I am going to warn you right off….this is a long read, but I really felt the need to explain in complete detail this subject. So I apologize from the get go….and when you have finished reading this post…you will know why I am apologizing. :)
This is probably one of the hardest blog posts I have ever wrote. I have put it off for way to long. I feel like I am at a point in my life that I can somewhat explain what this feeling is that I have had my WHOLE life, and why it has been so hard for me to have a feeling of fulfillment. At times, in fact at the best of times I have been a very hard person to live with, as I am sure that my husband and children can substantiate. I thank God everyday for their love and patience in dealing with me on a daily basis.
So a little background. When I was entering into a time in my life where everything should have been a very intriguing time, I was experiencing so many hurdles that were mandatory to jump over, that I felt like I was so overwhelmed. The more overwhelmed I felt, the more I would pile on myself, to cover up exactly how I was feeling. You know the old saying, put your problems out of site and they will be out of mind? Well that is how I lived my life. I was not where I needed to be, spiritually, emotionally, physically, or even mentally. I was 23 years old, pregnant, living in the city (I was very much a country girl), going to college and wondering what was wrong with me. I should have been happy. I had the whole thing…a great job, great house, picket fence, and was waiting the arrival of my first child.
I was feeling a bit nervous about all that was going on in my life, so on my next OB appointment I explained all of this to the doctor and he felt maybe I needed to talk to someone. So he sent me to a phycologist. On my first appointment I took a battery of tests to sum up all the feelings I was having. We chatted a bit about how my parents had divorced when I was 14, how my big baby brother moved away, (he is actually older than I but the youngest of three older brothers, hence the name). How I turned 18, graduated, and got married all within a 5 months span of the same year. I expressed that my life was not where I thought I would be, how my marriage was difficult, my relationship with my mother had become strained, at best, because of my marriage among many other “wrong” things in my life. Then we scheduled my next appointment. Two weeks later, I was given a diagnosis that would haunt me for nearly 20 years. Clinical Depression. I was dumbfounded. I didn’t even know what depression was. Sure I felt down sometimes, but was always able to “get happy” relatively quickly, so I never gave it a second thought. It was important to me that I not take any meds at the time because of being pregnant, so we waited until after the baby was born to do anything about it. Once I gave birth, I started taking a myriad of drugs that would put me in a drug induced state for many years. My daughter was 3 weeks old. For some reason because I suffered from “clinical depression” the phycologist feared me getting postpartum depression, so he felt it was important that I start on something right away. I wasn’t able to breastfeed so that wasn’t a problem.
So I started taking medication with hopes of everything getting better. Then another bombshell. At the age of 5 weeks, my baby was diagnosed with Cancer. So then I felt I had a reason to be depressed. What followed was 2 years of living in and out of a hospital watching her get better then get worse. A the age of 2 she became tumor free and life once again should have been sublime. But as time went on….so did my symptoms. The medication wasn’t helping. I returned to the doctor for more help and he changed my medication and said once again….this should help. All the while I didn’t feel like anything had changed. Everything was the same. Still had all the problems that I had while off of medication. I didn’t want to go anywhere. I didn’t want to talk to people. I even stopped working. I started babysitting at home and eventually I started to feel a little better. I did notice however that nothing made me happy. I was always irritated at everyone and everything. I had no energy. I started to gain weight. And to top it off, my marriage was not good. We were just going through the motions.
Years passed. What followed were many more things to add to my “depression”. A miscarriage, the birth of another daughter, another miscarriage, moving back to my home town, my divorce, and then my daughter was diagnosed again with cancer at the age of 4. Again everything was falling apart. It seemed that everything never seemed to be “going right”. I once again felt like the “medication” wasn’t working.
Eight months later, my daughter passed away. I had some really hard decision to make in the preceding months. Her doctors and I took her off of therapy in July before she died in September. Knowing the end of her life was eminent, I poured all of my time into spending it doing what she wanted and making her happy. Again putting my own feelings on the back burner because that is what mom’s do when they unconditionally love their children.
After she died, I was so wrapped up in getting on with life without her, that I forgot to live. I stopped all things in my life and just attempted to get on with day to day life. I still had a child to take care of, and she barely knew she was supposed to miss her sister, and after a while just stopped talking about her. I again didn’t want to go anywhere, shopping terrified me, I rarely left the house. At times, the only place I felt safe was in my house, in my bed, not talking to anyone. Not because I was depressed, which is what I was told was wrong with me….but because I felt unsafe and unprotected. I felt exposed and vulnerable. Everywhere I went I felt as if I was known “as the one who lost the child I read about in the paper.”
It was then that I started changing my perspective on what was wrong with me. To me these were not feelings of depression. I was told that I had major anxiety issues. But I wasn’t having panic attacks….I was afraid to leave my home… I wasn’t afraid of other people…I just didn’t want to be around anyone. When it was time to go grocery shopping, I had to work up to it. Making a list and buying a ton of stuff was not an option for me. I ended up going to the store and only getting what I needed to make a couple of meals and that took a max of about 20 minutes. Once I returned back home I was fine. The problem was that I didnt’ feel this way 100% of the time.
As time went on, my symptoms changed. I eventually remarried and had another child. The relationship was a very abusive relationship, physically and mentally. So for the next 8 years I was wrapped up in trying to make him happy so no harm came to me or my children. Eventually I was able to get out of that relationship, and met the man God intended me to be with from the start. We married, and finally started our lives together. For the first time in my life, I had no “reason” to feel the way I felt. But for some reason, I still felt that way. I still felt anxious about anything and everything.
My husband became a pastor at a small church and we began an 8 year journey that would change my life….AND how I felt about it.
I can remember the day as if it was yesterday… I had what I know now to be a panic attack. It was in the middle of a church fellowship dinner. I felt as if I was having a heart attack. My body felt all tingly and I got dizzy. I felt like ice was running through my veins. I wanted to run away from my body but I couldn’t, of course. Shallow breathing. Heart racing. Total panic. I felt like the organs inside my body were shaking so violently that they were going to shake out of me. (I actually can kinda feel that right now…just typing how it made me feel). I felt like the walls were closing in around me and I couldnt’ breath. Claustrophobia had nothing on this feeling. Everything felt like it was out of control. I felt like my body was trying to shut down and I was going to eventually stop breathing and just die. As bad as I felt, death would have been a welcomed sight. (No I wasn’t suicidal….just needed that feeling to go away).
I left the room, ran outside, got some fresh air and my husband tried his best to calm me down. We left the dinner and went to the hospital. The doctor I saw have me a shot of Ativan, calmed me down. I didn’t understand. What was wrong with me. What was physically wrong with me. The problem was that I FELT like it was a physical problem, but in all actuality it was a physiological issue. There was nothing medically wrong with me but my body was acting as if there were. They were called panic attacks. What? I used to make fun of people that said they had panic attacks. I thought they were just silly. How could someone panic to the point that they wanted to literally just die to feel better. Well now I knew what that was like.
I then went to see a doctor in the clinic, and finally, got a proper diagnosis. Although I did feel depressed off and on, I was not a depressed individual. I didn’t have suicidal thoughts, depression medication didn’t help, and nothing I did seemed to improve my mood. I desperately wanted to know what was wrong with me. I continued to not want to be around people, and felt safer at home, in my bed, where nothing seemed to hurt me. Finally, the doctor explained to me that I suffered from an anxiety disorder, also known as social anxiety. It involves an overwhelming worry and self-consciousness about everyday social situations. The worry often centers on a fear of being judged by others to the point of being embarrassed to be around other people for fear of not being accepted.
I have never talked about this in public before for fear of being judged and made fun of, feeling as if noone would understand. Fear they would think the same thing I used to think about people that experienced what I have been experiencing. My husband and daughter and a couple of very close friends are pretty much the only people that know…and are the only people that know what to do when it happens and helps me to overcome it. I am telling you I have never felt anything like it before. And the older I get the worse it seems to get. I do have an easier time identifying when it is happening than I used to and I know how to overcome it faster. I will tell you it is a feeling of panic, on a level that I have never known, and there are times that people think I am just being a grouch…when in fact I am actually trying to overcome some feeling of not being good enough for whatever reason.
So there you have it. I am not crazy. I am not trying to be a grouch. I am not trying to be difficult to deal with. Sometimes…..sometimes I just don’t know what to do to hide it anymore. So I am not going to hide it any longer. I am just putting it out there for the world to know. Not so they can feel sorry for me, but so maybe they can better understand why I do things the way I do. You don’t have to tell me that it is satan at work…I know this. I don’t need “more” of God in my life….it is only with God’s Grace and help that I can even talk about it and maybe help people to better understand.
I don’t ask that you feel sorry for me, or even like me. All I ask is that if you choose not to try to understand that this is a physiological issue, not a mental one, then maybe try not to be so judgemental. The difference is that a mental issue means there is something wrong with your brain wether it be a challange you were born with or a chemical imbalance that has developed in your brain. A physiological problem is something that your body tricks you into thinking there is a medical problem.
So, the next time someone tells you they are dealing with an issue that they don’t want to talk about, try to understand that maybe, just maybe, they are afraid to talk about it for fear of not being accepted. Life is just that. Life. And life happens to everyone, just in different ways.