I have what is known as “Situational Anxiety” , which means that I’m not anxious all the time…but drop me in a situation where stress is high, I tend to temporarily take it to the extreme…and if pushed enough, will have a full blown panic attack where I can’t breathe, my heart rate rises rapidly, I want to throw up and I get dizzy and feel like passing out. Thankfully I haven’t had many of those.
Believe it or not, but this is an improvement for me!
Really, it all started around the time that my eldest son was born eight years ago. It would have been classed then as Post Natal Depression (PND). I was moody, sometime teary, overwhelmed and didn’t have a lot of interest in much. But (and this is NOT recommended) like a lot of women…I hid it.
Then I had my daughter, things were a little worse. By the time my middle son came along (bear in mind, this was three children in 2.5years) things had hit a critical point. I had no energy, didn’t want to move from the couch. I had zero interest in anything….zilch! IF I spoke, it was because I had to, and it was barely above a whisper (and for anyone who knows me, knows how much I love to talk!). I felt numb…like a hollow shell.
I wasn’t suicidal. I didn’t have visions of harming anyone…least of all my children…but I just didn’t care about anything anymore.
This was when my husband intervened and said that I needed to get help because I was freaking him out.
Off I trotted to my general practitioner (GP) and burst into tears in his office when I told him that I thought that I had depression. He patted my knee and told me that he was proud of me for coming forward. He did the formal examination to officially diagnose, and I was prescribed antidepressants.
I wouldn’t say that medication turned my life around, but they helped me to cope with life easier. I was functional again.
When I fell pregnant with my youngest son, he definitely wasn’t planned. I had eased off my medication, but was worried about a bad relapse again. Pregnancy with Cameron drained me, making me very moody and tired. Part of it was physical, due to the pregnancy, the other part of it was mental state. I managed to push through. After he was born, I felt fantastic physically, which improved my mental state. I still didn’t need medication.
Then, four weeks later…we recieved Cam’s earth-shattering diagnosis. While we were in hospital in Perth during Cam’s diagnosis admission, the nursing staff told me that my GP called the hospital every few days, not only to check up on Cam’s progress, but to check up on me as well considering my history of depression.
The CF team knew of my history during this period as well, and considering that nature of what was going on, kept a close eye on me as well. They praised me for keeping it together, for helping out during the dramatic parts instead of becoming a hysterical mess.
Throughout all this, I was still numb from the shock of diagnosis, but Cam’s current health condition took my complete focus. I did have a brain snap moment in the hospital, where I had a complete blubbering meltdown over the fact I had completely lost my milk supply (probably due to stress) and could no longer feed my baby breast milk. We had tried medication to boost it, but it didn’t work. I felt like I was under pressure to keep producing, and felt like a failure that I couldn’t do it. A wonderful nurse closed off our room, talked me through it and boosted my mood and self-confidence again.
When we returned home a few weeks later, Cameron had to have his routine, post-birth checkup at around 12weeks old. By then, I could tell it was all getting on top of me again. My GP was very understanding and I was back on medication.
By the time Cameron was about 12 months old, and I had an annual mental health review with my doctor, we both agreed that it wasnt so much depression any more, it was more anxiety. There is a fine line between depression and anxiety, often symptoms overlap…but we were confident that this was the case in this situation.
Little things would set me off. Passing a police car while driving was a major trigger! I didn’t even have to be speeding, but I usually had to pull over because my heart was racing, my breath was short and I felt like being sick. A few minutes later, I could carry on.
Occasionally, a panic attack would occur for no apparent reason. I remember one where I had spent the morning getting ready for one of the kids birthday party at our house. Everything was fine…I was happy…everything was sorted and ready to go. When guests started arriving, I suddenly had to rush off to my bedroom for one of the worst panic attacks I have ever had.
Thankfully it left as fast as it came, and I walked back out to the party, with guests none the wiser of what had occurred.
A trip back to the GP and a change in medications fixed that back up.
About a year later, I was able to ease off the medications again, until only a few months ago.
When my anxiety is high, I get very aggressive. Nothing can placate me. My husband urged me to go back to my doctor again. Off I went, where discussing it, the diagnosis changed to situational anxiety.
Basically, I’m not anxious ALL THE TIME. Put me in a high stress situation, you start seeing snippets of anxiety poking through. If you keep prodding me during those moments, it quickly escalates until….KA-BLAMMO…explosions and fireworks, or a panic attack occurs.
Considering the amount of pressure I was under at the time with work, and drama in the family life, these explosions were happening a little too frequently. So I am currently back on my medication again.
It’s not making me feel any different. I am still my happy, chatty, normal self….but when I am dropped in those high stress moments, I am able to cope better.
But it’s not all about medication. You have to tweak your life and environment to help as well.
Support networks are a massive help to me. My friends who pull me out of the house to catch up (and wont take no for an answer!), my online communities allow me to vent, there are so many communities out there in cyber space aimed at depression/anxiety support, for me it is through my parenting communities….they understand most of all since they have families as well. Maybe it is the anonymity of cyber space that helps to spill the beans?
Mediation helps to clear the mind…switch off from all the thoughts of what’s going on, what has to be done…and just general negativity.
Writing is my biggest outlet. It helps me process and deal with my emotions. I cannot recommend enough to people to write their thoughts down. It’s very soothing, and years later, you can look back on it and see how far you have come in the process.
This story may come as a surprise to some of those who personally know me, because while I don’t hide the fact that I am dealing with depression/anxiety, I don’t advertise it either. Some family members didn’t even know I had depression until years later.
I just wanted to share my story in the hope that if someone out there is going through the same thing, they understand that they are not alone, and I urge them to get help! Anyone of you can contact me via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you ever feel overwhelmed and just need a listening ear.
Your life will better for it with some help.