I don’t remember being a particularly fearful child. I did have anxieties over a few things: thunderstorms, car tunnels, ferris wheels, and my oddest, stairs without risers. As I got older, my anxieties grew. I don’t mind heights, but if I can see how high I am going, I can’t do it. This means no glass elevators, escalators without walls, stairs in the middle of the mall, and roller coasters. I’ve had to go on a few and it’s usually done by either running up them, looking down, or closing my eyes on a glass elevator.
High school was a nightmare for me; at least 9th grade was. I came from a very sheltered K-8 school and definitely lacked serious social skills. This lead to some serious bullying on the bus. At points, my Mom would simply drive me to school because I would not go otherwise. Around 11th grade, I started getting sleep issues. I was already prone to screaming down the hall nightmares, but now I was getting insomnia, night terrors, or a gut wrenching fear that if I slept, I would not wake up whole. When I would try to casually mention it, no one seemed to know what I was talking about. I came to the conclusion that I was somehow broken; that I was not right.
When I got engaged, I had troubles dealing with the fact that my Dad wouldn’t be at my wedding, so I found a CSW who did grief therapy. At one point during her sessions, I asked her about medications to help me sleep. She could not prescribe them, so sent me to a psychiatrist for an evaluation. I spent an hour and a half with the psychiatrist answering a whole array of questions. Once we were done, she wrote not one, but three prescriptions and then dropped the bomb on my world: I had chronic depression and anxiety disorder. My mind went into a tailspin. It was such a shock. Librarian that I am, I researched both and I was a textbook case of symptoms. I can remember the day when my medication kicked in. I was in the office at work and looking at a wall before I realized my brain wasn’t going a hundred miles an hour. It was the most amazing feeling in the world.
I didn’t last on that particular medication and it took a few years before I found ones that worked. I had and have bout of depressive episodes that can last from a few days to a few months. I know the signs by now: insomnia, lack of desire to eat, lack of desire to do much, only wanting to stay home. My anxiety is usually only triggered by my usual fears and my one big one (which I am sure if a lot of people’s: death). If my stomach is off, I am prone to feeling more anxious. A bad bout of a stomach bug and severe dehydration led me to the worst attack I’ve ever had in my life. It began with a general sense of doom and ended with me curled in the fetal position in my bathroom unable to move. The next day, I went to the local mental hospital and spent the next five days as an outpatient there. Since then, we added another medication to my list. I have good moments and bad. Sometimes I feel lost and alone. Other times I don’t. I am blessed that I have found people who also suffer with this and help me get through the really bad times. I found a great tribe of people (not surprisingly, many of them librarians) that I talk to when needed. I have a spouse and family that support me.
My illness has taken things from me; I don’t have children because I was unable to be un-medicated long enough to have one. I never know how each day is going to go with my brain. I live and cope with it like everyone else with mental health issues. I share my story to educate people that people can have mental illness and have a job, a house, a spouse, etc. If you feel you need help, go seek it. Care for yourself enough to get it. It made a world of difference for me.