It was during Molly’s Christmas concert that I had an inkling something was truly wrong with me, but it would take me awhile to realize I was suffering from anxiety and depression.
Normally, I’m that mom snapping photos, cheering my baby on in the stands, but not this time.
“Let me see the pics,” Jason asked, when we returned home that evening.
I went to scroll through my phone and realized I hadn’t snapped any. Not a single one.
“That’s not like you,” he said.
The truth is, I wasn’t really me and hadn’t been for quite some time. I felt like a shell of my former self — numb and exhausted.
Decorating our home for the holidays seemed like way too much work.
Meeting a friend for coffee seemed like way too much work.
Answering emails seemed like way too much work.
Cleaning my house or car seemed like way too much work.
Having a shower or putting on makeup seemed like way too much work.
Even blogging seemed like way too much work.
Over the years, my anxiety level had slowly crept up. This past Christmas, it was at an all-time high, but I wouldn’t realize it quite yet.
If my mom or Jason and the girls were out on the road driving somewhere and I heard a siren, which happens often due to living next to the fire hall, I’d feel sick to my stomach and light-headed.
Right away, my mind would go to the worst case scenario and I couldn’t focus on anything else until I was able to get through to them. I stopped driving further than my own community, fearing I’d get lost or in a bad car accident. If an invitation to a blogging event popped up in my inbox, I’d ignore it.
At night, I’d lay in bed and overthink EVERYTHING.
What if Zoe ends up being a wild teenager and we can’t control her? What if she runs away and we never see her again? What happens if I don’t get anymore freelance work and we have to sell our house? Will we have enough money for their college savings? What if they go away to college and something bad happens? Is that sharp pain in my ovary ovarian cancer? Am I aging faster than I should be? What if everyone actually hates my blog and they’re just trying to be nice? What will I do if something happens to Jason? Did I say too much at that party? Did I not say enough????
This is just an example of the typical thought pattern that kept me up at night, or distracted during the day.
As you can imagine, it was utterly exhausting to be living in my head All. The. Time.
It just became way easier to be a recluse — to avoid everyone and everything.
No wonder I have been so fricken tired all the time. No wonder I started drinking 3-4 glasses of wine at night to tune out the noise. No wonder I have been such a hermit for the past two years. No wonder my body, mind and soul decided that it had FINALLY had enough over the holidays.
It was during the peak of my nightly wine habit that I began to think, maybe everyone would be better off if I just didn’t wake up. That was the first time I’ve ever had a thought like that and it scared me.
Honestly, it wasn’t something I thought or felt during the day, but the mix of alcohol and undiagnosed depression at night was proving to be a recipe for disaster — one that was robbing me of my serenity and sanity.
That was when I decided to embark on my sober summer challenge. I took six months off and started feeling really good, maybe too good.
Towards the end of that break, I started to forget why I stopped in the first place.
It didn’t take long to fall back into old patterns.
I had always been too proud to talk to my doctor about what was going on in my head, but I felt like I was getting worse this past December, not better. Even talking to him took a lot of energy — I felt completely depleted and demoralized as I slumped into his chair, too tired to nag Zoe to stop climbing on the furniture.
“Wow, you are quite high-functioning,” he said as he went over the three-page checklist of symptoms I had marked with an X.
I left with a prescription for an antidepressant called Cipralex for depression and anxiety with the warning that I’d feel awful the first week. He sure wasn’t kidding.
Although I was prescribed to take just half a tablet the first couple of days, I decided not to heed his advice. I took the whole damn tablet as I was desparate to feel ‘normal’ as soon as possible.
Of course, I ended up feeling sick to my stomach — I had to sit down several times while we were decorating our Christmas tree from the dizziness.
As promised, the pills stopped making me feel ill after around a week.
If you’ve noticed that I haven’t written a single blog post in a very long time, it’s because I had a really tough time concentrating on writing when I first started taking the drug. I have several drafted posts that I started over the holidays, but would lose my train of thought and give up.
It’s been just over a month and I’m so happy to say that I’m feeling better than I have in years, which I chalk up to the anti-deppressants, new gym routine and sober lifestyle.
I wake up with pep in my step, an overwhelming sense of gratitude and general feeling of calmness that even the best cab merlot could never compensate for.
Finally, I’ve started reaching out to a few close friends and have been getting out of the house, enjoying activities that I used to.
I feel free.
My only regret is not getting help sooner – I’ve wasted so much time, which is why I’m writing this post today.
“Kristyl, you’re not actually going to blog about this? said my mom when I was started taking antidepressants. I don’t blame her reaction. She comes from the generation of keeping this kind of stuff under wraps.
It’s the job of our generation to blow the whistle on mental illness so our children don’t grow up afraid to ask for help.
About one in five people—over six and a half million Canadians—experience a mental illness or substance use problem in their lifetime. Unfortunately, many people don’t ask for help because they feel ashamed or scared. I was one of them, but not anymore.
If someone judges me or treats me negatively based on it, that’s more of a reflection of them than myself.
If you’re struggling with anxiety, depression or both, please don’t be afraid to chat with your family doctor about it. Mommas, you deserve to be happy for yourself and your families.