Anxiety: A feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome; desire to do something, typically accompanied by unease; a nervous disorder characterized by a state of excessive uneasiness and apprehension, typically with compulsive behavior or panic attacks.
Depression: A mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest.
Anxiety with Depression: (in my own words) Hell on earth.
My history of anxiety basically begins at birth. I have been a naturally anxious person as far back as I can remember. I honestly don't know what I would do if I ever woke up one morning and my anxiety was just gone. I wouldn't know how to cope.
Anxiety runs deep in my moms side of the family. Almost everyone, including her and several of her brothers and sisters, are riddled with extreme anxiety. I guess I "inherited" it.
As a small child, I remember being fearful of so many silly things - many of which have carried themselves right along into adulthood. Things like storms, the dark, fire of any kind, and death. Some I have outgrown, others linger, and still yet some are circumstantial. Some parts of my extreme fear were established in me by my mother - not intentionally, she always meant well - and others, literally and figuratively are just engraved in my DNA.
My earliest memory of fear and anxiety was when my grandmother died. I wasn't allowed to attend her funeral because my mom didn't want me exposed to that. My mom and my aunt took "shifts" attending her funeral so me and my cousin didn't have to go. This was also my first experience with death.
Soon after, around 5th or 6th grade, my anxiety hit its peak following my dad's heart attack and major surgery. My mom left me alone with him - literally for ten minutes - to run an errand down the street, and he passed out on me. I thought he died. I called 9-1-1. It was bad, and I was traumatized. And around a year later, my mom faced gallbladder surgery - not really a big deal, but after all that, I was mental toast. Enter my first experience with severe panic attacks.
I remember seeing a therapist at the ripe age of around about 10, where I was placed on my first antidepressant, Celexa. I don't recall it doing much for me, other than excessive weight gain. I went from underweight to overweight in the span of a couple years. Middle school is a blur and I'm honestly not sure if I stopped the medication at this point.
In high school, however, I would have done darn near anything to feel loved and valued. My home was unstable and full of anger and hate. I NEEDED to feel valuable - a trait I still struggle with today. I dated boys who I knew were trouble, I got involved with some people who were clearly bad for me, and ended up involved in a long-term relationship (3 years) with a guy who was mentally, emotionally, and physically abusive. I remember finding myself back in therapy at this point, and back on Celexa. The weight came on quick again, and around my junior year of high school I quit taking it. I haven't taken anything for anxiety since because of the risk of weight gain with everything.
Immediately following high school (literally the day of graduation) I met some new people, where the following weekend I ended up meeting my now-husband. Our relationship grew quickly and before we new it, we were parents-to-be. Exactly what I swore I would never do with my life, became my life almost overnight. I was an expectant, teenage mother out of wedlock. Still, my anxiety remained manageable for a while. I first learned of my then-boyfriend/ now-husband's cheating behavior when I was four months pregnant with our first daughter. We worked through it and eventually were married, where two more children followed.
Our girls are our greatest gift from God. They changed my life so much. They gave me purpose, meaning, and fulfillment. But still, his cheating, lying, and manipulative behaviors never stopped.
In March 2019, my husband had his first (to my knowledge) physical affair - unbeknownst to me, he was involved with another woman mentally, emotionally, and physically for almost a year. Prior to this event, his behavior had always remained emotional - texts, messaging, etc. Albeit difficult no matter the extent of an "affair", this was by and large the biggest hurdle we'd ever encountered. He spent hours a day talking to her, texting her, using "secret" apps to talk to her, and even spent time with her in person.
Until this event came to light, I thought my anxiety was well managed without medication. What I learned through the experience of my husbands physical affair is that my anxiety was not managed at all - it was suppressed and ignored; hidden in shame, tucked away where no one could ever see it.
Since March 9, 2019, I have been unable to hide my anxiety, my depression, my downright fear and loss of interest in anything. I spent then next month physically ill, which ironically led to significant weight loss (hey, some light in the dark). This experience has been like a parrot on my shoulder, constantly reminding me of what he did, how worthless I am, and that nothing even matters in life. I was able to rope it in for a while, but only with the help of a therapist - both individually and in our marriage. I was written various prescriptions for mood stabilization. I tried one, Zoloft, which made me a very mean and angry person. I gave it up because I didn't like who it made me. I haven't tried anything else because of - you guessed it - the risk of weight gain.
To make matters worse, I quickly found that her name was going to haunt me forever. Joy. They stole mine from me. And everywhere I tried to look for healing, there it was. Do you know how many times that word is in the Bible? Neither did I, but I do now. 88 times in the Old Testament and 57 times in the New Testament. 145 total times in the Bible. And every time I turned to scripture, that word was there. Reminding me, haunting me - and it almost turned me away from God.
Nonetheless, we spent the next year working hard. He was putting forth effort and changing things about himself like he had never done before. Although painful, I think this "reset" was much needed to get our marriage on-track. God was hard at work in the midst of our lives.
So, fast-forward one year later to the exact date - March 9, 2020 - I have learned how to cope. We have grown in our marriage. Counseling is doing us a world of wonder and I am still seeing changes in my husband like I have never seen in our 13 years together. Things are looking up; in fact, the best they'd ever been.
But, on this very same day, one year later, my kids come down with something. I was already plagued with the memory of what I had learned a year prior, already having a bad day... then cue the headache, fever, body pain... diagnosis - flu A. Enter anxiety, because that's what anxiety does. None of my kids had never had the flu, ever, and with 2/3 of them being asthmatics, it was scary. So, my anxiety was running like a wild stallion let out of a stall. Ok, God, I hear you - I'll focus on my kids today instead of the past.
And that very same week - enter COVID-19 in the US. We missed most of that week of school due to the flu and we never got to return to the building this year.
Talk about anxiety shock. It felt like someone was using a defibrillator on my anxiety because God forbid it take a snooze. COVID-19 is anxiety's worst nightmare. Germs. Viruses. Unknown variables. Danger. Shut down. No unnecessary human contact. NO HUMAN CONTACT. NO. HUMAN. CONTACT. Anxiety doesn't play well by itself...
Suddenly - more aptly, overnight - I found myself being a work-at-home-mom, teaching students virtually and trying to homeschool my own kids as well. Sports were cancelled, school was cancelled, restraunts closed... goodbye, world; hello, home. Literally overnight. Enter more anxiety. My husband eventually ended up working from home as well, which helped my anxiety tremendously. However, all good things must come to an end, and he had to go back to work eventually... and honestly, that came rather suddenly and created a snowball effect... (enter - well, you know, even more anxiety).
-Husband abruptly returned to work after 2 months of being at home with us, leaving our "routine" upended (anxiety talking)
-Followed by a (minor, but still serious) car wreck, with all of us in the car... (could have been so much worse - praise God it wasn't)
-Followed by the garage door deciding it didn't want to work any longer...
-Followed by the air pump taking a crap and quitting...
-Followed by the added financial stress of buying a new car and repairing the broken stuff during a time in which finances were tight and no one knew if we'd even still have a job the next day...
-Followed by me catching my husband involved in something he shouldn't have been (thanks, stress)...
-Followed by a period of a couple back-to-back days where I was home alone during severe weather... (again, anxiety talking)
-Followed by our one-year-old dog having a random seizure (this is the event that sent me over the edge - thank God my husband was home when it happened).
*All in the time frame of barely over one month. In short, May was hell.
Anxiety: triggered. Max capacity has been reached in a short amount of time. Enter panic attacks of an extreme nature. I found myself at the doctor within the week begging for medication to help me through.
Y'all. I don't freely take medication. I struggle with taking pills (thanks, anxiety). I NEEDED IT. And you know what? I refuse to be ashamed. I can't do this on my own. I need God every single day and I need Prozac and Hydroxyzine to help see me through this current season. I know the medication is temporary, just like the anxiety. But God remains steady. He knew I would fight this battle and He has been there with me every step of the way, as a child and now as an adult.
"You formed the way I think and feel. You put me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because you made me in such a wonderful way. I know how amazing that was!" Psalm 139:13-14.
I am THAT woman. The one who doesn't, and likely wont ever, have it all together. Who will always be a yeller. Who will always love others deeply, with her whole heart. Who will probably always be filled with anxiety and depression.
Thank you, God, for making me That Woman. And thank you for the reminder that is Philippians 4:13.
(Originally written 6/15/2020)
Just a wife and mom who strives with her whole heart to be the best version of the woman she already is - that woman.