Trigger Warning: This story contains mention of depression, sexual assault, and disordered eating that may be triggering to some.
“I am Alanna Mizell, a working mom of two with an amazing husband, Steven. Together, we have a podcast called ‘The Mizell Show.’ We live an abnormal life in Memphis, Tennessee. We feel called to share our lifestyle, motivating a new generation, and openly discussing controversial topics like diversity and inclusion.
My story with depression began after the birth of my second child. He is now 2 and a half, but his birth was traumatic. I was induced after going past my due date. He was measuring large and my doctor was worried my 5’2 frame wouldn’t be able to manage a big ol’ baby coming out of it. On a Monday evening, we kissed our daughter goodbye and headed to the hospital to have our son. I was induced the following morning.
I had my epidural and was cruising along. After only a few hours, I was at 8 centimeters, but nurses kept coming in and out of my room. I knew something wasn’t right. I kept looking at my husband trying to read his reaction. Shortly after the lead nurse came in, they decided to call my doctor. I knew I was going to need a C-section. It was only 7 minutes between the time my doctor arrived and the time my son was born. My husband didn’t make it into the delivery room before we heard crying. It wasn’t until I was already on the table a nurse was able to pause and inform me both my son, Briggs, and I were going to be okay. Now two years later, I know neither of us was in any real danger.
I was 3 days postpartum when his latch began piercing me with pain. I had a massive panic attack while feeding him and I looked at my husband. His face told me he was yearning to remove the pain I was in from breastfeeding and the C-section only 3 days prior. I told him I wanted to throw our son. This moment was the first time I realized something was wrong, but I continued to press forward, suppressing the feelings inside me. Over the next few months, I had nightly terrors one or both of us were left dead on the hospital table. At my 6-week postpartum appointment, my doctor asked how I was doing and I couldn’t answer; I just cried. Everyone seemed to think I had anxiety from being a mom of two now and just needed to take the edge off.
After months of trying different medications, I found myself crying hysterically and telling my husband he would be better off with a different wife and the children with a different mother. At the time, I believed every word I was telling him. In reality, my brain was not functioning correctly, but I told myself I had anxiety my entire life and this too would pass. I have recently stepped away from my full-time role to ensure I am taking care of myself, mentally and emotionally. I need to be okay with healing myself and focusing on what’s happening inside of me. While I only recently began fighting depression, I have struggled with anxiety my entire life. It started in elementary school surrounding my weight.
I was always one of the larger children and it was made more apparent as a cheerleader. I vividly remember my first ‘diet.’ I was in fourth grade and basically starved myself. I would skimp on breakfast so my parents would see me eat, skip lunch at school, and only eat dinner so as to not worry my parents. That Christmas, I remember an aunt telling me I looked ‘so good’ now I had lost weight. I learned losing weight and getting compliments would lessen my anxiety. My anxiety progressed over my teenage years. I channeled it into field hockey and softball. I always ensured I had complete control over the guy I was dating Even in my delusional control I still had crippling panic attacks I didn’t share with my parents. My chest would tighten, I couldn’t breathe. I would curl down into a ball and rock myself back and forth for hours until it passed or I fell asleep.
In college, my anxiety had intensified so much I knew I needed to try medication. For the first time, I verbalized just how bad my panic attacks had gotten. I went to a doctor 30 minutes away to ensure I wouldn’t see somebody in the lobby I knew. The medication didn’t help at all; the only effect I experienced was weight gain, which, as imaginable, did not help my mental state. When I was younger, my entire family saw a therapist. When I was in college, I saw a number of different therapists. When I was pregnant with my son, I saw a therapist. Can you tell we are pro-therapy? After all these years of therapy, I could organize a way to my goals, I could perform to appear as perfect as possible. What I was unable to do was heal through pain and communicate my emotions.
In July of 2020, I started seeing my current therapist. When searching for a therapist in the past, I wanted a quick fix. Give me how to get through this and let’s keep it moving. What I needed was a therapist who was going to push me to excavate my pain. A therapist who wasn’t going to give me homework or an outline, but would help me realize my emotions are real and valid. I am grateful to have found this. Over the last year, my therapist has challenged me to dig into my past. I have been sexually assaulted twice, have had two miscarriages, struggled with infertility, and have suffered from anxiety since I was 11. I did not begin to heal from any of those moments until this last year. In 10 years with my husband, I had never shared with him the details of my assaults. I had never written down what had happened and I certainly had not worked to realize my assault was not my fault.
Positive mental health can often mean going back to the exact moment and reliving it, although you never wanted to again. Therapy has helped me open the scars and heal correctly. My story is not Alanna; it is not who makes me, me. My story is only that, a story. I have reflected on my past, at how my anxiety began so young, and how I thought it was normal to be anxious all the time. I have finally admitted to myself I have had depression and anxiety for nearly 20 years. I have struggled much longer than I have allowed others to see; my panic attacks were strong and my emotions intense. I kept my thoughts quiet, pushed down my emotions, and appeared as perfect as possible. The less human, the better.
I am here to tell you it does get better, but anxiety and depression do not go away. I have to find time for myself and actually do the things I know bring me peace. As I write this, my depression is worse than it has been in a long time. My anxiety has been firing at all cylinders. When I was younger, I would have suppressed my feelings and built a façade, attempting to show everyone I was okay. Now, thanks to therapy and constantly working on myself, I have learned to process my emotions and feelings every morning with a steaming cup of coffee.
I work through my depression by communicating to those closest to me I am currently not okay and asking them to pray for me. This way, they understand I am trying. These days, dealing with my anxiety looks like taking walks alone and determining when I need to take longer breaks to read and escape. I am no longer hiding the thoughts in my head. I am verbalizing everything so I do not feel shame, but rather I can begin to see the light. Even through the fog of my depression and anxiety now, I am fully aware I am worthy, I am enough, and I am valued. Let me remind you you too are worthy, you are enough, and you are valued.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Alanna Mizell. You can follow their journey on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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