This is probably the one of the easiest, yet most difficult posts I have written to date. Why I say that is because it didn’t require any research, and I had all the words in my head. So easy in that sense. But difficult because it puts my struggles out there for everyone to know about. I’m not trying to hide it now – but there is still so much misunderstanding around mental health issues. But I feel that explaining what is going on can help people understand and more of what Anxiety and Depression can be like – because its not the same for everyone and its not always what people think.
A few hours later, I’m finally ready to press the “Publish” button.
For my close friends, many I told right away, and many knew I had been struggling for a while. However, many of my friends, family and colleagues may not know. I think its important for people to understand Anxiety and Depression, as its more prevalent that people know and there is not nearly enough support for mental issues in society.
About 2 months ago, I finally decided to seek some medical help for what I believed to be just a bit of excessive stress. I had things going on with the kids, issues with schools, lots of activities, financial pressure, and then also work and school. At the time, I did not know what it was, just that I was in physical pain, had difficulty focussing and sleeping and would have panic attacks frequently. I had been dealing with it for probably a couple of years, not really knowing what it was and just powering through it. My job in Marketing was a big help for me as it was a more structured environment in which I was comfortable. I love the challenges it brings and have been lucky enough to work on big, impactful projects over the years.
*Note: While I don’t mention it much on this blog – I do have a full time job in Marketing which I love. The reason that I don’t talk about it a lot is because this is my Interior Design blog – which is my hobby (with potentially some small side projects – if I turn out to be any good at it.)
So when I finally sought help, it was in order to keep me focused at work and getting enough sleep to still be able to do my job – because that is what I loved – and still do today. I was prescribed anti-depressants, anti-anxiety medication and referred to a therapist.
I went to see the therapist and assessed as likely having a severe form of depression due to anxiety. This is not due to not being able to having too many tasks on my plate – but too many thoughts in my head. The thoughts ranged far beyond work and school, but actually into things that I had no control over. I had lost some control of my thoughts and had to get it back. Guilt was a big thing also for me – trying to not let anyone down, be the best employee, the best mom, the best wife…things that I did not need to feel guilty for. She gave me some advice until the next session and sent me on my way.
So with my medication and tools, I kept going…but everything had become so difficult and I still could not focus, was having almost daily anxiety attacks (which I would have to hide at work). About a month later, I then decided to see my own doctor. It took about 2 minutes for him to diagnose me – I had an anxiety disorder that if not treated right away would lead to depression. And unfortunately for me, part of that treatment included having to take time away from work. He changed my medication and had a plan of action to get me better and back to work as soon as possible. But I left the doctor’s office feeling even worse. I did not feel a sense of relief or less anxiety, actually the opposite.
This is where the loss of control of the mind takes over and even more anxiety is added on from societal pressures. What will people think? That I am weak? That I can’t handle things? That I was stupid for taking on too much? What about my projects that I was working on that were important to me? And what about my colleagues? I’ve been part of a team impacted by other’s that had to take time off also and it meant that you had to pick up the additional work. My colleagues are like my second family – I didn’t want to put that pressure on them.
All of these things impacted my anxiety levels even more and still do today – 2 weeks later. I feel terrible, angry, guilty, and like a failure being at home. Ya, sure my Instagram paints a pretty picture of life. But no one wants to see a messy room with clothes everywhere that I can’t find the energy to pick up. Or that I was in the same pyjamas for 2 days and nights. Or the fact that we’ve eaten the same meals week after week because I have no energy to change it up. Or how my husband does so much while I struggle to eat a meal. That’s not cool, and that’s not what people expect of me.
After I stopped work, I saw the therapist and I was told to still have structure to my day. I wasn’t on vacation – I had a job to do, which was to get better. And which I still take very seriously. I have to spend time each and every day doing “work” and then also take some time for me. Work includes finishing my school assignments (I have a couple weeks left in my final semester so the doctor and therapist agreed that I should finish it as part of the “work”), tending to the kids, cleaning, projects, etc. Leisure is of course, anything for me. There are also other daily activities I have to do, exercise (yes, every day – even when I don’t want to), meditation (which is helping), eat regular meals and sleeping well each night.
A big thing for me, which many of you know, is my passion for Interior Design. I went back to school to get my diploma in it, because I enjoy learning and would like to be able to properly design my own home and even help friends. In addition, if I could do small projects on the side, during evenings and weekends, then that would be something fun for me and also help make some extra money to pay off debt (or pay for my own home renovations…lol).
So this has become my “leisure” time during the day. Spending time online, being inspired, blogging about designs and projects, showing what I’m working on for my own home. Instagram-ing my favourite inspirational image that day and more. I love connecting with people through Instagram and my blog that actually like the same things as me. It helps me have a connection with the outside world during a time that I feel that a piece of me is missing while I’m away from work. And it truly is leisure because any thing I do with this is for free – to satisfy my own need to be creative with more than just my space (since that costs a lot of money) and to give other people tips and tricks from what I have learned, from deals to techniques to ideas. Of course, the more interesting my posts, the more followers I can gain, and the more exposure I have. I am still a Marketeer at heart! 😉
While I’m still dealing with anxiety every day, still in physical pain at various times and managing out of control thoughts, I’m getting better each day. Just the other night I started having my typical tight chest and loss of breath, but was able to breath through it and stop it – without taking additional medication! This is a BIG DEAL for me! It means I’m starting to be able to control this thing and get back to my normal life as quickly as possible. Today, I ran 5K outside. Again, a big deal for me as the entire morning I was struggling with pain and felt I wouldn’t be in any shape to take a run like that on. Then I got back some confidence – where I was starting to feel like I could grasp my thoughts and get control over them. And I’m excited to have a day like today where I’m on top of it.
But that won’t be every day. And this is the problem. This is now something that I have to recognize that is a part of me, that was probably there before but I didn’t want to address. Does that mean that I can’t go back to doing what I used to do? NO! I can still go back and KICK ASS at work, have more patience with my kids, and be an overall awesome person. I’m getting the tools I need and practicing them now so that when I’m put back in the game in a couple of weeks, I will be ready to get back to life and have the tools to deal with anxiety when it comes around again.
We all stumble sometimes, but it’s how we deal with those falls that will determine how we get back on our feet and proceed. I know that I WANT to get back to work, back to my family and back to the person I used to be – and not just a mask I had covering something else up. Back to living life again. An example is the last 3 vacations my husband and I took, I didn’t want to do anything except sleep at night and lie on the beach or by the pool. I used to be fun and want to go in the water or on excursions. Not plagued by irrational fears and anxiety that kept me static. I’m excited to be fun again.
There is a symbol that people are using to show perseverance from things like anxiety and depression. Its the semi-colon. An author uses this punctuation where he/she could have stopped the sentence, but chose to go on. So I’m choosing to go on. And I will be back after this break, and better than ever – but I know that my body and mind need this break in order to do that.
So for colleagues that follow me that may be wondering what happened to me two weeks ago when I just stopped coming to work, and for friends that were unaware, and for long-time followers that have seen an increase in daytime Instagrams – this is me setting the record straight. This is not for pity, or attention. Just to share with you so you can see one of the many faces of anxiety and depression and maybe help you understand the struggle that many people face, that you often do not see.
Thanks so much for taking the time to read this post. And a HUGE THANK YOU to all the friends and family that have been so incredibly supportive. I cannot express to you how much it is helping me get back to where I need to be 🙂