a bi-monthly feature run by
Maddie M. White
She Needs You
What mental illness do you suffer from?
I suffer from depression and anxiety
When was the first time you noticed it and how?
The first time I noticed it was after I had my daughter. I was so sad all the time I just wanted to cry. I felt like I wasn't bonding with her at all. Some days it was all I could do to just take care of her. After 6 months of extreme suffering, I sought help because I not only thought of self-harm I actually thought about suicide.
Looking back, I now see I have had anxiety all of my life. When I was little I was so anxious about going on field trips that I usually didn’t go because I was afraid that I would be alone. I had friends in my class but I didn’t feel really close to them. Thankfully that feeling changed a little in middle school. I found a few good friends, we weren’t part of a “group” but I could be myself around them. However, my anxiety continued into high school; I felt like I didn’t fit in, I felt like people were talking about me or didn’t like me, I was so nervous about going to social settings or games because I didn’t want to be alone or look stupid doing something, literally anything. I felt like if I engaged in a conversation I was trying too hard. No matter what it was a lose-lose. In college my anxiety prevented me from fully engaging with my sorority, going outside of my comfort zone, and really finding myself. I really regret that.
How does it affect your life as a whole?
Anxiety affects my life as a whole because I don’t do things that I actually want to do because I’m scared, but I don’t know of what. I also have very low self-confidence. Depression still keeps me tired 90% of the time, however, I don’t think my depression affects my life as a whole as much since I have found the right medication to control it. Before though (during my pregnancy and for months after my daughter’s birth), I wasn’t going outside, I wasn’t keeping in touch with anyone, I was a recluse. I guess during the time I really suffered with depression I didn’t have a life.
How does it affect your day-to-day?
I never know what each day will hold. Sometimes I wake up in a good mood and I stay in a good mood all day. Some days I wake up in a good mood and the smallest inconvenience will change it. Other days I wake up in a bad mood and stay in a bad mood the whole day. My depression really shows itself as anger and sadness, anger more so than sadness. When I am having a bad day, I am mad at everyone, even myself. Some days I am neither in a good mood or a bad mood but I don’t want to get out of bed. I feel exhausted most of the time, even though I shouldn’t.
My illnesses also affect my work, I doubt myself, way more than I should. I am an attorney and I wonder if I am smart enough or competent enough to do my job. I find it hard to go into work somedays because I’m worried about if my co-workers like me. I worry about judges or other attorneys judging me. Most importantly, every day it affects my relationship with my daughter. I feel like I do not give her as much attention as I should or I get upset with her too easily. Thankfully, I am able to think before I act or speak with her. Even in the moment right before I am about to do or say something negative this little voice says, “she’s just little, she needs you, what would you think of someone else if you witnessed them saying/doing what you are thinking about saying/doing.”
What have you learned from it?
I have learned that a lot of people suffer with depression and anxiety. I have learned that it’s okay to take medicine and that sometimes you can’t handle it on your own. I have learned that nothing is wrong with me, it’s an illness just as any physical illness.
What had it taught you about yourself?
It has taught me a lot about myself. I have always thought I was just too shy, in a bad mood too often, and a loner. But really, it was my depression and anxiety holding me back. I tried to go off my medication once and it was awful. I made it almost 2 weeks before I had an absolute breakdown. I remember thinking, “my god, how did I live like this before?”
Have you found anything helpful in coping with it?
I do take medicine and that helps a lot. I also talk about it, getting it out of my system instead of keeping it bottled up. I also have learned that if I’m feeling a certain way I need to disconnect myself from social media. That happens often. I now know I need to just to live in my own world and not to worry about others, think/concern myself with others or compare myself to others.
Describe a time in which you felt empowered in spite of your disorder.
Honestly, I feel empowered when doing little things. When I go to court, especially on a bad day; when I take my daughter to a birthday party I don’t want to go to; when I agree to go with my husband to a work gathering or family get together where there will be a lot of people; when I go out with friends. It is those moments that I feel empowered because I am controlling my life, not letting my depression and anxiety control it.