to be happy, I just couldn’t feel that way.

We talked about how my whole life people had told me, “Why can’t you just be happy? Just wake up tomorrow and decide to be happy.” I can’t tell you how frustrating that was. Of course I wanted to be happy. I wanted to appreciate all of the wonderful things in my life. I tried and tried for years. I felt like there was something wrong with me.

We also talked about the worry and the fear and the anxiety. In a lot of ways, it had prepared me for the worst. It made me plan and think ahead and live carefully. But it also kept me up at night and stole away the happiness that I should have been feeling.

For years, I thought this was just who I was. I lived with it like a constant noise in the background. It drove me crazy, but I didn’t ever think to investigate or find a way to turn it off.

When my therapist suggested I try medication, I was hesitant. I’m sure frequent readers know, I can be a bit of a control freak. I dealt with the fear and anxiety and depression by micro-managing every aspect of my life. I tried to stay one step ahead of everything, and I told myself there was nothing I couldn’t do. I felt like taking medication meant I was surrendering to the depression and anxiety. If I had to “take the easy way out” with medication, then I’d lost.

After some soul searching and discussion with Tony, I made the decision to give it a try. I had tried everything else; it wasn’t working. In fact, things were getting worse. I was open to trying something new.

I was prescribed a low dose of a mild anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medication. The change in me was instant. It was like someone had finally turned off the static in the background. I could think clearly. I could deal with the feelings of sadness and fear I’d faced my whole life. I finally felt like it was possible for me to wake up in the morning and just decide to be in a good mood.

After three months, I can tell you it’s not magic. It’s still work. I still have bad days. I still feel depressed and anxious sometimes. But a bad day now is nowhere near as bad as my best days before. I feel capable of coping now. I feel like the road blocks that I faced before when I tried to be happy are gone. The blinders have been lifted, and I can finally appreciate the beauty in my life.

Most importantly, it didn’t change who I am. That was my biggest fear; that taking away the anxiety would change my personality or take away all of the things that had allowed me to stay one step ahead.

It didn’t make me a zombie. I’m still a bit of a nut case. I still overreact a little (I’m working on it). But now when I overreact, I don’t take it out on Tony. I don’t completely lose my cool to the point that I feel guilty later. I can cope with changes in plans and problems and bad days much better. I’m still me; I’m just a better, happier version of me.

I still want to plan. I still want to prepare. But now it’s not out of fear, but out of excitement for the future.

I know this is something that a lot of people face, and I’m sure there are many of you out there who feel like I did. You’re afraid to seek help. You’re afraid to try medication. I want to tell you — don’t be. It won’t change who you are. It doesn’t mean you’ve lost. I lost many years of my life when I should have been happy to these feelings of sadness and fear. Don’t waste another day feeling this way.

If you’re considering medication, please feel free to send me an email if you want to talk to someone who’s been there. I’d be happy to tell you about my personal experience with minor side effects and the amazing benefits.

If you feel like you’re losing the battle with depression and anxiety, maybe it’s time to try something new.

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