Little Miss SunshineI have been thinking about this question a lot.

Especially since being diagnosed with moderate Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) in November 2013.

Me?

Mentally Ill?

Really?

Seriously?

Yes.

Though it has taken me awhile to get used to living with this label, I am not ashamed of it.

I have known and loved people with mental illness throughout my life.

From a young age I was taught to appreciate what alcoholism is and how those who have addictions, as well people with mental illness, are not defined by these conditions.

I have been writing about secondary infertility and loss and advocating for awareness here on my blog since it’s inception in April 2007.

Since I lost loved ones to suicide in 2011, I also began to write and share more here about suicide prevention and mental illness. I even created a resource page, which I continue to expand, as I learn more.

Now I am ready to take this next step and tell you about my personal experience, as someone with mental illness.

Are you surprised?

I was (sort of).

Do you think about me any differently now?

It’s okay (I am different now).

Do you have questions for me?

Go ahead and ask me.

Why did it take me this long to share about my diagnosis here?

I needed to process this on my own, with my family, close friends, therapist and PCP first.

As they say in 12 Step Programs, the first step is to admit we are powerless over ____________ and that our lives have become unmanageable.

To some extent, that is how I ended up being evaluated. I was feeling overwhelmed by my life and wasn’t quite sure what was wrong or how to change things for the better.

So I asked my therapist her opinion and she agreed it couldn’t hurt to get an evaluation.

At the time, I was learning about a loved one’s recent diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), so I could better support and care for them.

You know how they say medical students will often think they have the conditions they are learning about in school?

Well, it was kind of like that for me.

I started to question if I too had ADHD.

As it turned out, I don’t have ADHD, at least not clinically. Of course that doesn’t mean I don’t ever get distracted and have trouble staying focused on tasks.

We all do, right?!

When I got the results from my evaluation I was fascinated by my diagnosis.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (a.k.a. GAD)

Who me?

Hmmm…

I honestly didn’t know such a thing existed.

I knew about ADD, ADHD and Depression.

I knew about Bi-Polar Disorder/Manic Depression.

I knew you could be anxious or feel anxiety.

In fact, when I really thought about it, I was anxious and felt anxiety often.

However, it was totally off my radar that there was a category of mental illness related to feeling the way I did.

Now I knew.

So what to do with that information?

I discussed my diagnosis first with my therapist, who I had already been seeing monthly for almost two years to deal with some very specific things I was struggling with in my life. Ironically, at the time this came up we were actually preparing to transition me out of therapy, as we felt those issues had been addressed and I was now handling them well.

My therapist explained my options, which included behavioral therapy (likely continuing to meet with her regularly) and taking medication (likely an antidepressant).

Then I met with my awesome Primary Care Physician (PCP) who echoed my therapist’s sentiments and suggested I start with a low dose of Fluoxetine (a.k.a. Prozac).

Me?

Taking an antidepressant?

Isn’t that for people who are depressed?

I was irritable and grumpy a lot (my husband and kids could attest to that, especially when I was hungry and tired)…

But, depressed?

Hmmm….

Apparently, antidepressants can help people cope with things other than depression (which technically I already knew, since I had taken a very low dosage of one earlier that year to help with pain in my urethra, as part of my pelvic floor physical therapy).

It took me time, though not very long, to warm up to the idea that medication could help me and it would be okay for me to try it.

It didn’t make me a failure, a bad mom, a bad wife, or a bad person, just because I was considering taking medication to see if it could help me to feel better, more stable.

In fact, after years of trying to take care of my body through exercising regularly and trying to eat healthier, didn’t my mind and emotions deserve the same level of care and attention?

YES!!!

I already knew how much eating healthy, exercising consistently, getting enough sleep and practicing yoga and meditation, not to mention praying, helps me to cope with the day-to-day stress and challenges of life. However, I was ready to explore how medication might also be able to help me get a handle on things.

I was prepared for the Fluoxetine to take time to work its magic.

Three to four weeks, or more, I was told, before I might really notice a difference.

That proved to be true.

In the meantime, there were side effects, drowsiness, weird dreams, and night sweats, to name a few.

Would it all be worth it?

Was it really a “magic little pill?”

Yes.

In time, I was able to see a huge difference in my ability to cope with my life.

Not that my life was so hard that I couldn’t cope before, but I used to feel a sense of being in a funk or overwhelmed often before my diagnosis.

Sometimes those feelings would almost paralyze me.

So instead of doing the things on my “to do list,” I would sit on my couch or walk around my house, thinking about what I was “supposed to be doing,” making lists even, but not getting very much accomplished.

My magic little pills, which I take in the early evening every night, have become a Godsend for me and my loved ones.

They help me be more even keeled.

At first, I wasn’t sure what to think, as even keeled didn’t feel like me.

Not that I haven’t aspired to being more balanced for years, but it was weird to not have as many highs and lows as I used to.

I would be interacting with a friend or family member, who would say something that might have upset or offended me in the past, because I have a tendency to be oversensitive, and instead of saying to myself, “I can’t believe s/he said that… What a bitch!” I would think to myself, “Huh… How about that?!”

People that used to get on my nerves a lot suddenly were much more bearable to be around and interact with.

The OCD parts of my personality became less pronounced.

So if I was talking with someone in my family room and I noticed the blinds on the windows weren’t all hanging at the same exact level or the picture frames on the bookshelves weren’t exactly where “they belong,” I didn’t necessarily need to fix them as we chatted. Adjusting the blinds or picture frames could wait, at least until later, after our conversation, instead of in the middle of it.

There is likely a lot more I could share and so much more I have learned over the past six months and counting, since I have been adjusting to this new normal for me, as a person with a mental illness. And I may choose to write and share here more in the future.

But that seems to be enough for now.

Thank you for reading.

Thank you for not judging me.

Thank you for supporting me, as I choose to open the door to this part of my life and share it with you.

Thank you for your thoughts and prayers as I continue to learn to navigate my life, as a woman with moderate Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

Thank you for all the ways you support and care for your loved ones, especially those who have mental illnesses (whether you or they know it or not).

If you also are living with mental illness (whether diagnosed or not), please know that my heart, thoughts and prayers go out to you as well.

We are in this together.

One day.

One hour.

One step at a time.

What does mental illness mean to you?

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Brian B Baker May 13, 2014 at 10:14 pm

Hello Kathy,
Up until the last few months I’d been in a sever depression, which started in September when my grandfather passed away.
My wife and family had no idea what I was going through, though my wife knows what to look for now and had been keeping an eye on me.
In the last couple months my depression went away, not because I was taking anything, but because I was using Transcendental Meditation. It was something I’d wanted to try for a while and now that I have, I’ve never been better.
I feel like the person I was before my parents divorced when I was eight.
I’m going to get my wife doing it, she’s bipolar, as well as my son, who is ADHD.
It’s been such a blessing to find something which centers me in a way that no drug, legal or otherwise, could.
Please check it out.
Bri

Reply

April May 13, 2014 at 10:28 pm

Kathy, thank you so much for sharing this with us. Isn’t it amazing the number of things you didn’t notice enough to even think of changing that have changed? I am very glad to hear that you are handling this diagnosis and medication so well. Not that I would expect anything else from someone as inspiring as you!

Mental illness has been a fact of life for me since adolescence. The biggest challenge has always been people who have no personal experience with it, who honestly don’t understand why ‘just don’t be sad’ isn’t an option.
April recently posted..Today’s AdventureMy Profile

Reply

Kelley May 13, 2014 at 10:49 pm

Wonderful post. Compelling and real. We have a lot in common!
Kelley recently posted..Grey and Yellow Art {download}My Profile

Reply

Justine May 13, 2014 at 10:56 pm

Yay for you, Kathy!!! Dealing with GAD isn’t easy and deserves JUST as much support and help as anyone who has any OTHER kind of physical problem!!! I, too, have found meditation invaluable and other strategies, and especially letting go and trusting more. Lots of ❤️ to you!

Reply

Cristi Comes May 13, 2014 at 11:49 pm

I’m so glad you’re managing well! Wonderful that you’ve been able to get the help you needed. I’m proud of you!
Cristi Comes recently posted..Shop Amazon via Twitter #AmazonCart #shop #cbiasMy Profile

Reply

celeste May 13, 2014 at 11:52 pm

Anxiety is no joke, that’s for sure! I get the constant feeling that I’m forgetting something, and I spend a lot of time obsessing over what I’m forgetting. Which, I mean, I do forget things and all, but usually it’s not that I’ve actually forgotten something. I’m “just” anxious.

I’m so glad that you got evaluated and are getting some help. It sounds like you’re doing well with the medication, so hooray! I hope this is just the beginning of a whole lot of good. :)
celeste recently posted..Wedding JittersMy Profile

Reply

Esperanza May 14, 2014 at 12:30 am

Thank you for sharing this. It’s important for these stories to be out there.

You know it’s interesting. I’ve been diagnosed with (and medicated for) clinical depression more times than I can count. I’ve been diagnosed with (and medicated for prenatal anxiety disorder. I’ve been diagnosed with (and medicated for) BiPolar II. And I’ve been diagnosed with (and am currently taking medication for) ADHD and I’ve never once though of myself as mentally ill. But I suppose I am just that. I’m going to have to sit with that for a while and see how I feel about it. Because while I have come to terms with the fact that I need to take some kind of medication for my brain to function properly I’ve never labeled myself as mentally ill (not sure how I didn’t make that connection). A very interesting proposition indeed.

I’m sorry you are dealing with this but I’m glad you have found tools to help you cope. GAD is a real and serious condition and it needs to be treated as such. I’m so glad you’re doing that. And that you’re not afraid, or ashamed, to talk about it.
Esperanza recently posted..A Day in the LifeMy Profile

Reply

Jenna May 14, 2014 at 6:38 am

I also have GAD. I was off medication for years, in a good place, until I needed to go back on it earlier this year. I also just found a therapist who isn’t a moron, so I’m hoping to continue moving forward in my journey.

Welcome to the GAD club. We’re pretty awesome.
Jenna recently posted..Happy Birthday, YouMy Profile

Reply

Jen May 14, 2014 at 9:44 am

Kathy, I still struggle with GAD as well. Once I recovered from PPD and PPA, I realized that I was back to my “normal” range of anxiety. It has definitely helped interact with everyone better.
Jen recently posted..My Writing ProcessMy Profile

Reply

Justine May 14, 2014 at 9:57 am

I think I mentioned that was my diagnosis once I got through the severe depression and anxiety from last year. I’m not in therapy or taking medication now, but it’s helpful to know, at the very least, that I have this tendency, so I can recognize it when things become less manageable. And now I know how to ask for help. Thanks for sharing your journey here, and allowing other people to feel less alone in theirs!
Justine recently posted..Out of the Box: Chinese Lettuce WrapsMy Profile

Reply

Lori Lavender Luz May 14, 2014 at 1:15 pm

Thank you for this, Kathy. When I was going through IF, I was all alone and ashamed, thinking I was the only one.

Posts like this go so far for healing for so many.

I’m glad you’re taking care of yourself!

Love to you.
Lori Lavender Luz recently posted..BlogHer 2014: Four Reasons to Get Your Ticket (If You Haven’t Already)My Profile

Reply

Alyssa May 14, 2014 at 9:40 pm

Great post! I too have GAD (and mainly emetaphobia – fear of vomiting). I have been seeing a therapist for just over a year. It’s funny, hardly anyone knows. I think the thing with GAD and other mental health issues is that we can hide it pretty well and don’t talk about it. If we talked about it more, we wouldn’t feel so alone and we could find the help we need sooner. Like Jenna mentioned, there are some moron therapists out there. If we could only feel comfortable talking about therapist recommendations as we do hari stylist or dentist recommendations, we could get the help we need sooner. (P.S. My therapist’s required reading is “The Worry Cure” by Robert Leahy.)
Alyssa recently posted..Chive BreathMy Profile

Reply

Mrs T (missohkay) May 15, 2014 at 11:28 am

Thank you for posting this. I haven’t written about it either, but I also started taking medication for anxiety in November. I’ve known for a long time that I had anxiety, but last fall with the “normal” anxiety plus the anxiety of selling our condo and moving across the country, I just couldn’t take it anymore. (And now I’ve run out of meds and have to face finding a PCP in my new city and announcing that he/she needs to give me meds stat, which is as daunting to talk about with a doctor as it was the first time I had to do it!) I’m glad you’re finding some relief and are feeling up to sharing about it!
Mrs T (missohkay) recently posted..IndependenceMy Profile

Reply

Joy May 15, 2014 at 2:05 pm

I’m so glad you’re getting the help you need and coping. I had a sister-in-law with bipolar and schizophrenia. It is pretty bad. She is no longer my sister-in-law for reasons I won’t get into but the main reason being that she refused to get help and the environment she created was abusive, unstable and unhealthy. Unfortunately so many people with mental illnesses fall through the cracks because they are supposed to reach out for help themselves and with many of the diseases, like schizophrenia, their reality isn’t reality and they don’t realize they need help. Her husband, her parents… NO ONE could get her the help she needed because laws protect people from being committed against their will and she refused to admit there’s a problem. It’s just really scary. All that is to say that I’m glad you’re doing what you need to do in order to maintain your relationships, keep your family together and most of all to be healthy and happy!
Joy recently posted..All FiveMy Profile

Reply

It Is What It Is May 19, 2014 at 12:18 pm

Brave and courageous post, dear friend.
It Is What It Is recently posted..We’re MeltingMy Profile

Reply

Persnickety May 23, 2014 at 8:16 am

Mental illness to me? Well I didn’t see much growing up ( not sure if this was fortunate or it was just hidden) but I had a hair pulling anxiety disorder in university ( which only disappeared when I moved to Japan about 3 years after finishing uni). And I have periodic depressive events. But I feel very fortunate in that I have always had access to therapy when I needed it ( although I did not take advantage of it as much as I should).

On the flip side, my husbands family is full of mistreated mental illness, and I find that very stressful.

Thank you for talking about the medication side of things. I have always been concerned about this, and havent as yet, it is good to hear a positive story about it.

Reply

loribeth May 24, 2014 at 7:19 pm

Thanks for writing about this, Kathy. I’m so glad you got the help you needed. My dh has struggled with anxiety & depression for years but has resisted getting help. :( I’ve had my own anxiety issues on & off over the years. It flared up badly (understandably) in the aftermath of stillbirth & infertility. It wasn’t until then, after confessing what I was going through to my mother, that I realized how extensively it runs in my family. Since then, I’m much better at recognizing when I’m sliding a funk, and some of the things I can do to help myself feel better. (((hugs)))
loribeth recently posted..Playing the Mom CardMy Profile

Reply

anexpatinuk June 30, 2014 at 3:22 am

I’m so sorry that you have to deal with this. It’s a brave thing to write about and I’m glad you got the help that you need to feel better in daily life.

I have never seeked out any help but to be honest I have struggled a lot with anxiety over the years while going through IF and loss.

Reply

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge

Previous post:

Next post: