My Battle with Anxiety
Anxiety – it’s a word I never truly understood until just within the last couple years. We use the word so often in day-to-day situations when we just feel stressed or impatient. However, true anxiety can be debilitating. My battle with it started at a very young age but got much worse after having children.
Google’s definition of anxiety is: “a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.”
That still doesn’t even come close to expressing the true feelings and symptoms associated with full blown anxiety. In psychiatry, it’s defined as “a nervous disorder characterized by a state of excessive uneasiness and apprehension, typically with compulsive behavior or panic attacks.” That’s a little bit more accurate.
However, I think everyone’s definition and experience with anxiety is unique to that person.
I wanted to share a glimpse into my story regarding my ongoing battle with anxiety and depression. Especially with the recent suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, this topic has been weighing heavy on my heart. I don’t talk to most people about my mental health issues. Only those closest to me (i.e. my husband, mom and sister) are aware of the constant battle it is for me to just be content every day.
However, I decided to share my story now because I want everyone to feel comfortable talking about it. I want the stigma associated with mental health to diminish. I want people who suffer to know that they are not alone (because when you are deep in your depression and/or anxiety, the loneliness can be unbearable).
I was diagnosed with both anxiety and depression right out of high school. I could go into all the different reasons as to why or how I think this came about, but I don’t really think that matter. What matters is how I feel today and my ongoing journey to figure out what helps me manage my anxiety best.
As a child, I always felt different. Now, I don’t mean different as in odd or unlike other kids or an outsider. In fact, I had many friends and probably appeared very social on the outside. I just felt like I knew things that other kids didn’t. I felt like my thoughts were different and darker than other kids.
For as long as I can remember, my emotions have felt incredibly intense. I’ve been called “sensitive” more times than I can count. I used to take that as an insult. Now, I’m learning how to embrace that side of myself because I think it’s one of the parts of anxiety that is special and can be a positive thing.
For example, when I see a homeless person on the street or hear a story on the news about a child being hurt, the feeling of sadness or empathy, or whatever it is, consumes me. This goes for positive emotions as well. It’s very hard to describe but the best way I can put it, is that I tend to feel like my emotions are much more magnified than the average person.
I think my passion and love for music also stems from my anxiety. Music is different for me. I feel like certain songs make me physically feel a certain way, as if I can personally feel whatever the artist is singing about.
Carson Daly recently came out and shared his story about battling anxiety and panic attacks. (Check out the interview here.) I think he described it best when he said, “I’m very sensitive, I love music, and music moves me in a very visceral way physically, so I get the chills hearing soul music, definitely.” Ditto. 🙂
I was a perfectionist in school (and still am to this day). I always had to be the best and if I wasn’t, that bothered me tremendously. In some ways, my anxiety has been a positive thing. I feel like some of us with anxiety are excellent employees or students. I usually feel the need to stay busy, to distract myself from my own brain, so I dive hard into work or school.
I have gone to several psychiatrists and psychologists and have been on and off medication over the last fifteen years. I always fought against being on medication. I can’t really explain why. I think maybe it has something to do with the fact that it makes me feel “crazy” or “weak.” My brain wants to tell me “hey, you shouldn’t need medicine to function. Only really sick people need that.” Therein lies one of the cruel tricks our anxious brains play on us.
My current situation is this – I am now a mom to a three year old and a baby. Once my first daughter was born, I feel like my anxiety got much worse. Now there was this whole other human to worry about and I (and my husband) were in charge of keeping her alive! I worried about everything when it came to her. These thoughts consumed me and I turned to alcohol during this time to numb my intense emotions and ended up in rehab a year later. (I will go into this more in another post.) So now, I have to add addiction to my story, as I know many of us do who suffer from mental illnesses.
Then, after my second daughter was born, I began to completely spiral out of control.
For close to four years after she was born, I tried to fight my battle with anxiety on my own – without medicine, a psychiatrist or a psychologist. Most days, I felt okay (whatever the hell “okay” means anyway). I wanted desperately to just be able to feel normal without medication. I faked it for a long time although, in the moment, I really had convinced myself that I was okay and that maybe my depression and anxiety had magically gone away.
Then, my first panic attack happened and my battle with anxiety got even more intense.
Before my kids were born, I was working hard in my career and was climbing that corporate ladder. I loved it. My job was fast-paced, stressful, and lots of people relied on me to make decisions in real time. I fed off of that energy and got to a point where I would work 12-13 hour days, just to keep myself busy and away from having to be alone with myself and my thoughts.
Looking back, I can see the different methods I turned to in order to help me cope with my depression and anxiety (again, which I will save for another post).
After my first daughter was born, I returned to work after the standard three month maternity leave. I worked for a year and that year was when everything began to spiral out of control. I’m currently reading this amazing book, “First, We Make the Beast Beautiful” by Sarah Wilson and she explains what she likes to call “anxious spirals.” They are different than panic attacks and that is what I believe started happening to me during that year I was working.
I never planned on being a stay at home mom. In fact, the idea very much turned me off. However, I became obsessed with the fact that I was missing out on much of my baby’s life. I started to become very depressed and lost control of my life. I turned to alcohol during this time to try and numb the intense emotions I was feeling, and things got ugly fast.
This is wear the title of this post comes from – for a long time, I felt as if I was wearing two masks. I was one person during the day at work and also with my family. I seemed fairly functional and thought I had everyone convinced that I was fine. The other side of me was dying inside, both figuratively and literally. I was slowly killing myself with how much I drank everyday. Then again, I desperately wanted to be that perfect wife and mother so I faked being “okay” for close to a year before my husband finally confronted me and calmly let me know I needed to get help or else he would leave and take my daughter with him. That was all I needed to hear and at that point, I was just glad that he finally knew. That help was finally on it’s way. That I didn’t have to face this alone anymore.
In the end, with a lot of help from professionals and my family, I started to get my shit together. My husband and I both agreed that it was probably best for me to stay at home with my daughter. We thought that was what would make me the happiest – and it did for quite a while. I no longer had to juggle a stressful job and also run a household and raise a child. Cutting out the job part should have been the answer, right?
What I’m learning is that my anxiety and depression will always be with me. I’ve tried running from it my whole life and am just now realizing, at thirty four years old, that it’s never going to go away.
What I need to do is learn to embrace it and find out what methods for managing it work best for me.
Follow along on my journey! I’ll end this post now as it’s getting quite long but check in as I will continue to share posts of what methods are working for me, updates on my own battle and I would love to share other people’s stories as well! If you are interested in sharing your story here, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I truly hope that by all of us opening up and sharing our struggles, it will help more and more people feel less alone. Then, maybe it will spread even bigger and start to change the access to care for those who suffer (because right now our system sucks in regards to finding easy access to medical help).
Thank you so much for reading my story. Please don’t hesitate to share yours! I’d be happy to post them anonymously if preferred. I am also hear to talk if you just need to reach out to someone you feel like understands what you are going through.
Love – Your Anxious Friend, Meghan
Hi Meghan, I’m a friend of your mom’s. I think your blog will be a great success and will also be a sorry if therapy as you continue to document your experiences and listen to others. I’m going to share this with my daughter who, as a young mom with an infant and 3 year old who just went back to work, had been struggling with anxiety and depression for the last few years and as a mom, I feel helpless. She is very much into a healthy lifestyle and refuses to go to a Dr to get help because she doesn’t want to use drugs. I was there in that same place about 40 years ago and I couldn’t shake it off. I went to the Dr finally and discovered that I had low Serotonin levels, I NEEDED “drugs”, Zoloft. Once my life calmed down, I thought I could wean myself off of them, NOT. It’s just something hormonal that I have come to terms with and pray that my daughter will finally reach out for help. Thank you Meghan for bringing a very serious subject to light. I will add you to my daily prayers.
Thank you so much for reading it! It can be so tough. I fought medicine for the last fifteen years and have finally accepted that medicine just might be the answer, so I totally get where your daughter is coming from. I’m still looking for some natural ways to manage it (such as meditation, yoga, etc.) but I think I will always need the medication. I will be thinking and praying for your daughter and let her know she is more than welcome to reach out to me anytime. I definitely know what it feels like and adding in two little ones makes it much harder. Thanks again Julie!
Thank you so much for sharing your story. It’s so hard to be vulnerable and put ourselves out there. I completely understand where you’re coming from as an individual living with anxiety as well. It’s a tough issue to deal with daily but it’s good to know we’re not alone. All the best to you!
Thank you so much! I appreciate you sharing your comment. It is hard to be vulnerable but I am really hoping the more we all talk about it, the more it will help others. I wish you all the best and you’re right, it’s good to know we aren’t alone. 🙂
I can relate completely to this. I have felt the same way with my own children. I didn’t want them to know that there were times when I wasn’t ok. I didn’t want my depression and anxiety to affect them. Unfortunately, there were times where it was just unavoidable. Now that they’re older, I have been able to talk about it a little bit with them, and explain it to help them understand. I’m also much better, I have worked hard on myself, and I’m in a much better place. I wanted my kids to know that I’m their mom – but I’m also human. We all have bad days sometimes, and I wanted them to know that it’s ok to have bad days, as long as we don’t stay there. I’ve turned my struggles into a learning experience for all of us! Thank you for sharing your story! 🙂
Thank you so much for sharing your story as well! That is great advice and I really appreciate it. It helps to hear from someone else that has been in the same position. I plan to do the same, and be open with my girls about my mental health issues. It can be very hard right now since they are still little and I feel a ton of pressure to keep it together everyday, but I know that I am doing everything possible to battle my anxiety and be as healthy as I can for them and for myself. And yes, they will just learn the same – that we all have bad days and mommy is human too. 🙂
This hit home for me today….a day when my family finally knew the ugly truth , that I have been killing myself with my drinking. What you said about being a kid that was different …..WOW that was me. I too felt like I knew things that other kids didn’t or that I felt MORE then other people. I almost compare it to being psychic or being sensitive to everything around me. Maybe the alcohol numbed that temporarily???….I didn’t have to feel so much! Ugh…..I will be following your journey as I too am walking down a new path that hopefully will be a better and more healthy version so that I can be a better friend, wife and mother.
Hi Karen! Thank you so much for reading this and for sharing your story. It’s tough to be someone like us, who feels everything on a much deeper level than most people. There’s not that many people in my life that really understand what I mean when I say this but I can tell you do. I absolutely drank to numb my emotions and feelings since they were SO intense. I just wanted to feel normal but of course, drinking was not the answer. It took me a long time to get help and I almost lost my family but I can say with absolute certainty that my life is a million times better without alcohol. I don’t even have the desire to drink anymore. It was not easy to quit, but it was worth it. I will be thinking of you! Feel free to reach out to me via email if you ever need to talk. Stay strong mama – it sounds like there are a lot of people that love and care about you.
You’re so brave to share your story, I’m sure it will resonate with someone and make a big impact on them. The only way to beat the stigma is for more people to stand up and share their stories.
Thank you so much! I really appreciate that and I have the same thinking as you. It is super hard to be open and share this side of me but all I can hope is that it helps someone else that’s feeling the same way. 🙂
[…] (To learn more about my current status with anxiety after becoming a mom, feel free to check out A Mom’s Battle with Anxiety – Wearing Two Masks.) […]
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Wow. Thank you for writing that. That spoke to me so much and also helped me right now to take a deep breath and smile knowing I am not alone in this huge battle with anxiety ! I am a mom of three and a former Major League Baseball wife (husband retired now) but since I was young I have always felt pressure to look a certain way, act a certain way, be perfect, win at all my sports , be the lead in all the musicals, the list goes on! You get the point ! Like you I was a people pleaser and a perfectionist! I felt for the homeless and would literally walk door to door in Mexico and Africa delivering rice and beans and Oreos to the hungry. I felt like I could save the world and felt responsible to fix everything and make everyone “happy”! Not even to feel super amazing about myself or to toot my own horn after but to just care for people but also be perfect at that too! So when I got married and realized my life would soon be surrounded with pressure to look and act so perfect, I got scared !!! I started to lose weight and long story short I became anorexic and bulimic and addicted to excessive exercise! I also self medicated with alcohol and when we would go out after the games I would always hope and pray there was alcohol served so I could escape the worry and anxiety that normally I pushed down by staying busy or working out or “controlling” and drink so I could feel “relaxed” and happy and to feel free from all
The mental battles the day had been haunting me with! This was obviously slowly killing my body and my husband finally told me I needed help or he would have to retire and take care of me! I thought this was enough to scare me and like you also said, i was so happy he took notice and help was on the way! I thought I could do this on my own with out doctors or medicine or counseling , of course I am strong and perfect and could do this and beat this so I went about it on my own ! Thinking if I was a mom this would all change and I would be so in love with my babies and not feel pressure to be skinny cuz I was a mom now ! Wrong ! Long story short and a long battle with infertility (obviously since I had damaged my Body and hadn’t had a period since I was 12. After size IUIs and one round of IVF I now have 3 amazing healthy children who are now 9 years old and the twins are 6!!!!! But let’s just say this didn’t heal my anxiety (duh) and lead to many many others battles !!! Anxiety went thru the roof and my weight went up and down and I drank wine and took shots and worked out and you name it almost passed away from Extreme malnutrition four years ago! So when my husband retired from
baseball and got me care, a team or doctors nutritionists and counselors and medicine , I am recovering but still battle the anxiety . I am
Much better now then ever as far as weight issues go bc recently I was diagnosed with lupus! So I truly have to take care of my diet and eat certain things or I have flare ups and the pain is so bad ! So that somehow keeps me at a normal healthy weight and I just do light walking and Pilates now ! But as far as the mental battle goes I still battle so much with anxiety and fear and control! I so much want to be free of this All! It’s been a 20 year battle now with various things ! It’s been day 4 or no alcohol and it is so hard !!!!! But I know it’s so worth it and I want to be alive and be an amazing mom
And good wife as long as I have!!! I am on cymbalta and it seems to be helping , I have been on it for a year now . But I agree with you that being open and talking about this helps so so much ! More than anything else so far !!!!! I hope more keep writing and sharing their stories! Trust me ! The more real you can be the more I feel I can relate !!! Thank you for being so vulnerable and honest and sharing !!!! I hope we all can heal some day ! Soon !!!! Love to all my anxious moms and new friends out there !!! Thank you for reading if you still are! Ha! Sorry it got so long! I actually haven’t ever wrote this all out so it just kept coming ! Feels good tho to admit all this! Ok!
Day four down and lots more to go of no numbing this battle with wine !!!!! It just will make it worse later and long term! I have to remember that when tempted !!!!!
Thank you so so much for sharing your story! Wow, it sounds like we have so much in common! I am incredibly sorry you struggle with anxiety and addiction it sounds like too. They are both hell and I wouldn’t wish them on anyone. However, I do feel like we are pretty amazing people, those of us that suffer. We have big hearts and care a lot about other people. It really comes down to balance and making sure we take care of ourselves just as much (if not more) than everyone else. Trust me! This is super hard for me and I’m struggling some days too. Since I wrote that post, I lost a significant amount of weight due to my anxiety and a huge loss of appetite. I’ll be thinking of you friend! Stay strong with the alcohol and take it one day at a time. I know sometimes it’s easier to drink to numb all the crap we feel from anxiety and/or depression but I always remind myself of how much worse it always makes things in the long run. (I almost lost everything, including my family, over alcohol). I am wishing you all the best and please feel free to reach out anytime! I’m at email@example.com. <3 Meghan