I always see these articles about anxiety and depression that list some of the things that people who have one or both of them wish others knew. All of the common signs and symptoms are listed there but I have found that one thing that is rarely talked about is the fact that medication and/or therapy do not end all of your symptoms and cure your mental illness. Medications and/or counseling and therapy are there to help you manage the symptoms of the illness.
Any of us that have these conditions have probably had someone more than once ask us if we forgot to take our medications. Maybe they ask seriously or maybe they even make a bit of a joke out of it. People are uneducated or maybe they don’t care to think about it. They say things like that and maybe they really do think it. We wish they wouldn’t because when we are in that moment of an anxiety attack or dealing with a depressive episode we don’t want to hear anything that even resembles criticism or judgment.
A few weeks ago I was in a war with my teenager because he really does not like to be told no. He follows me around and argues with me. Sometimes he leaves the room but always comes back. Sometimes he even changes the argument to a new topic to keep it all going. He has his own issues. I was trying to continue on with what I was doing. I kept folding the laundry and walking around the house picking things up just as I had planned. After this had gone on for a very long time I finally began to lose myself a little. I wanted to just sit down and work and let him go cool off and he continued coming in my office. I had my moment of “losing my shit” after so long. He began telling me how I was so much nicer and better when I took my medications. I then pointed to my two medications I take for my mental illnesses and the other I take for something else and explained to him that I take them daily and that is how I stay as regulated as I do. He then begins to mention the other pill I take sometimes when I have an anxiety attack or am about to have one. I explain to him that my reactions have nothing to do with taking a medication. They help manage it but that is it.
One night I was trying to hurry (because my anxiety was telling me I had to do all these things) and take out the trash so we could go out and get our Pokemon stops because we do that as a family. I realized my sock style house shoes had gotten wet when I went out on the porch to dump the trash. I began taking them off while I was still near the door not realizing my hand was very close to the door and my pinkie ended up stuck in the door as it shut on its own. I began to scream because it hurt so bad and also because I had looked back and saw it happening and it did not look good. I managed to get it out of the door and was still screaming loudly with my husband having no clue what I had done and I could not get the words out to tell him. I tried getting in the bathroom to get a band-aid because I was also dripping blood and my stepson was in there so I quickly ran back in the living room. My husband got me some ice wrapped in a paper towel but my finger was just throbbing. I could not speak and I could not catch my breath. In the middle of all of this going on I had went into an anxiety or panic attack. I screamed repeatedly and breathed hard and fast. It is a scary feeling to not be able to control yourself or your breathing. My husband could not find my anxiety pill I take for these kinds of moments so I continued while trying desperately to control my own breathing without it. In these moments I almost feel like I am dying because the feeling can be that scary and it is not at all fun to lose control of yourself and your reactions. I finally took the pill and eventually calmed myself down and had a band-aid on it.
A few weeks ago while in a heated moment with my son over the phone where he had not been listening to anything anyone had said to him. I was trying to talk him out of making a huge mistake. I finally began to scream repeatedly. This is not something I normally do when I have an anxiety attack but this night I did. It just felt like I had to get it all out and I really did not have control over it. It was embarrassing to think about after it happened. I later used Google to look and see if that was a normal response to anxiety and it was in fact a definite normal response some people have. I think I have probably done it on a way smaller level but never like that. I also ended up vomiting which is also something I have never done with one of my anxiety attacks, but apparently is also common.
I could tell a million more stories like these and some would be way less than these. Sometimes it may just be me sitting in my car not wanting to go inside a store because I know there will be so many people which can also trigger my anxiety. Sometimes it can be me just having trouble breathing a little heavier than normal. Some people either in my life now or in the past have called me dramatic. I have even been told to stop doing it as if I had purposely chosen to be short of breath and lose control of myself. There is no on or off switch for anxiety or depression. My depression has many symptoms. I get a lack of motivation a lot. I get decreased energy often. It does not always mean that I am crying but sometimes I do for seemingly no reason at all or maybe it is because I just finally had the time to think about things and let it all out. My mind sometimes will not stop thinking it seems and things run over and over in my head like a broken record. Some mornings are a definite struggle getting out of bed because of it. There are so many symptoms I cannot name them all.
I take my medications every day. One of them I have had increased several times and I am now on the top dosage after going through various hard times over the last few years. Major life events definitely trigger my mental illnesses. I recently had the second medication added because I have a lot of stressful situations going on in my life and also some medications can lose their efficacy after so many years. My third one I really only take when I have to. I don’t take it when I just have the little bit of trouble breathing because not every time but sometimes it can make me sleepy and sleeping is not always an option. I definitely try not to use it as a “crutch”. Here is where we get to the part where people don’t understand when they say things about me or others and ask if we have not taken our medication is that it is not or they are not miracle drugs. Taking medication and even therapy does not mean you are cured and will never have symptoms. Medications are there to help keep you regulated to a more normal level. Therapy is there to help you cope better and work through things. Even those who do not have anxiety and depression are still going to have times they get anxious or depressed. Medications help us to be more like those people on that normal mood level. I always think of the cartoon picture that floats around sometimes with Foghorn Leghorn that says something about how you have exceeded the limitations of my medication. Well that could not be more true. Sometimes people and situations exceed our medication. They produce an anxiety attack or a depressive episode. We are not being dramatic. We are having a genuine issue that exceeded what our medication helps us with. Everyone has their limit. I just ask you to be mindful of this if you have someone in your life that suffers from these issues or any mental health issue. Mental health issues are just as hard to deal with as any other physical medical issue and many times harder due to the fact these illnesses are unseen. Unfortunately, so much stigma surrounds mental illness. To those of us with a mental illness what we experience even on medications and with therapy is very real and we just need your support.
*****If someone you know is in emotional distress or suicidal crisis please call the suicide prevention hotline.