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I Didn't Know I Had Anxiety

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It turns out that I’ve had anxiety for a while now. I’m controlling and extremely type A which I suppose made me the ideal candidate for adopting a sibling group of five out of foster care. I’ve always known I was controlling. I’ve always known I was type A. These were simply annoying character traits (especially to my husband) until we adopted our children.

At first, everything was great. I was able to take care of five kids while working full time and still keeping the house somewhat in order. For six months to a year, I really thought this parenting thing would get easier eventually. And then, the honeymoon period ended.

Adopted children come with their own challenges. They truly are typical children but they carry extra baggage that we cannot see on the outside. We began to notice attachment issues, parentification, extreme anxiety disorders, impulsiveness, hoarding, fears, and deceit in a degree much higher than “typical” children. We spent time with a counselor who helped us tremendously by teaching us how to walk with our children through these issues but I never allowed myself to admit that I needed help too.

You see, I know anxiety disorder is a powerful and devastating mental disorder. I believe that people with anxiety and other mental diseases should never be ashamed to seek help and that they should never feel judged or less than others because of it. I just never thought my anxiety was bad enough to be considered a “disorder”. I honestly thought that I was doing something wrong and that I should be able to control myself and my anxiety without the help of medication.

Because of my controlling nature my anxiety manifests itself as anger. I have no patience for nonsense. Let’s face it, childhood is a bunch of nonsense! That’s how we learn. But, my kids’ nonsense was not endearing to me. It usually set me off like a bomb.

I tried yoga. I tried working a few long days a week so that I could have an hour of quiet one day a week. I got up super early to read my Bible, and stayed up late reading help books. I prayed. I exercised. Nothing seemed to help.

To put it simply, I hated myself. I hated the parent I had become. The mom that I saw myself becoming was not who I wanted to be. I love hearing my friends talk about their moms and how they never remember them raising their voice. I honestly don’t remember my mom losing her cool either. That’s the mom I wanted to be. I was so far from her.

I had my first panic attack shortly after we lost Milo, my beloved dog of 12 years. He had been my comforter and therapy during my times of self-loathing. My husband and I were on a long overdue date, sitting in the car after just returning from a quick trip to the store. It was horrible and scary for both of us. But, I still didn’t want to admit I needed help.

After my second panic attack my husband said, “I think you need to talk to your doctor about this.” And I agreed.

The simple act of speaking my concerns to the doctor and attaching the word “anxiety” to them was like a weight lifted from my heart. My doctor listened to my concerns and respected my fear of medication. I feel like she read between the lines as I spoke and heard my true heart’s desire: I just want to be a good mom.

Medication is a tool and we all respond differently to the different types of treatment for anxiety. I learned that day that anxiety and depression are very different disorders that are actually sometimes treated using the same medication. I had currently been taking a very low dose of an anti-depressant at night to control night sweats after my hysterectomy in 2015 and her suggestion was to bump that medication up slightly to see if it would “take the edge” off my anxiety. She also suggested that I speak with the clinic’s behavioral health specialist for other “tools” to help in the heat of the moment.

Yes, I was afraid of medication. I was afraid it would harm my body, that it would change my personality, and that it would become addicting. All of these fears are legitimate but I laid them aside to become a better mom, wife, and person.

I noticed an almost immediate difference in my self. I no longer lose my temper at every inconvenience or disruption. I am able to remove myself when I feel I am getting heated before I blow. That ability alone is invaluable to me. I have regained self control.

I’m giving more grace to my kids. Removing myself when I am frustrated has given me the eyes to see my kids for who they really are, struggles and all. I am able to love them where they are and I’m able to parent them with kindness and love. I’m also able to give myself grace when I make mistakes that used to leave me debilitated.

As I sit here at the end of week 3 of our COVID-19 social distancing and mandated stay home order I cannot be more thankful I swallowed my fear and my pride and asked for help. Quarantine at home with five kids, homeschooling, and working from home is hard. My prayer daily is that these weeks and months will be full of fond memories and that we would grow closer as a family. None of this would be possible if I wasn’t taking medication for my anxiety.

My journey is far from over. I did have a panic attack in church shortly after beginning to take medication. But with the support of my husband and doctors, I am able to see the panic for what it is and continue moving forward. Just this week, I was able to follow up with the clinic’s behavioral health specialist via telemedicine and we talked through some current struggles. My brain runs rampant at the end of the day and he was able to encourage me and give me some ideas to help. Both he and my doctor have reached out to tell me to contact them if I need to. I do not feel ashamed, I feel supported.

I didn’t think my anxiety was bad enough to seek help and I was wrong. If you find yourself angry often, struggling with self control, and hating who you have become, talk to someone. Encouragement from others is vital to getting through life and sometimes they have perspective we need to hear. There is no shame in medication (or in fearing medication). Just talk to someone. You won’t regret it.

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