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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{ 17 comments }

1 Jill August 27, 2009 at 8:58 am

I really commend you for having the courage to post this. In fact, this very topic is one I’ve considered writing about too, just from a slightly different angle. I am 26 and have been taking anti-depressants/anti-anxiety meds or a combination of for…7 years now? Depression (among other things) runs in my family and I had a really hard time, because I had told myself that wasn’t gonna be me. Eventually, I didn’t have much choice in the matter! I’ve tried a few different times to go off the meds, but it never lasts. I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that it is probably something I will struggle w/forever. Anyway, I am really glad to hear that meds and therapy have provided you with some success and happiness! I know it isn’t easy, but I think you’re brave to deal w/it everyday, and even more brave to write about it :)
.-= Jill´s last blog ..Keep the Change… =-.

2 Karen August 27, 2009 at 9:42 am

Jill – Thanks so much for commenting and sharing your own experience. I just realized that I left it out of my post, but dependency is my other great concern.

I’m planning on trying to get pregnant in about 2 years, and of course I don’t want to take this medication while I’m pregnant or nursing. I hope I don’t struggle too much when I decide to stop taking them. But for now, it’s helping me get through a difficult time, so the benefits outweigh the risks.

Thanks again for sharing!

3 Mel August 27, 2009 at 10:31 am

I couldn’t agree more! I just recently decided to give meds a try. I had been depressed for a couple of years now and just HATED the thought of taking any medication. It just seemed to me like “everybody” was on some sort of anti-deprestion/anti-anxiety med. I though it was just the easy road out instead of actually working on the problem.

However, after 2 years I was tired of the constant depression and anxiety and it seemed like meds were the only solution I hadn’t tried. So, I “gave in” and finally got prescribed an antidepressant from my doctor. What a difference! I finally feel normal again. My only regret is that I waited so long!LOL

4 Janine August 27, 2009 at 12:03 pm

Thank you so much for writing this. I too have struggled for a long time with Depression. One day about 2 years ago I decided to take the same steps that you did and I am now on a mild anti-depressant as well. Some people see it as a negative thing, but when all the haze that I was constantly seeing the world through disappeared, I finally realized, it wasn’t just me. There really was something there.

I’m very open with my diagnosis and that I am on medication. I want other people to get help as well. Living life with people (like my mother) telling you to snap out of it, and wanting to so badly, but not knowing how is painful.

I too commend you for writing your story.

5 Lisa August 27, 2009 at 2:10 pm

You’re still a nutcase? Join the club! :P

I was diagnosed with Panic Disorder, originally, back in 2002. Long story short, I was re-diagnosed a few months ago with OCD/Panic Disorder/General Anxiety Disorder PLUS Pre-Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder and Severe Cyclical Depression.

So no worries – you’re not the only one! ;)
.-= Lisa´s last blog .."If Today Was Your Last Day" – Nickelback =-.

6 The Non-Student August 27, 2009 at 3:52 pm

Echoing everything that has been said already, thank you for your tremendous courage. Although I never received medication (after speaking with two psychiatrists and deciding it was not best for me), I did work with a therapist for nearly 3 years, and it changed my life.

Thanks for sharing your struggles and triumphs with us.
.-= The Non-Student´s last blog ..I’m not so in love today =-.

7 Kacie August 27, 2009 at 7:46 pm

I just wanted to comment to show my support! Way to go!
.-= Kacie´s last blog ..Gearing up for fall clothes =-.

8 Kirsty August 27, 2009 at 8:57 pm

Karen – thank you for telling a story that sheds light on problem many of us share, but are hesitant to discuss. You are truly brave and I believe your story will inspire more than one person to, as I call it, “choose to be happy.” There are so many negative connotations with therapy or medication, but in the end, if you’re miserable all the time and don’t pursue those avenues, you are choosing to lead an unhappy life. You made a courageous choice. Thanks for sharing!
.-= Kirsty´s last blog ..Recipe Wednesday: Whole wheat pasta with shrimp and veggies =-.

9 Cheryl August 27, 2009 at 9:02 pm

This post couldn’t have come at a better time for me. For the past few months I have been battling panic attacks and health anxiety. I just started my first dose of medication last night and start with a new therapist on Monday.

It is comforting to know that there are others battling these issues like me. And that we are all here to support each other.

10 Brian Dennis August 28, 2009 at 1:50 am

Great post, I especially found it useful when you stated that 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. thanks for sharing that I know taht it took alot to do. I fight depression everyday not wanting to take medication sometimes I jsut wish God would call me home. So what did you take that helped you to cope so much better I have been relying on prayer and faith and some days I get peace but most I come down crashing like I had an energy drink this subject matter is real and there are people who need help thanks for opening up the diolog
.-= Brian Dennis´s last blog ..Uganda: Bunyoro Question – Give Land to All Occupants (AllAfrica.com) =-.

11 Ros Rodriguez August 28, 2009 at 9:50 am

Anxiety and depression are two different psychological conditions, both posing a threat to the life and happiness of the people suffering from them. Both anxiety and depression are serious clinical conditions that warrant immediate attention.Chronic conditions of depressions and anxiety are hard to resolve because have been neglected and have therefore progressed. Unfortunately, most of the times depressed people do not recognize their situation as being due to a disease and when they recognize it then they want a magic pill.
Medications are toxics, ok? Take them for a short period of time. Therapy is Ok but takes a long period of time. So what are other options? Emotion Freedom Technique – EFT has been giving amazing results in weeks. Brain State Conditioning makes miracles in days.
Why not have the medication, going to a Brain State Conditioning provider and have the brain waves balanced and learn how to do EFT to self solve more emotional problems. This way you become depression and anxiety free without intoxicating yourself.

12 Melinda August 28, 2009 at 10:25 am

Thank you for posting your story. I could have written this entire post myself – been battling this disease for many, many years now. I went through a phase where I would go off my meds because I felt better/felt guilty/felt weaker for being on them/felt strong enough to be without them. One word of caution – do NOT do this! Don’t ever, EVER stop taking your meds without your doctor’s OK and supervision. When I stopped taking Paxil several years ago (lost my insurance, thought I would be fine without it) – I had the worst withdrawals you can ever imagine. Later found that it’s in the same drug class as heroin, which explained my “detox” experience. Ugh.

Anyway, sorry to babble… :) I’m glad that you spoke up about your struggle, it takes a lot of courage to admit when we need help – be it talk therapy, medications, even inpatient care if necessary. But it is NOT something to be shameful about. Every one of us that speaks up has the opportunity to help de-stigmatize this horrible disease and have others feel comfortable getting help themselves. So – thank you. :)
.-= Melinda´s last blog ..Missing Man – Please help!!! =-.

13 Tammy S August 28, 2009 at 12:07 pm

This truly made me wonder about myself – thank you for posting.
My husband is frequently telling me to “turn it off” when it comes to my treadmill-running mind. I have just always thought the problem was *him*! Maybe I should re-think my thinking!??
If nothing else, this note should reassure you that it is ok, and you are not alone in your struggle. Best of luck!

14 Mike August 28, 2009 at 9:59 pm

Thanks…

15 Stephanie September 3, 2009 at 1:51 am

I just wanted to tell you how lucky you are to have a good dr. and therapist. I was so severely depressed that I didn’t even want to go to the dr. When I did, the meds didn’t work but I didn’t realize it. I was clinically depressed for over 4 years before having a major breakdown and doing intensive outpatient therapy and finding a psychiatrist who gave me a definitive diagnosis.

To Karen regarding dependency. I have taken meds thru all 3 pregnancies. There are new studies showing that taking meds while pregnant and thru the postpartum period decreases the chances of your offspring developing depression. I was still on the “wrong” med while pregnant the 1st time, and you’ll never know how hard it was to tell my dr. that I could possibly hurt my baby even though I didn’t want to. I had to have someone with me 24/7! Please don’t quit without discussing it thoroughly with a doctor.

And to Ros Rodriguez: have you ever had depression or anxiety? If not, please don’t tell those of us that will have to be on meds for life how toxic they are. I KNOW that. I have not tried the therapies you suggested, but if I went off my meds to try them I guarantee my family and myself would fall apart. Possibly so much I would need to be hospitalized. It’s not worth it to me. Do I want to take meds forever? Heck no. But I went undiagnosed for so long that my brain just doesn’t work correctly anymore.

Just some thoughts.
Thanks

16 Karen September 3, 2009 at 6:23 am

@Stephanie – Thank you to much for sharing your experiences with us. I’m glad you found the right medication now, and that you’re doing well. I haven’t heard that taking medication during pregnancy can prevent depression in the baby, but I do know that many doctors recommend continuing medication if the benefits outweigh any risks. I will just have to cross that bridge when I get there. Thanks again for sharing, and take care!

17 Mrs. Money October 15, 2009 at 6:04 pm

Karen, if you have the time, could you email me? I would appreciate it very much! :)
.-= Mrs. Money´s last blog ..Blog Action Day 2009 – Climate Change =-.

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