I Didn’t Know I Was Suffering From Anxiety and Depression

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.

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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  • Emily Hecht

    January 11, 2017 at 10:32 am

    You are a brave and beautiful person and a great mom to show your kids that there is nothing to be embarrassed about when it comes to mental health. I have dealt with this before and am very open about my journey. Congrats on being the best you that you can be

    • Kristyl Clark

      January 11, 2017 at 12:33 pm

      Thank you so much for the beautiful and kind words Emily. I admire that you’re open about your journey and are out there being the best you that you can be xoxo

  • Fire1976

    January 11, 2017 at 1:31 pm

    Much respect and admiration for the honesty. May there be no shame in your game and may life allow you to do just DO YOU! You got this momma.

  • Kristin

    January 12, 2017 at 8:36 pm

    Life is full of ups and downs. Sometimes we forget this because they happen over long periods of time and build up so gradually that we don’t even know they are happening. Congrats for having the strength, not just to write the post, but to face your challenge and grow from it, to spread the word about a very real problem in so many of our lives, and most importantly, congrats for having the strength to be a realistic example to your kids. You are completely right, it is our job to show the next generation how to be open and overcome obsticals in a constructive and positive way. And if today is not a good day, don’t forget to grab some extra hugs from those littles that have unconditional love for you and remember that tomorrow is a new day. Good luck to you!

    • Kristyl Clark

      January 18, 2017 at 4:12 pm

      You hit the nail on the head there – it definitely does build up slowly over time and then suddenly it’s like, ‘wow, how did this happen?’ ‘How did I get to this dark place?’
      Thank you for all your kind words and support. It means a lot xo

  • Kylie

    January 12, 2017 at 10:03 pm

    Kristyl, I feel so encouraged, inspired, and also compelled to reach out make sure I take the time to tell you how much your post meant to me. As someone who has thoroughly enjoyed your spunky zest for life, I am so glad Jason and your family have supported you in this journey toward healing. It took me a long time to become aware of my depression and anxiety symptoms five years ago, but once I realized the signs (like how I preferred watching “Friends” to having them) I was able to get some much needed help. The combination of medication, diet change, exercise with friends, sleep hygiene, and therapy to help me understand how I got there, helped me start to feel like I was gaining some traction in life when I had previously felt like I was spinning my tires and digging myself deeper into the mud. Thank you for having the courage to be vulnerable and share your journey in order to empower others to ask for the help they may need. Two of my favourite Ted Talks also come to mind in light of your words. The first is called The Space Between Self-Esteem and Self-Compassion by Dr. Kristin Neff (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IvtZBUSplr4); Dr. Neff discusses how easy it can be to believe that the struggles we experience in life are abnormal or shouldn’t be there, when in actuality, the common shared humanity of suffering can be very powerful for bringing people together. The second Ted Talks is called The Power of Vulnerability by Dr. Brené Brown (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iCvmsMzlF7o&t=370s), and I think it does a great job of articulating why your vulnerability impacted me so deeply. I’m sending good thoughts and prayers your way, and I hope the wise word of Red Green bring you a smile: keep your stick on the ice, we’re all in this together.

    • Kristyl Clark

      January 18, 2017 at 4:10 pm

      Thank you so much Kylie, I would have never guessed in a million years that you suffered from depression and anxiety because you’re always so bubbly – but I’m guessing everyone around me thought the same thing about me too, hey?
      In addition to the medication it truly is a whole life makeover. I know now that if I don’t get enough sleep, eat right or exercise at least a little bit each day that I will begin to feel off. Thank you for being vulnerable as well and sharing your story with us. Would love to go on one of those hikes in the spring xo

      • Kylie

        January 25, 2017 at 11:30 pm

        Totally! I find it rather curious how sometimes the people with the most laughter and energy can also experience such deep sorrow. I am cheering you on in this journey and would totally love to take you up on a hike when the weather gets a little brighter. 🙂 xo

  • Melissa E

    January 18, 2017 at 2:22 pm

    Kristyl, thank you for writing this post. I too was not feeling well and very tired and anxious 5 days before Christmas. I have experienced depression 15 years ago and went on medication (Efexor). A year later I felt capable of not having to use medication and I went off of it.

    December 20th this year I came home from work and had a full blown panic attack. My anxiety was sooo high. I couldnt do anything. All I could focus on was…maybe I’m going to die, my heart is going to stop because I’m wearing it out because it’s beating so fast. It was the single most awful thing I have ever experienced.

    I went to my doctor the next day and spoke with him….he prescribed Zoloft. I’m now in about week 4 of taking my meds and each day I’m slowly getting better and better. I was also perscribed a mild sleeping pill because sleep (the lack thereof) took its toll on me. My daughter hasn’t sleep through the night much and she’s 19 months old.

    ..phew. what a journey you’ve been on. Readjng you post has given me hope and a huge sigh of relief, that I too will be better and feel like myself again.

    Thank you 🙂

    • Kristyl Clark

      January 18, 2017 at 4:07 pm

      Wow, thank you SO MUCH for sharing your story Melissa. Honestly, it really helps to feel like I’m not alone – I know other moms and dads who feel the same way. Glad to hear you are slowly getting stronger. It’s been about 5 weeks for me now, and I feel like a new person. The exhaustion has finally disappeared, which I thought I’d just be plagued with for life. So nice to hear from an old friend too xo


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