“For as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled with anxiety. It was a part of me, like how some people are quiet, and how some people have a knack for drawing. It felt embedded. For the most part, I ‘pretended’ it away. I put on a big smile. I played the ‘socializing game’ well, even though it felt like I was crossing a busy street with my eyes closed. I was afraid to leave my house without my husband, though I desperately wanted to, and tried. I would spend 75% of a week in bed, then get up and go out to dinner like my heart wasn’t sloshing around in my chest, struggling to find understanding and joy in my day to day life.
My husband has always been supportive, and would try to understand. ‘I know this is hard for you,’ he would say. ‘Can you tell yourself that you’re safe? That nothing bad is going to happen?’ ‘No,’ I would respond. If you’ve always felt in your very core that fire is dangerous, would you believe someone who told you you’re perfectly safe to run into a burning building, and hang out? It doesn’t work that way. Our bodies take cues from our ‘gut’ all day long, and we don’t even notice it. My gut, with all its twists and turns and intensity, told me the world wasn’t safe. It wasn’t happy. Few people were to be trusted with my sorrow. So I cut myself off from almost all but my husband, and I inadvertently consummated my path to depression.
The path started to pick up in speed when I became a stay at home mom with postpartum depression. I sought treatment, but found out afterward I was treated only for anxiety. I struggled through an entire year, my first year as a mother, with thoughts of my incompetence, my inescapable misery, the dangers of the world, and how much better off my daughter would be with a different mom. The depression ebbed and flowed over the course of two more children, changes in location, and changes in the size of my ‘village.’ I mostly managed to keep my head above water. I used the world around me like Novocain, numbing myself locally with motherhood and helping other people, as well as dabbling with what little creativity I could muster to feel spurts of joy.
Months ago, my husband and I decided it was time for a change. I was a stay at home mom with a 2-year-old and a newborn all day, and a kindergartener to cart back and forth to school. My husband worked from home, and I was overwhelmed with the monotony and inevitability of facing fellow parents of school-aged kids 5 days out of the week, morning and afternoon, to drop off and pick up my daughter. We decided to bring our life and our family on the road. We let go of our minivan, our car, our house, and gained a 5th wheel RV and the truck to haul it. We were ready for an adventure.
About a month in to our travels it hit me. I wanted to experience America, to take my kids outside and see the landmarks of new places, the new people, the beauty of change. But I was stuck. My crippling anxiety and depression were a big enough problem that I couldn’t numb myself to them anymore. I needed help, and I didn’t know how to get it. I figured out that I could receive psychiatric care on my phone via a video conference with a doctor. I remember putting all of the energy I could muster in to setting up and following through with that appointment, only to find that the small town I was visiting was out of the medication I was prescribed. I was crushed. My efforts had been futile. It was the lowest I had felt in years. That same day I walked around the grocery store with my family trying to pretend that everything was ok, but I just couldn’t pretend anymore. I was depressed, suicidal and bawling my eyes out. The constant ache that had been the manifestation of my depression for so long was now a piercing, acute pain. The constant ache that had been the manifestation of my depression for so long was now a piercing, acute pain. The failure was my breaking point –the point where I was sure that if the rest of my life was going to feel like this, it wasn’t a life I wanted to partake in.
At the same time, across the country, a woman much like myself, with a husband and three kids, an artistic soul, and a yearning for travel, reached out to a Facebook group I’m in with four simple, caring, life changing words: ‘Are you ok tonight?’
There were nearly 900 replies to that post, nearly all women, as that was the bulk of the group. Some happy, some ‘fine,’ some struggling, and there were also people like me. With soul crushing pain in their hearts. I reached out as a bit of a last-ditch effort, right there in the grocery store, tears running down my face. I asked for stories of recovery from depression, of survival. Of life. And I got them. I had so many incredible women reach out to me and tell me ‘this isn’t a forever feeling.’ I’m so freaking grateful to you. The answers varied from, ‘Go grab your favorite candy and park the cart! Eat it and take a minute to breathe,’ to ‘Find your heartbeat. That is real, and it’s yours, and it’s worth keeping it beating.’ Suddenly I felt less alone. There were people praying for me, people willing me through this moment. Empowering me to treat myself as I would treat anyone else. Like a human being worth love, time, and tenderness. I made it through that day, got some sleep, and metaphorically picked myself up, brushed myself off, and tried again.
I found a supplement that helped me get by until I could get my antidepressant prescription filled. I started crying less, taking care of myself more, bonding with my kids again, doing my makeup more just for me, finding my kindness, my love, my ferocity. I took my kids outside, and was able to enjoy myself while out and about again. I allowed myself to reach out to friends and family that I had largely cut myself off from, and I let myself make mistakes without reprimand. I’m not a perfect human, wife, or mom, but I am doing my best, and I’m silencing the still small voice that tells me that’s not enough.
When it comes down to it, those women saved me. The woman who made the initial post, she saved me. Thank you for reminding me we are fiercely protective, caring, badass humans. It takes so very little energy to care for people, and I think that’s an easy thing to forget from behind a screen. It’s easy to fall for the trolls, or to criticize and shame. But when we flip the switch and act with kindness, amazing things happen. We bond. We come together. We save lives.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Jessica Martin. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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