It crept up on me to begin with. Gradually making it’s way in my head. That voice that spoke, ever so softly at first, hinting that I wasn’t good enough. After a particularly gruelling night of broken sleep it got louder and settled in to engage in proper internal thoughts:
“You’re not a writer. Your friends are writers and they are incredible. You’re a fraud. You should stop saying you’re a writer when people ask you what you do. You’re unemployed; that’s what you do.”
“Look at your kid. She is a menace. Crying for no reason, throwing an almighty tantrum. All the other kids are so well behaved. That’s because they have good mums. You have failed as a mum.”
Eventually that voice gained traction and took over as the main antagonist in my head. It controlled everything. It wasn’t just making occasional observations; it began picking apart every aspect of my life and pointing out my failings.
Even down to the simplest of things. Trivial things like what clothes I was wearing and how I must look to other people. That was actually the point I knew something was wrong. When I started to care what others thought of my appearance. I have always been the kind of girl who would proudly tell you I picked up a dress for $8 at the supermarket. There I was concerned about my fashion choices.
That stupid voice was relentless. After I caught up with a friend for coffee it would tell me my clothes were crap, my kids weren’t well behaved, I shouldn’t have spent money on a coffee, the person I just caught up with thought I was annoying, that I really had no excuse for not having a full-time job yet and on and on it went.
Shit got real bad when I sat outside my local café in my car, building myself up to go inside. I was anxious about who might be there, what mood they were in, what they might say, how my kid was going to behave and a whole bunch of other shit. I started breathing erratically and became so freaked out I drove home. I stayed home for the rest of the week. It was easier that way. If I didn’t go out, I was less likely to make mistakes that I could relive in my head.
Still, I had to keep up appearances. I couldn’t let on that something was amiss. I made excuse after excuse to friends as to why I couldn’t catch up with them. I tried reading and writing but my brain was broken. All I could do was binge watch TV shows to escape my reality.
When my kids had a check-up at the health clinic the nurse asked me how I was doing and I finally broke. I was a mess. It was the first time someone had asked me if I was OK. She set up a meeting with the clinic psychologist. I was terrified of seeing her and so apprehensive.
The psychologist was lovely. She was understanding and she completely validated everything that was happening to me. She explained that I had anxiety. Well, depression and anxiety. I had been diagnosed with clinical depression when I was 19. It had been bad in the past but I had managed it really well for quite some time. I had never been diagnosed with anxiety. I didn’t know a lot about it at all. I knew a couple of friends had anxiety but I never understood what it was.
Anxiety affects everyone differently and treatment for everyone is different. I have been seeing my psychologist every week and I started medication for the first time in a very long time. I have changed my diet and upped my exercise. I’ve been taking each day as it comes, celebrating my wins and slowly starting to be kind to myself again. It has been a long process and sometimes I’ve stumbled. There have been days when it is hard to go out, hard to care, hard to find joy in anything. But there have been good days again.
This is the first time I have written anything in months, which I am celebrating as a huge win.
I am sharing this in a hope to normalise mental illness. Never have I been so frank about the inner workings of my mind, most certainly not in such a public forum. I am sharing this with the hope of helping other mums, parents, friends, anyone at all who is trying to make sense of how they feel – why things can sometimes be a bit harder. We are so very fortunate to live in a country that offers so many free health services. Look after yourself and your loved ones. If you or someone you know is having a hard time, check out the links below to find someone that can help you.
If you are struggling with feelings of anxiety or depression please take the first step towards recovery today. We have a list of national depression and anxiety helplines that offer support and advice. Head to our directory for details of the national depression and anxiety helplines and those in your own state.