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Mental illness does not define me

Guest Author: Kelly

This content contains explicit and sensitive information that may not be suitable for all ages.

“It’s my fault” is what I say to myself. 

My oldest son, almost nine, was diagnosed with two types of anxiety disorders two years ago.  He either inherited it from me, or it happened because of the way I parented him. Either way I feel I am to blame, whether this is accurate or not.  Then on the flip side, I feel proud that we noticed the signs and symptoms in him from an early age and pushed for him to be checked out.

I feel that he is going to be okay, that we are setting him up to manage and succeed in spite of whatever might be thrown at him.

I always knew something was wrong.

Then I feel mad again, why didn’t anyone notice it in me when I was a child? It was a different time though; mental health wasn’t really discussed and certainly not in relation to children. Children were happy, they didn’t have problems, right? I wasn’t formally diagnosed with depression until a hospital stay in my late teens. I always knew something was wrong, that I wasn’t feeling the way I was supposed to. But it’s how I had always felt, so I lived with it for so long, until I felt that I had no choice but to speak up. 

I didn’t want to die, I didn’t want to kill myself, but that’s the direction I felt I was heading in because I was suffering so much.

My world was dark, all the time.

My world was dark, all the time. I was plagued by anxiety (but didn’t know that’s what it was) which manifested into obsessive compulsive behaviors, self-harm and issues related to food and eating. I felt myself slipping away.

One Monday morning I wrote my mom a note and left it in her room to read when she woke. I told her in that letter that I needed help, that something was wrong with me and I didn’t go to school that day. She came to my room, we talked, she called our family doctor and then brought me to the emergency department where I was assessed. They cleared me to go home but I knew that I couldn’t, that I needed to stay and get help. My mom refused to take me, she told them I had to stay, that I needed to be there. I was there for close to a month, working on my mental health, like a full-on crash-course in how to take care of my mental well-being.

My doctors tried different medications until we found something that worked. The depression slowly faded, as did the anxiety and other behaviors.

Another part of me felt shame.

Despite my time in the hospital, I didn’t, at any point, ever talk to them about anything other than the depression. I didn’t mention the other things — the OCD behaviors, the eating issues or the anxiety. Part of the reason is because they honestly didn’t stick out to me as something to talk about because they were ingrained in me, they were a part of me, so I didn’t recognize they were problems. Another part of me felt shame. I was in a place where I was getting help, surrounded by experts and other people also getting help and I still felt shame for it.

In the hospital, I learned how to take care of myself and what things to be on the lookout for, so that I could continue to be healthy.

Since that time, I have remained on medication and have had to see various therapists from time to time depending on what is going on in my life. It’s only been in the past two years, watching what my son is going through, that I have realized that along with the depression, the anxiety has always been there. It’s like I’m looking in a mirror sometimes. It has been a shock to me.

I always thought I had a good understanding of myself, that I was very self-aware, but to realize that I was dealing with something my entire life, that wasn’t “normal” and that I didn’t have to feel and face alone, has shaken me. It has also led me to seek help, to try and get a hold of my anxiety, to be as well as I can for not only myself but for my children and my husband. My psychiatrist has diagnosed me with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and we are fooling around with medication and CBT to try and get it in check.

Some days are good, and some are bad, but I keep fighting because I will never give up. I will never let depression and anxiety rule my world because I am so much more than those two things.  

Just as anxiety doesn’t define my son, anxiety and depression do not define me. Together we will learn, fight, grow and thrive.

Comments

Sue
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Thanks for sharing so honestly Kelly! I’ve had an anxiety disorder for much of my adult life, and feel guilt that I may have “passed it on” too. It’s so important for us to share and help erase the stigma so others can as well. The burden is too heavy to bear alone!

Sue Ward 😊

Eliloo
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I admired you before – after all, I have seen you handle your 3 beautiful kids expertly – and after reading this, there is no question in my mind, you truly are a force of nature!!! Hanks for the honesty, always

LA.. Baker(Ditzel now)
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Kelly! I loved you so much through our college days in the photography program! We were so tight yet I know I didn’t know what you were going through. I cherish our all night stays in the studio….I wish I was more intuitive then. You were always to me my guiding light…( which sound so cliche right now I know) the one with so much energy and enthusiasm. I knew it wasn’t always the true you, I just didn’t know. I think you are an amazing woman! You are an amazing mother to those 3 beautiful boys! You’re article is so great and can help she’s light to those feeling the same way!

DAD
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Thanks Kelly, I always thought that I knew who I was down to my soul until depression and anxiety hit. I was very confused and upset by what had happened but since the stigma and shame have lessened over the years because of people like yourself and others, I sought help right away . I feel much better now but I can still feel it’s ugly head just under the surface. They are still adjusting my meds but I have so much else wrong it’s hard to know what is doing what. I love you very deeply and wish for absolutely nothing but the very best for you . LOVE ALWAYS DAD xoxo

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