I went back and forth all weekend on whether or not to publish this blog post. It made my heart race to even think about it going live, but here we are. Please have an open mind when reading it, and be kind.
So here we go…
I’ve had anxiety for as long as I can remember. As a kid I was scared of everything from ghosts to dogs to sleeping in the dark. I put a lot of pressure on myself as a teenager and my anxiety really began to blossom at that time. In college, my friends and I went out a lot and probably drank too much, so I think a lot of my feelings of anxiety were muted, but always still there under the surface.
Upon graduation I threw myself into work and soon after started Lemon Stripes, so I spent about 80 hours a week working and very little time sitting with my thoughts and feelings, let alone having a life! When I had my miscarriages two years ago, I was in a very dark place and everything started to make me anxious in a way I had never experienced before. Sounds, smells, people, conversations, and even driving in the car would send me into panic mode for seemingly no reason.
After Amalia was born, this was magnified tenfold. Every time she cried, I would get shaky and tear up. Leaving the house felt like going to the moon. My post-partum anxiety was scary, but I didn’t know what it was for a long time, and I didn’t know how to talk about it. I thought my friends and family would think I was a terrible mom so I kept it inside for a long time.
Then a few months ago I wrote about it. I’ve been so open and honest with you guys throughout this journey, and I wanted to share that piece of my motherhood with the world. I hoped that people would read it and feel less alone. It worked, and I’ve gotten countless notes and emails from readers telling me that they’ve gotten help since reading that post. That means the world to me!
On the flip side, I got some negative comments saying that I posted it for engagement and that I was inauthentic for hiding it for so long. Those comments hurt me so much that I literally almost quit blogging completely. I haven’t talked at all about my anxiety here since then because I was so afraid of what people would say. Looking back, I realize how crazy that sounds and wish I hadn’t let the people trying to get me down get the best of me.
But in the end it was a blessing because it was a wake up call as to how bad I was really feeling. I put my therapy into overdrive and worked tirelessly to battle my feelings of fear, sadness, and anxiety.
Shortly after that, over Thanksgiving, we went to Bermuda and I had a panic attack. Like a really bad one. I could hardly enjoy the trip despite the fact that I was with my family in one of my favorite places. I tried to put on a smile and enjoy it all, but I couldn’t shake the anxiety. It felt like a big weighted ball was sitting on my chest and I couldn’t breathe for days.
On our way home, I emailed my therapist and told her I was ready to talk about medication. When I started therapy about a year ago, I had told her that my goal was to do things naturally, without the help of chemicals. I’ve taken every anti-anxiety supplement and tincture in the book. I’ve meditated, I’ve talked about my feelings, I’ve exercised, I’ve done it all. And none of it was enough.
A week later I was prescribed an SSRI that is often used in generalized anxiety patients. I started on a super low dosage and within days I felt 75% better. Now, two months later, I can say with full confidence that I am a completely different person. I feel like myself again for the first time in years. On a recent date night, Anel said that he feels like he has his wife back!
So how has this medication changed me? I can’t even begin to list all the ways, but here are a few:
Work: I’m more organized in how I manage my days and with my editorial calendar. I no longer write last minute blog posts at 11pm the night before they’re going live. Looking at my to do list doesn’t make me panic, and I can accomplish so much more each day because I’m not paralyzed in a crippling emotional state.
Motherhood: I’m able to be present with my daughter. I can take her out of the house for hours without feeling anxious. We have more playdates and do more things. I feel guilty that I didn’t do this sooner because I feel like she missed out on so much when I was anxious. But I’m trying to move on and focus on making her life amazing now more than ever. We’re both thriving and so so happy. We laugh a lot, we cuddle a lot. And while I’ve always loved her more than anything in the world, to be able to love her without the attached anxiety is pure magic and the happiest feeling I’ve ever experienced.
Marriage: There are a million and one ways that this has changed my marriage. I’m more carefree and the little things Anel does that would normally just be annoying, don’t send me into a tailspin. We’re more intimate and have so many more laughs. Side bar: Props to Anel for dealing with me for those three years. It wasn’t easy but he stuck by my side and supported me through it all. He is an amazing man and I’m so lucky to have him.
Beyond those aspects, life in general is just bright and cheery again. Yes I still have bad days. And of course I still get stressed out from time to time, but I no longer have a constant nagging feeling dragging me down. I can live my life like a normal person, see my friends, and feel happy every single day.
Obviously being medicated has changed my life, but the sad part is that I was so scared to share that. The stigma that we have against mental illness and being treated for it is bigger than I realized. I remember when a blogger that I follow and admire started talking about her anxiety, I thought why would I take advice from her if she doesn’t even have it together? I am beyond embarrassed for having that thought. Because I realize now that if you can push through a mental and emotional state like anxiety and still go to work and live your life, you’re an incredible human.
The other stigma that exists in a big way is around the medication itself. If I had a stomach flu and took medicine, no one would think twice. But taking meds for a mental illness and then (gasp) speaking about it isn’t quite the norm in our society… Yet anyway.
But once I started talking to friends and family about my experience, I learned that some of them were medicated for anxiety and depression as well and I had no idea.
So there it is. I’m medicated. And I’ve never been happier!
Photo by Julia Dags.