I’ve pretty much always had a baseline of anxiety. My mom loves to tell the story about how when I was a kid, we couldn’t leave the house unless the bows of my shoe laces were perfectly matched. I’ve got a low threshold to be anxious, and it’s been a challenge for me for a long time. There were years that I didn’t know what was going on, and I just felt overwhelmed.
Back in 2013 was when I learned a little about what was going on when I literally lost my shit over someone telling me I had incorrectly addressed an envelope at work (let’s call that the straw that broke the camel’s back) and ended up in the ER being assessed for suicidal ideations. From there I started talk therapy and an SSRI (antidepressant drug) to gain a healthier baseline. Since learning about what really drives these anxious tendencies and the depression that coincides with it, I’ve been proactive in learning coping skills and taking the medications (first Zoloft, then Lexapro; this isn’t an exact science, and it’s been a journey figuring out what works) to try to be better in all of this.
During the semester, I had an error while completing my clinical hours at the hospital and had to go through the process of fixing it and reporting it, which is not fun… ask any nurse who has ever had the experience of making a medication error. I had a crash course in admitting I was wrong to a bunch of people, and it was overwhelming and exhausting. Weeks later (after graduation) I was approached by someone about this error and it brought up an anxiety that I hadn’t experienced in a really long time, it completely took me down. I had maxed out the coping skills I had learned, and I was in a really uncomfortable place.
Some of this is just me. I know that I have these tendencies and I follow up when I need to with my mental health providers to make sure that I stay healthy in this, but I think it’s also wise to consider that this is probably exacerbated by hormones and how overwhelming it is to be a new mom.
I’m blessed to have a lot of insight, and the understanding of mental health I gained from being in a health care profession, but man, it’s really, really hard sometimes. It makes me feel dramatic and weak to admit that, but I’m getting better there, too. To end the stigma of mental health, it starts with eliminating that voice that tells me that my concerns and struggles aren’t legitimate, because if I can’t even believe myself, how can I believe someone else? Being kind to myself is hard, but it’s part of being healthy in the struggles that I have with anxiety and depression, and it’s definitely a work in progress.
I attended AA for awhile when I had been using alcohol as a coping mechanism instead of the skills I had learned in therapy (I’m telling you… this really has been a journey) and from it I took one of the most important things I’ve ever learned: One day at a time. I look to this when I’m having a bad day, but more importantly when I’m having a good day. I have stopped putting the pressure on myself to always be “good.” One day at a time is sufficient; just because I’m having a good day today, doesn’t mean I’m obligated to have a good day tomorrow, and the same goes for bad days. I’m allowed to feel how I’m feeling in the moment, and let that guide me. If tomorrow is a good day, that’s awesome, but for now this moment is enough. I no longer attend AA, and ultimately I realized that my problem with alcohol (I was up to a bottle of wine every night.. not cute) was truly a lack of coping skills and not an addiction to alcohol, and I’ve been okay since, but I know that the potential is there, and I think that’s important.
Everyone’s experience with mental health is different, but I spent a long time thinking it was just me, and not understanding what was going on. It’s not normal to feel hopeless, and it’s not normal to consistently feel so overwhelmed you can’t see through it. There’s obviously a level of normal human suffering, but if it’s too much, reach out. It’s not a weakness. I truly believe that those who stand up to their mental illness and refuse to let it define them are some of the strongest people out there. It’s not an easy journey, but it’s so worth it.
So I haven’t found my new normal in being a new mom along with the crazy that is my journey in mental health, but I’m working on it, and that’s probably all I’ll ever be able to say, because it’s been a wild ride so far and having another life to care for adds a lot. I’m able to see through my struggles now and there’s so much beauty in accepting who I am and being kind to myself in it. There’s a lot of thanks owed to those who have been kind to me in moments where I may have been difficult to love and I am so grateful to be surrounded by people who find me deserving of love even in those times. It’s a journey, friends, and we’re getting there one day at a time.