After reading this article, you’ll be part of the one of less than 10 people who know my story. It’s taken four months to be able to even write this since treatment has started. I wanted to write it the day I started, then I wanted to write it when I started to feel better, then I wanted to write it when it got worse again and then here I am now. So I guess maybe it was better to wait to write this until I got thru the first couple phases.
This is now an easy sentence to write but still one hard to accept for myself….. I take daily anxiety and antidepressant medication. I used to think I would never “need” medicine to help me cope with stress. I had no stigma attached to people who had to take it for themselves. It was just a predetermined thought that I should be strong, smart, capable enough to fix whatever was wrong with me to not need anxiety medication. It was feeling like I was letting my husband down for some reason that I needed help. He was the hardest one to tell that I thought I needed help. Maybe that was because the only other two people that knew were my two closest friends.
Of course, as I type that this is “easy” to type but hard to accept…. the tight chest and pain is readily happening right now. So obviously I’m still having a physical reaction to this conversation.
Today is my son’s 4th birthday and I’m not sure if it’s the excitement of being able to celebrate with him or that I’m finally trying to snap myself out of this past six week haze I’ve felt but I feel like I’m finally trying again. I felt like now was finally the right time to write this and share my truth that I felt like I’ve been hiding and ashamed of because I couldn’t do it on my own.
In spring 2018 is when I first started noticing many more stress reactors creeping up, but I was just quitting a job that in itself brought much anxiety and drain and moving onto a completely different career so I just pushed aside those feelings aside as change. I decided to get back into running as my way to find a release. I ran 4-6 times a week even and was enjoying it, being able to run longer and harder was satisfying but my stress reactors were still plenty present. Push ahead thru summer right into the last race of the year at the University of Iowa where I ended up pulling something in my leg and quit running because of it. We were headed into cold weather anyway and I’m not a cold weather runner so it's not like I had much motivation getting back into it at the time.
But by winter and early spring 2019, my symptoms took on a new life. This time now add in starting a new brick and mortar store and my husband getting a new job that took him on the road and I am now managing our family schedule without him. First it started out as eye twitching that would happen a few times a day, which I always knew were my body's way of telling me I was off. I didn’t realize it until much later but the mood swings that would cause stupid fights between my husband and I or me out lashing at my kids were a symptom of how I was handling it all. I was taking melatonin consistently to try to get to sleep to make my brain go quiet enough for me to doze away otherwise I could very easily lay there for hours with my mind racing.
The tears….oh so many tears. I am naturally an emotional person in the first place but man, when I’m feeling at my worst, I break down at everything. Which in case you didn’t know – crying with mood swings does not make these scenarios any better usually. Let alone my mind was in such a haze and I felt like I was forgetting everything. Even my husband would ask me, “how do you not remember?” I remember at one point I completely forgot both of our social security numbers – which for me is usually easy because the first 5 digits match. Completely spaced – could not remember in the slightest.
Then set in one my most worrisome symptoms, the tight and painful chest. I realized it was most a problem when I’d be in a conversation with a customer (even at my real job) and would be unknowingly holding my sternum as if it was going to help the pain go away. I naturally turned to Dr. Google, wondering what else it could be thinking it had to be something worse than just stress and anxiety. I’d read the symptoms of this and then that and nothing really matched until I started reading about those with anxiety and depression. Reading through them was like check mark, check mark, check mark, check mark…etc. That was last summer in 2019.
It would take me yet another two more months to get the courage to tell my husband I think I needed help. I couldn’t even remotely think about adding on something else to focus on like working out or my nutrition again. His opinion mattered so much to me I don’t know what I would have done if he wouldn’t have been supportive and told me to go to the doctor.
I made the call the next day after rehearsing what to even say to the nurse – like, even a dang phone call would send me into a spiral of symptoms. Unfortunately, it was the beginning of the school year so all the kids were getting their back to school physicals and doc was backed up for three more weeks. Even more waiting, more anxious feelings.
Finally, September 10th came around and I had my appointment. I bawled in his office telling him what symptoms I was having. That same chest pain was there from the time I started driving to the time I sat out in the parking lot after the appointment and called my husband afterwards. The worst part of the appointment was when the doc made me say out loud that I thought I needed medicine to help me. I felt like I failed myself and my family so badly at that moment. He proceeded to give me a few options on types of medicines between faster acting and potentially more addicting and vice versa.
The thought of needing to be careful of addiction gave me worse anxiety so I opted for the – take longer to notice improvement and non-addicting, Zoloft. He was spot on that it would take about 3-4 weeks where my symptoms would lessen and about 8 before I would forget about them as they wouldn’t show up or if they did, it wasn’t long lasting. I took my first pill on September 11th. On September 12th, I told myself I HAD to give myself a chance if I’m going to take medicine and I did my first workout in 11 months.
I did feel a little relief knowing that there was soon going to be less symptoms – less pain – less tears.
Then November came around. In the retail world, ‘tis the season for so many things. All the events, all the planning, all the stress. I felt like I knocked November out of the park and boutique financially speaking, we did – best month we’ve ever had in business. However, that month took so much out of me all the symptoms came back.
I debated about calling the doc and getting a higher dosage to get thru the holidays but once again told myself no, just get thru this. It’s just a few weeks. January is just around the corner and you’ll be ok again. I was still working out and had actually lost a few pounds which was helpful in proving to myself that I was trying to help myself but it still wasn’t enough – even on medicine.
I surprised myself and my husband completely when I told him I wanted to go up north to the Upper Peninsula again. I haven’t been snowmobiling in probably 8+ years and it’s been even longer since I’ve been up there. But I got the itch to get away and disconnect and take time with just me and my family. So that’s what we did for a few days post Christmas and had I not been forced to disconnect due to absolutely no service, wifi, tv – nothing for a few days, I’m not sure I would have done it on my own. But it was nice to not have to look at my phone or worry about algorithms and such. I just let it be.
Upon returning, I found myself enjoying that feeling a little too much and still stayed pretty distant from social media. I needed more time. Thankfully, the holiday stressors were no longer there and I didn’t feel like I needed to go back to the doctor again right now. I’m slowly getting back to joining the social world again but this time I’m building better strategies for myself in doing so. If I’m going to improve my well being, my connections with my family or my business – I HAVE to do this despite the short term setbacks.
So sister, if you find yourself battling some of these same symptoms – please go talk to your doctor. Please do not be ashamed that you need some extra help. Please value yourself to not be miserable. Please, just be honest with yourself. It took me far too long to do it and I regret not talking about it sooner.