I am not a mental health professional. Anything I share here is simply my journey and my story with my mental health. If you want a background on my anxiety, you can read the post I shared in June of 2015.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled with anxiety.
I am going to share what life has been like for me over the past year as I’ve been dealing with my anxiety.
And, honestly, I’m not even sure where to begin this post because my anxiety has been so overwhelming for so long. I can start by saying I suffer from Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and I use obsessive-compulsive behaviors to cope with it. According to Mayo Clinic, Symptoms of GAD include:
- overthinking situations to all possible worst-case outcomes
- persistent worrying or anxiety about a number of areas that are out of proportion to the impact of the events
- perceiving situations and events as threatening, even when they aren’t
- difficulty handling uncertainty
- indecisiveness and fear of making the wrong decision
- inability to set aside or let go of a worry
- inability to relax, feeling restless, and feeling keyed up or on edge
- difficulty concentrating, or the feeling that your mind “goes blank”
Some of the physical symptoms include: irritability, fatigue, trouble sleeping, muscle tension or muscle aches, trembling, feeling twitchy and nervousness or being easily startled.
And I have dealt with everything on the those two lists. I have suffered from anxiety for the majority of my life. With it continually getting worse and worse after becoming a mother.
My mind has been so filled with anxiety over the last year that it has consumed my life. For every 6 weeks of severe anxiety, I might have 2-3 weeks when it seemed to fade away. Those weeks were what kept me from seeking treatment for so long. Those “normal” weeks were fine. I would still have the constant worries in my mind. My OCD issues would stay the same. But my brain wouldn’t keep me up in the middle of the night. So, to me, I thought that must be what it’s like to be normal.
But the weeks when my anxiety was high were rough. Those were the weeks I laid awake in bed until 3am. The weeks I swore I could hear someone in our house every single night. That I woke Jason up, but was so sure there was someone in our house that I didn’t want him to leave our room to check. Weeks I didn’t let Blaire sleep in her own room. Weeks I needed Jason home if it was dark out. Weeks I could barely function during the day because I was so exhausted. Weeks I overreacted to everything because I was so on edge. Weeks I obsessed for days over possibly not saying the right words to someone in any given scenario. Weeks when I was just so burnt-out and exhausted from my brain battling with itself that I couldn’t do anything except worry.
Two months ago, I finally decided to seek treatment for my anxiety after reading this post from my friend Jen. I’m really not sure what kept me from seeking help from a professional all this time. I think I was scared to commit to a daily medication. Scared it would make me “not myself,” whatever that means. So, two months ago, I called to schedule an appointment with my OBGYN. With the same doctor who delivered Ben. I called and said I wanted to talk with her about postpartum anxiety and they were able to get me scheduled for the next week. I honestly planned on talking to her about it at my 6 week check up after Ben was born. But, when the nurse went through her questions and asked if I was having any issues with anxiety, I said no. I’m not sure why. It just came out, exactly like it had throughout all of my prenatal visits. And once I said “no,” I didn’t know how to bring it back up.
I met with my doctor and told her what I have been dealing with. She prescribed me an “as needed” medication and referred me to a counselor. It was about two weeks before my first counselor appointment. In my first meeting with my counselor is when she diagnosed me with GAD and the OCD tendencies. She told me it is normal to worry about your child, but it’s not normal for your worry to keep you from leaving your home. It shouldn’t keep you awake all night. And, most of all, it shouldn’t affect your children’s lives.
She explained that I have dealt with my anxiety by developing several OCD tendencies. Some examples are that I check the locks on our doors obsessively before bedtime each night. It’s not enough to look at the lock and see it’s locked. I have to physically put my hand on the door lock. I’ve never counted to see if it is the same number of times per night. Some nights I do it, get ready for bed, and come back out to do it a few more times. I also have to look back in the rear-view mirror to double check that our garage door is closed at least 3 times. If I can’t see it all three times, I have to circle the block and come back to check it.
I met with my counselor weekly for three weeks. I also joined Orange Theory and started their Transformation Challenge (a challenge to go at least 3x a week) the same week I had my first counselor appointment. During this time, I was taking the “as needed” medication around 3-4x per week. It was always before bed because they made me a bit sleepy. Typically I would take one because we had seen something in a show or on the news that is one of my triggers. One of the scenarios I would stay awake all night worrying about. Taking the medicine would help me to fall asleep without laying in bed worrying. And would also keep me from worrying any time I happened to wake up in the middle of the night. My counselor challenged me to categorize my thoughts between rational and irrational. And also to identify when I’m thinking vs. worrying.
One month from the first appointment with my OBGYN, I had a second appointment to check in with her on the medication and my counseling appointments. At this appointment we decided to try a daily medication along with the counseling. I have been on half doses of my daily medication for almost two weeks and it’s going okay. The first few days I took it in the morning and I had some really rough days. Days where my brain couldn’t handle doing anything that required thinking. I was on auto pilot. I was able to do the things I needed to for Blaire and Ben, but spent most of those days on the couch and then napping with them.
I have switched to taking it at night and it is definitely better. I am still exhausted. I still feel very overwhelmed and I do still have the constant worrying. But my brain is no longer waking me up at night to worry. (My counselor explaining anxiety does wake you when you are between sleep cycles.) It is also not keeping me awake when I wake up with Ben for a few minutes here or there. So it’s nice to have at least already seen improvement there. I am currently going to see her every other week for the time being. I check back in with my OBGYN in two more weeks to talk about how the medication and the counseling are going.
I know this is a lot. But I just wanted to share what has been on my heart. I have talked about it a little bit in my Instagram stories and I have received quite a few messages from people who are curious about how I’m treating my anxiety because they are currently feeling the same way. In addition to people who are just worried about what I’m suffering from, who want to know that I’m okay.
So this, this anxiety is why I haven’t been blogging consistently. Why I disappear from social media for days at a time. I just want to let anyone else out there who may be struggling with anxiety that you aren’t alone. That you deserve to get help. You deserve to talk with someone who “gets” it and can help you treat it.
I can’t describe what it felt like to talk with my counselor that first day and to talk to someone who understands exactly what I am going through. It is literally life-changing. For the first time I KNOW things are going to get better. I know they’re GETTING better. I’m finally putting my self-care first. Continually putting myself on the back burner isn’t the best thing for anyone. It certainly doesn’t make me a better mother or wife.
So, here’s to 2018 being the best year yet. The year I finally get the help I need to treat my anxiety.