Two months ago I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
It was a diagnosis that was a long time coming. I’ve suffered my entire life with overwhelming and irrational thoughts, embarrassing nervous habits and missing out on things due to paralyzing nervousness.
I was always written off as quiet or shy and I accepted those characterizations.
But as I got older my worries became all-consuming. Worrying that something terrible would happen to one of my children. Afraid that I was destroying all of my relationships. And being so exhausted that I often wondered if life was worth living.
Mental illness is not something that has ever been talked about in my family. When you’re burnt out, you’re told to take a vitamin. When you’re overwhelmed, you’re told it’ll pass. When you’re depressed, you’re told to pray and read your bible.
Not saying those are bad ideas, but they just didn’t work for me.
About a year ago I started listening to BuzzFeed’s Another Round podcast. I told you in a previous blog post how hosts, Tracy Clayton and Heben Nigatu, have helped me through many slow work commutes and have become part of my self care routine.
But one thing, in particular, that strikes me about Another Round is how openly they talk about mental illness – especially anxiety and depression.
1) Drink some water
2) Take your meds
3) Call your person
— Another Round (@anotherround) July 8, 2016
For so long I felt like needing help would make me seem weak. I’m someone who always appears to have it together. I have a good job. A great husband. Two beautiful, healthy daughters. So why sometimes does it seem like my world is crumbling around me? Why does it often feel like there’s someone sitting on my chest?
And why have I always been too embarrassed to admit my problem to anyone – even myself?
But hearing from people who face similar struggles – especially strong, successful, together black women – counteracts years of shame I’ve carried because of the stigma of mental illness.
When I listen to Another Round I don’t just hear interesting stories about killer squirrels. I also hear that taking care of yourself is vital. I hear that there is no shame in needing a little bit of help to get through life. I hear that I’m not crazy.
Admitting that I needed help for my anxiety was not easy. I cried at my appointment as soon as my doctor asked if I had any concerns. I was tempted to fake a smile, nod and say I was OK like I always did. But I had reached rock bottom and knew I couldn’t continue on like I had been. And once my appointment was over and I left with a prescription for Zoloft, I felt like the world had been lifted off my back.
It’s been two months since that appointment and my life has changed drastically. My medication is working great and it’s like a fog has lifted from around my brain. I’m calmer. I’m happier. And although I still have bad days, I can manage and cope more effectively.
You never know where the encouragement you need is going to come from. It could come from someone you love. Or a stranger on the street. Or hosts of a BuzzFeed podcast.
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