Every December I make sure to set aside a night dedicated to It’s A Wonderful Life. The message behind the movie brings tears to my eyes year after year, and I find myself reciting the lines alongside my family as they endure the three hour process. But the thing is, even after watching and understanding the message, I still manage to take on a ‘Jimmy Stewart mindset’ and wonder if the world would be better off without me in it.
I’d suspected for years, but was just recently diagnosed with depression and anxiety.
I’ve read the books and articles, and spoken to therapists and counselors; but there was always something else going on. Everyone wanted to associate my “bad moods” with being tired or stressed about minor things. In reality, those difficult times escalated an already-present problem.
For decades I’ve felt a heavy weight on my chest, causing me to lose interest in every aspect of my life. I felt it in my teens, but everyone blamed it on hormones. I didn’t bounce back from set-backs like my peers. Then, later, when I went through turmoil in my twenties, I tried to self-medicate with alcohol. Let me tell you, that was the wrong approach.
I introduced running into my life and it seemed to help–for a while. I had something to distract me from the pain I felt inside. And I was proud of my accomplishments of running an absurd amount of miles before a full day of work. I was barely sleeping, raising twins, running almost daily and working full time. When my husband entered the picture, I was finally able to slow down. But the problems were still there and the dark cloud reappeared as it always had in the past.
I’d hit a crossroads where I either took the step to improve myself, or my life and marriage were going to fall apart. It was never as easy as “just be happy” or “stop looking at the negative side of things”. Instead, my depression was all-consuming and my views of the world around me were constantly tainted by something I could no longer control.
It took almost thirty-two years of this roller coaster to allow me to finally swallow my pride and receive the help I needed for depression and anxiety.
Going on medication feels oddly similar to when I finally quit drinking. I’m finally able to see life through clear eyes instead of the blurred vision I’d experienced for years.I feel okay every day. There’s no longer a weight on my chest and I find myself thoroughly enjoying the simple things in my life. Naturally, I still feel emotions but I’m able to control them and function like a normal part of society. I don’t fully understand how the antidepressants work but they are working for me and I could not be more grateful for the decision I made.
I want people to understand that even the women who seem strong on the surface can be suffering on the inside.
The ones who seem to be organized and have their lives together might unravel every night behind closed doors. The smallest thing might send them into a rabbit hole, unable to find their way back to normalcy. You don’t know who suffers from depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues.
It was more difficult for me to spend years putting on a fake smile than it is for me to own my truth–that I rely on a small pill to get me through each day. That small pill has given me back the life I’d lost to things out of my control. It gave my kids the mom they deserve and my husband the wife he needs.
Do not be ashamed to ask for help, especially if it becomes a matter of life or death. YOU matter and your life matters.
There is help out there and available; we just need to end the stigma associated with it.
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