I’m 32-years-old; I have a well-paying job, two kids, amazing family and friends, and a healthy, loving relationship. I also suffer from depression, anxiety, and OCD.
But you’d never know the latter by simply looking at me.
Growing up, I wouldn’t say my family life was rough, per se – but it wasn’t exactly like watching Leave it to Beaver, either. My mom was an alcoholic who would go from sober to week-or-so-long benders and back again. When she recovered from alcohol, she went to pills. Because of all this, my parents’ marriage was a mess – but they wouldn’t get divorced. My mom was in and out of recovery/sobriety/relapse up until about a year before she got diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and died 9 months later. But life’s rude like that.
It was around the age of 13 – when my mom’s drinking was really bad – that I was first diagnosed with depression. I refused to go to school, I was getting in trouble at school, I fought with my parents 24/7…and this wasn’t normal, teenage fighting. This was me telling my mom I hated her every single day, slamming my bedroom door so much that my dad took it off the hinges. I hated my sister. I hated my brothers. I hated my parents. I hated MYSELF. I hated everyone. My dad refused to even speak to me or interact with me for a solid 3 years because I was so unbearable. So, because my parents didn’t know how to deal with me and they decided I was “troubled”, they decided it was time to seek help. Did I think anything was wrong with me? Hell no. I thought I was just pissed at the world because I was a damn teenager.
I wasn’t happy about going to counseling. You’re going to make me sit here and speak to a stranger about what’s bothering me? No thank you. Needless to say, I went through about 10 different therapists and was put on so many different medications than I can even remember until they found one that “worked” - yippee.
Everything was relatively … normal … for a few years after that. There were counselors come and gone, medication changes, life changes, and etcetera, but my diagnosis never changed. Until the day it did.
I started talking to a guy online who was in the Army and was, at the time, deployed in Iraq. I should preface this whole story by saying he is the father of my kids, so we can guess how that turned out. But I digress. Anyway, things were actually going well and when he came home on leave a month later, we decided to meet in person. It was love at first sight (or what my stupid 19-year-old self thought was love). We basically knew we wanted to be together forever before we had even met, but meeting just sealed the deal. It was only when he got back to Iraq that my mental health took a severe turn for the worse.
I can’t remember when it happened, or what exactly I was thinking when it happened, but I just remember not eating or sleeping for 3 days. My anxiety had gotten so bad that I couldn’t do anything but think. And they were not normal thoughts; they were intrusive, obsessive, insane thoughts. I didn’t know what the hell was wrong with me. Was I going crazy? Was I having a nervous breakdown? Are the thoughts that are in my head really what I believe or is it my mind tricking me? WHAT IN THE ACTUAL HELL IS HAPPENING TO ME? Luckily, my dad worked in the maintenance department at a local mental hospital. I had been there before for outpatient treatment, but this time I knew was different. I called my mom at work and told her to call my dad and tell him to get me in there NOW. I needed to get help or I was going to lose my mind – or at least whatever was left of it.
I spent 4 nights there and they diagnosed me with GAD – General Anxiety Disorder – with traits of OCD – Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, which is another type of anxiety disorder. My problem is that I only have the obsessive part. Most people with OCD have either obsessive thoughts or behaviors, which is what causes extreme anxiety. They then usually adopt some sort of compulsion – tics, numbering (having a specific number of times they have to do everything), rituals, and so on. However, I do not have the compulsions; I just sit with my obsessive thoughts and have anxiety. Extreme, debilitating anxiety. To make an even longer story short, I was put on medication, they then told me I was bipolar, I didn’t agree with that, and I took myself off ALL of my medication. Every time I went to see my doctor, instead of trying to figure out what was going on and thinking that maybe he misdiagnosed me, he would just increase the dosage of my medication. I wasn’t having any of that.
TO ANYONE WITH ANY TYPE OF MENTAL ILLNESS: DO NOT EVER TAKE YOURSELF OFF OF YOUR MEDICATION - ESPECIALLY COLD TURKEY. I knew not to do this and I did it anyway. I then went untreated for 3 years. Living with daily anxiety; feeling nauseous was just normal. When something upsetting would happen, my anxiety would increase ten-fold. When I got pregnant with my twins, oddly enough my anxiety subsided enough that I could deal with everyday life. I would still get bouts of that whole my-world-is-ending feeling, but overall I wasn’t anxious every day. But the minute, and I mean the MINUTE that I gave birth, it all came back and hit me like an avalanche. It was worse than it had ever been, and the days I spent in the hospital after having my babies were more days of not eating and not sleeping. I had severe PPA (Postpartum Anxiety) and moderate PPD (Postpartum Depression). It’s still a touchy subject for me because when I think back on it, I hate myself for how I was feeling. A lot of women are overjoyed to have this new life that is theirs and came from them. They want to spend every minute with that baby – but not me. The 2 nights and 3 days I spent in the hospital I spent in my room, miserable, not wanting to be near my babies. They spent 95% of that time in the nursery simply because I just did. not. want. them. near me. It was already enough that I was 21 and not ready to be a parent (but who’s ever really ready?), but there were two of them, and they also came a month early so I didn’t get to even prepare myself. I just wanted those first few days to sleep and be left alone before my entire world would change.
When we came home I wasn’t any happier, but I had no choice but to be a parent and deal with it. It didn’t help that their father (my ex) went back to work the day after we brought them home, so I was home by myself with them all day. And I was miserable. And so I went on like that for 3 more years, with people always asking me why I’m so miserable or what do I have to be depressed about (as if depression works on reasoning), until I got sick and tired of feeling like the world was going to end every single day. So I sought help, once again.
I’m finally on medication that works and I go to therapy every 3 months. That is what works for ME; that doesn’t mean it will work for everyone. And after being in a toxic relationship with a mentally and emotionally abusive person for 11 years, it took a toll on me; but after leaving that relationship, I’m starting to heal even more. Do I still have bad nerve days where I feel like my world is caving in? Absolutely. But I’ve learned how to cope with it because of the therapy. My mom’s death in 2012 definitely took a huge mental toll on me and I digressed a lot. But that’s life, and that happens.
Sometimes people only need therapy; for me, I need medication to balance myself out. I used to feel like something was wrong with me when I first started taking medication all those years ago. Me, on medication, every day? FOREVER? But now I know that mental illness is just like physical illness, and that just like physical illness, sometimes we need medication to treat it. And that is OK. As a society, there is such a stigma placed on mental illness. That we’re crazy, we should be locked away, shunned, ashamed. The truth is, we are just like everyone else. We just have a few special traits that we need a little help with from time to time, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
#dontcallmecrazy. My name is Danielle and I have #depression, #anxiety, and #OCD; but it does not have me.
- Danielle Woerner, 2018