Seeking Help

Monday, June 15, 2009

So, I could bore you to death about the fact that the only sounds I've heard in my house for the last 30 hours are cats hissing and growling. Or about the core meltdown I had last night in which I decided (in my head) that I'd ruined Karma (the older cat)'s life. Or about when the kitten slid into Slappy's catsup pile this morning in the most cartoonist fashion ever. But instead, I'm going to shift gears a little and talk about the serious.

I recently spoke with a younger family member (not giving specifics, less she ever reads this) who is struggling with her emotions and coping with her life. She has struggled for weeks and weeks and is finally going to speak to someone. And while I'm so happy to hear it, she's also down on herself for needing help. She feels like she's failed and she is too embarrassed to tell her friends.

I am no stranger to such problems, to such shame. In fact, I believe they're the best description of my freshman year of college that I could possibly come up with.

But I did it wrong. When I was so depressed and scared and overwhelmed with my life, I didn't seek help. It was offered. It was suggested. It was strongly advised by everyone. Yet, I still didn't speak to anyone. And a big part of this had to do with the fact that seeing a counselor and talking about my emotions would mean admitting that I had a problem. And no one wants to do that. No one wants to be different. No one wants to be abnormal.

So I did not seek help. I was forced to take antidepressants, which did level off my uncontrolled sadness, but did not teach me how to cope at all. It was like a bandaid for an extremely deep cut. It held the bleeding off, but didn't close up the cut in any way and as soon as the pills were gone, the sore opened up and bled wildly.

I had a similar experience when I started having crippling anxiety my senior year of college. I couldn't hardly eat, but I wanted NOTHING to do with a counselor. Once again, I took a medication, which helped tremendously, but gave me no life skills for coping whatsoever.

So when I finally tapered off the Xanax last month, after almost 5 years of it, I found myself wildly anxious all over again. I wake up in the middle of the night convinced that Slappy has died and I have to wait and see him breathe before I can go back to sleep. Every morning I wake up and run through my mind a list of potential bad things. I wonder if the cat is dead. I wonder if someone has broken into the house/car while I was asleep. I wonder if Slappy will wake up and be sick. I wonder, I wonder, I wonder.

I drive on any freeway, suddenly petrified of crashing. I anxiously watch the other drivers, afraid of what could happen. On the way home from work I imagine coming home to a dead cat due to a Carbon Monoxide leak. I think about the upcoming week and how bad it would be if I came down with some kind of bug. I worry about every single thing that could ever possibly happen.

I live my life feeling like the worst case scenario is always what's next. I live a life that is controlled by anxiety. And I hate it.

And I'm not going to do this anymore. Not like this. In July, when I have health insurance that is actually functional in California, I'm going to get help. I need to talk to someone. I need to learn how to deal with my worries in a useful way. I need to discover some way to cope that doesn't involve gulping down pills. And I need to find a way to quiet the anxiety, not just for today, not just with a bandaid, but maybe forever. I'm going to a counselor because I know I have a problem. Because I'm willing to admit that I'm not perfect. Because I'm willing to admit that I need help.

And I only hope that somewhere down the line, someone reads this and realizes that asking for help doesn't make you weak. It doesn't make you abnormal. It doesn't make you crazy.

But it just might make you better. And maybe that's something we should all be proud of working for.

11 comments:

abdpbt said...

Good for you! I struggled with seeking help and being ashamed when I was about 16, but now it's old hat to me. Good luck.

kimybeee said...

Katie,

Sometimes the medicine can be helpful also. Don't be surprised if a counselor doesn't recommend the meds anyway. You can't control the things that happen in your mind because you are missing what the pills will provide. Don't wait a minute longer than necessary to get treatment for your anxiety.

kimybeee

jojo said...

powerful post tonite...I am sure it will help someone else, and i'm so glad you're going to take the 'help' step. It's the best thing i've ever done for me...jj

Ness said...

Thanks for the affirmation that I made the right choice years ago. I hope my daughters can see the light some day...I have led by example and it does not seem to be working. Good luck, Katie and welcome to your new life. Anxiety and fear are the worst monsters that can be in your life. I read your blog and nodded my head all the way through it as I have been there, done that and along with having someone professionally to talk to, the medicine does help. Thank God for Prozac who let me start driving again for when I would come to a red light I would have to make right turns because I felt trapped behind a red light and had.to.keep.moving even if it meant driving around blocks. I couldn't leave my house or go out of town because something *might* happen. I wouldn't wish this hell on my worst enemy. Get the help you need when you can. God bless.

Kaye said...

Delurking to say:

Yay for you! I finally decided to get help for anxiety and depression and it is the best decision I ever made. My therapist uses meditation and hypnosis and it works great for me. Don't like to think where I might be without him and the coping skills he has given me. Best of luck to you!

stacey said...

it is nothing to be ashamed of at all! lord knows I could probably use someone to talk to, especially after a bout of depression that last two weeks, longest it has ever been, but I have no insurance...so do what you can to make you better!!

Jess said...

You and your family member should never be ashamed or embarrassed about asking for help. I have a wonderful psychologist that I'm seeing over here, and it is helping tremendously.

I also had the crippling anxiety where I imagined the worst case scenario every day. When it first happened (the anxiety), I sought help from my doctor, but neglected to find someone to talk to. It wasn't until March (I had been diagnosed in September) that I finally broke down and called around to find someone to help me. Best choice I ever made. I'm not saying that it is an instant fix and you'll feel better right away, but just knowing that someone is there listening to you and helping guide you through issues in your life is quite liberating.

All the best for you and your family member. :)

Sue G said...

Katie:

All the fears you mention are realities of life. They DO happen. That's the natural part. The part that is so debilitating for you is to worry about them happening. It tells me that you have a "problem" accepting the simple fact that you are not in control of a lot of life's possibilities and aspects. Most of us come to that realization at one time or another, and we feel very helpless and vulnerable. Talking to someone who is wise enough to help you accept your own vulnerability, to help you see the areas in your life that are under your control, to give you good coping mechanisms for the issues that are in God's hands and to help you feel empowered in areas that are truly in your control...all very good things to learn.

When I was in high school, I desperately wanted to talk to someone. My mother squashed that idea by responding, "What will my friends think?" That is Jewish for "no."

When my kids were little, we all went to a family counselor who turned out to be smart enough after six weeks to point to me and say, "if there is to be any change in this family it will have to come from you, so I will see you alone from now on."

It was truly enlightening in that he gave me wonderful information that has stuck with me to this very day. He taught me to hug. He taught me to use my writing ability even though I didn't earn the right to have it.

And perhaps the most important thing he ever said to me: I am not my mother.

Good for you for seeking help. It will help free you from the "illogical" fears and concerns that you fight daily...concerns that appear oh so logical to you. You will learn to see yourself and your life as precious, which is what you are to God and to so many people.

And perhaps you will even learn that you're not your MIL????? :-)

Becs said...

I am in therapy right now as well. I have some anxiety problems along with depression at times. I refuse to go on medication because I have been down that road before and my symptoms came back as soon as I went of meds. Also, I am really sensitive to side effects and I don't want to deal with that. Without medicine, it takes more work and more time but the skills stay with you forever. Good luck!

Jen said...

I'm glad you're getting the help you need! My aunt has problems with anxiety that are only getting worse. She used to be on medication, but she went off of it and has backslid. My mother and grandmother are trying to get her to see a doctor again, but so far no luck.

My husband has a bachelor's degree in psychology and he said that all of his professors told him that a combination of drugs and therapy tends to be the best way to cope with anxiety, as well as depression.

Good for you, and thanks for sharing your story!!

Sharon said...

Therapy is awesome. It totally rocks. The hardest part is finding the right one who fits you.

I find it hard to believe in this day and age people are still ashamed of it. That's so ten years ago..