a monthly Mental Health feature
by Maddie M. White
Didn't Let This Take You
What mental illness do you suffer from?
General Anxiety Disorder and Clinical Depression
When was the first time you noticed it and how?
I started having anxiety attacks in the later part of high school. My parents noticed that I had bouts of depression that I couldn’t shake. So I was officially diagnosed my freshman year of college with GAD and Clinical Depression.
How does it affect your life as a while?
It limited my ability to live. I would become withdrawn, had no friends, and lived a life of a recluse, because I was so scared of people knowing I suffered from these diseases.
I would have anxiety attacks hit me while in class during my college years, which led to me stop attending classes for fear of that happening.
How does it affect your day-to-day?
It has the ability to put a stop on my day before it even starts. I will find that it limits my ability to even parent my son, or be intimate with my husband. I have days when my anxiety is so bad, I would be scared to even leave the house.
I get horrible tension headaches and because of my blood pressure going up and down, I get light headed and feel physically drained and fatigued when it’s at its worse.
What have you learned about it?
This is a disease that needs to be treated as just that- a disease. It isn’t “mood swings” or “emotions” as some ignorant people say. This is something that is taboo and stigmatized and it frustrates me that we’re not talking as openly about it. I’ve learned about how to identify triggers and helpful ways to cope when an attack occurs.
What has is taught you about yourself?
That I at times allow my disorders to determine how I move about in life. I for a decade, allowed these disorders to shorten my life and what I thought wasn’t worth living. I allowed it to let me live in a false sense of shame and embarrassment. I have learned the power in saying “I’m not ok”. That it’s ok to seek help, admit the battles being faced, and the importance of finding the right treatment for yourself.
Have you found anything helpful in coping with it?
Writing, reading, baking, and staying active. I am someone that loves to be creative and find that for myself, finding ways to use my talents are a way that helps me to focus on what’s in front of me, instead of letting my racing thoughts over take my mind. I also found meditating helps a lot. I have cherished finding time to just sit and breathe in, and breathe out the things that are plaguing me.
Describe a time in which you felt empowered after doing something in spite of the disorder.
The day I had my website go “live” for the 1st time. I can remember this past July, the day I launched it, seeing my dad cry as he read my 1st blog post. He said, “Shan, you didn’t let this take you." I knew what he meant in that moment.
I had attempted suicide years prior, and contemplated it again earlier this year. I decided to follow my passions and find a way to not only create authentic works, but also be a voice for those who are battling what I am also fighting.