Coping with Anxiety and Depression
Disclaimer: I am not a mental health professional. What I am sharing here is purely based on my personal experiences. If you feel that you may have anxiety and/or depression, please consult a qualified professional.
It was a morning in February 2011, and I was sitting behind the wheel of my car unable to get out and go in to work. I could not have told you why at the time, but I found myself sobbing for what seemed no reason and immobilized. I have no idea how long I was there, or what helped me shake it off, but in that space I knew I needed help. Shortly thereafter I saw my physician and was diagnosed with Anxiety and Depression. That day in the car was a severe anxiety attack. While I did not like identifying with this label, it did help me understand more about my life for the previous 25 years. I had been dealing with depression and occasional anxiety attacks to greater and lesser degrees, including contemplation of suicide, since I was in high school. However, I never identified for a minute with the fact that I did have a treatable mental health problem.
Just typing those words is challenging even today. The stigma that accompanies mental illness is quite sad. I was extremely hesitant to write this post because of the judgement that could come from those who may read it. But recent circumstances and reminders of what I have experienced have compelled me to write both for my own catharsis, but also with the hope that one person may find value in my experience.
This summer marked the end of a year of grieving the unexpected loss of my mother. It was not just her death that was difficult, but learning many of the circumstances of her life. I now understand that she too had bouts of serious depression. And more importantly that this challenge runs in our family. In addition, in this same year I found out a younger family member was dealing with mental health challenges and realized that I am just as guilty of not sharing my struggle to perhaps help others. I have no idea if having this knowledge earlier would have helped me, but perhaps it would have made it easier just knowing I was not alone. None of us can change the past, and I am happy to be moving beyond grief and looking forward to the future.
The other event that shook my mental health foundation was the suicide of the chef, author and TV host, Anthony Bourdain. Its always shocking and sad when someone who seems to have it all does not see a reason to live. I knew he had struggled with addiction and depression, but he seemed to be at the top of his career and in a great place. It really distressed me to realize that the psyche is so fragile. His choice to unexpectedly take his life brought back poignant memories of my own life. It took me back to the place where my own despair was so great that I contemplated taking my own life.
I am very fortunate that I not only sought treatment, but have over the past 7 years made drastic changes to my lifestyle. In addition, I have a circle of close friends (first and foremost my amazing husband) who understand my past and my struggles and are incredibly supportive. In future posts, I am going to give details about the lifestyle changes I have made and the impact each has on daily bringing my mind back to a positive place - back to pursuit of a mindful life.