My Anxiety + Depression Journey
My anxiety and depression story is a little weird because I actually didn't know or expect to hear those two words when I walked into the doctor's office. I know, I know. Weird. But, let me explain. So here's the story. One day I went to the doctor for a physical, I believe, or it had to be a follow-up appointment to check up on how I was doing. I do believe, I was sick for a while before this doctor's appointment. So, the doctor walked in and he did a normal checkup. He asked me the normal questions, you know like "How's your diet?", "Do you have any concerns or questions for me?", etc. Then he started to ask me deeper questions. "Do you eat breakfast?", "Are you happy?", "Do you feel sad, alone, supported?", "Have you ever had suicidal thoughts?", etc. The conversation continued and I remember thinking "Why is he asking me all of these questions?". Now, I'm realizing that he was asking me these series of questions because they were apart of a depression screening tool called PHQ-9 or The Patient Health Questionnaire.
The PHQ-9 is a clinically validated 9-question screening tool used by doctors to assist in making the diagnosis of depression and to quantify depression symptoms and monitor severity. It takes about 5 minutes to answer the questions and get your results. So, after I answered his questions, he simply told me that I was suffering from depression. Funny thing is thinking back on it now, I never even knew what anxiety or depression was and I definitely didn't feel like I was suffering. I was just a little sad and was taking what life was giving me in my head.
So, lets back-track and talk about what I was dealing with or what I had dealt with I should say. My parents divorced when I was leaving the 4th, entering the 5th grade. That was pretty hard for me. I didn't understand what was happening or why they were divorcing and for a long time I thought it was my fault. As a child I was bullied, which to me is normal. It wasn't severe, just here and there throughout elementary and middle school. For example, a boy lied and told everyone in my neighborhood that we had sex, by putting a condom in the grass up the street from my house. I would get teased for my big gap in my teeth or for my thick sideburns, which weren't even that thick. I just had edges, a lot of edge. I've gotten sticky notes put on my back saying "kick me", things like that. Then I got to highschool and got in my first serious relationship, which went totally downhill when I found out I was getting cheated on by my best friend. The entire highschool knew, but I honestly don't know if I didn't know or if I was just in denial. I took that pretty hard because it was my first relationship and to be honest it was embarrassing. And, it caused a lot of drama and I was just in the middle. I had never really dealt with people lying to me, betrayal, and people choosing sides before. I honestly stayed to myself, I was never the social type. I had my small set of friends and that was it and most of them I knew from middle school so I wasn't used to all of the social turmoil. Plus, I'm an only child. Later on down the line, I found out that my best friend at the time was "in love with me." I was cool with that but, she wasn't. I acted very normal, but things just went haywire. This is when I started to spiral out control, well my anxiety and depression.
I was abused mentally and emotionally during this period of my life. I definitely never dealt with that as a child, so it was hard. My mom started noticing that I was changing. My moods were really bad, I would be very sensitive, and cry a lot. I resorted to cutting which was pretty intense for my mom. She sent me to the counselor at school and eventually I started to talk to my first therapist. I do not remember her name, but I do remember some of our conversations. (Sidenote: I have a bad habit of pushing negative things that happened in my life so far back that I literally can't remember, so bare with me.) She was a nice older woman past the age of 50 or 60. As, a teen I would hold everything in, people would have to literally pull teeth to find out what was bothering me. So, with that being said, we would do exercises that would help me express myself more and they would help me tap into what I was truly feeling. I remember doing exercises that required me to close my eyes a lot. I would also write my emotions out a lot as well when I was with her. I went to therapy for about 6 to 8 months and to be honest it helped.
I was cool for a while after that, then I started to suffer from PMDD (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder), which is a severe form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) that includes physical and behavioral symptoms that usually resolve with the onset of menstruation. PMDD causes extreme mood shifts that can disrupt work and damage relationships. Symptoms include extreme sadness, hopelessness, irritability, or anger, plus common PMS symptoms such as breast tenderness and bloating. It hasn't been proven if it's hereditary or not but, my mother suffered from this disorder as well. So, she's the only person that truly understands me especially around the time I come on my menstrual cycle. After a while, I began birth control entering my freshman year of college to subside the PMDD symptoms. Birth control really helped me, but I eventually stopped taking the pills because I couldn't remember to take them.
College was filled with fun, craziness, and a ton of schoolwork. I stayed to myself or I was with my small circle of friends. I was also in a very intense relationship my entire college career. Then towards graduation, I got into another extremely intense relationship. Let's just say they took a toll on my subtle anxiety and depression. During this period of my life, I would have a lot of anxiety attacks, that was the main problem, but I pushed through. Then, I began to truly realize what I wanted out of life and a relationship. So, I cut everything off and pretty much started fresh. I started going to school for my Masters, graduated, and started working full-time. My job at the time was very stressful and draining. It was truly a test of my faith. I can't even believe that I stayed at that job for two years. While being there I was always tired, I didn't want to do much at home. I just worked, did photoshoots to get by with my blog, and slept.
Then, I got into a life-changing relationship less than a year ago. I'm not going to say much about the relationship for personal reasons. But, something tragic happened, plus I quit/lost my job in the same week and that's when I hit rock bottom. I literally stayed in the bed for three months straight. I didn't eat, I just slept all day and night. I would cry so much. And, if it wasn't for God, my family, and my friends I wouldn't be here today. I didn't want to be here anymore. I felt worthless, I felt like I didn't have a purpose. I didn't have any money which was very hard because I had been working since I was 15 years old. I honestly felt like my life was over. It took a lot of prayer and soul searching to get me up to find a job and get back to my true love which was fashion and blogging.
I now suffer from PMDD, anxiety, and depression the most I've ever suffered. My symptoms are noticeable to me, which makes it much worse. I rarely eat. I literally have to feel like I'm sick or going to pass out in order to eat. Sometimes I go days without sleeping, sometimes I sleep for days. I'm always tired. Literally, every day I wake up exhausted. When I don't sleep I get chest aches and headaches. My mom says that I can get grumpy and impatient. I can be very demanding. I can say things the wrong way. My PMDD can cause me to feel hopeless. I cry without knowing why and that makes me cry more. I can feel invisible or that I'm not going to be successful or accomplish the things I want in life. I can be very hard on myself to the point where I feel like a failure. I can feel alone. Whenever I'm going through something I usually just go MIA, I call it "crawling under a rock" and I'm honestly surprised that I still have friends. I always think "Why am I here?" and I put so much pressure on myself. Sometimes, I don't want to be here, not on a suicidal level, but just on an isolated level. Sleeping helps me erase the suffering and pain.
I recently couldn't deal with the symptoms on my own, so I got referred to a psychiatrist. I finally got an appointment after two months, and they put on Paxil, which can be used to treat depression, anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). I've used it for two days and it made me extremely sleepy. I didn't like the way it made me feel, but my primary told me to use it for two weeks straight and the side effects shouldn't be as strong. So, that's what I did and it has gotten a little better for me. It's honestly hard for me to take medicine every day, so sometimes I forget. But, I try to push through. Most days my body can tell when I haven't taken the medicine. My doctor started me on a low dose and will increase it if needed. I've only been to one appointment so far, and have taken the medicine for a month. I felt very defeated when they told me I would have to take medicine because I wanted to win this battle on my own without help. I guess the idea of medicine means to me that you're "sick" or can't handle "it." But, I'm very grateful for the medicine that's offered to help people just like me.
My journey has been a long one, but it's only the beginning and I'm finally taking the steps towards great mental health. If I could give any advice to someone who feels like they are suffering I would say that you are not alone, get help, all people aren't against you, and protect your space, your body, and your energy. Listen to your body. Don't overwork yourself, and take things one second at a time, trust me you're going to need it. Everything will be okay. (I literally repeat that in my head a million times a day.) You have to surround yourself with things that you like, find your purpose, and things that make you happy. Do things that excite you, that make you want to get out of bed, and just live your life to the fullest. Depression doesn't control you, you control depression. Depression doesn't mean your life is over, it actually gives your life a new meaning. So, let's begin this journey together and truly conquer the world.
I hope you enjoyed this. I'll be talking more my depression and anxiety journey as it continues. A few tips will be in my next post.
Thanks for reading.