The Transformation

I’ve lived with anxiety and depression for just about my entire life. The first half of my life I didn’t know there was anything wrong. This was how I always was, I thought it was normal. Isn’t it like this for everyone?

I was going through my old papers from childhood. I came across a psychiatric evaluation done on me not long after my type 1 diabetes diagnosis (9 years old). My grades were not so good in school, so I was evaluated for learning disabilities and emotional problems, etc.. On the form I was described as exhibiting anger, frustration, anxiety, and depression.

This was all chalked up to emotional trauma due to my recent diagnosis and extremely high blood sugars.

But in reality I had always suffered from the anxiety and depression, it was just aggravated by the recent trauma.

When I hit puberty and my hormones decided to go haywire, things got worse. The thing about me is that I’m usually pretty good at hiding things. I could be feeling like the whole world is caving in on me,but on the outside I’m calm and quiet, and going with the flow.

fine dog

Most nights I would lay there in bed, crying, worrying about things that didn’t even matter, beating myself up (emotionally, and physically) about how I look, my out of control diabetes, what a horrible human being I am, etc.

There were times in my teens when I almost became a cutter. I just wanted to put a visual representation to my pain. I would also beat myself as hard as I could to try to bruise myself, but, damn me! I don’t bruise easy.

In junior high and high school I ditched as often as I could. Why? Because of social anxiety. It tore me to bits on a daily basis to be around so many people and have no way to escape. I wanted to be invisible, but there I was, in the crowd, exposed for all the world to see. I almost didn’t graduate high school because I had ditched so often, they said I had missed too many days. It took some finagling between me and some teachers to get my record fixed so I could graduate.

Things seemed to get better in my twenties. I got married at 20 and my husband became a security blanket for me. When in social settings (he’s an outgoing and social guy) he could take all the attention and I could just settle in as his arm candy. The only problem here was that I eventually became so reliant on this arrangement that I would decline to go out in public unless he was with me.

78c

One thing that actually helped me was that the line of work I ended up in was retail customer service. If you really hate yourself and are self-destructive, go into customer service. It taught me how to “fake it”. You are required to be happy, outgoing, polite, and smile no matter what. I was dying inside, but I always had a smile. I did come out of my shell, though. It became easier for me to talk to people…because I was forced to. But really I just wanted to slap a bitch most of the time.

People are evil. Working in retail will teach you this valuable life lesson. Nine out of ten customers were intent on causing drama and degrading the sales associates no matter what.

Before I started working in retail I thought people were mostly decent. Then I learned the truth. People are mean, disrespectful, and greedy by nature.

I am not exaggerating or being hypersensitive here, people.

retail

My twenties were a very stressful and up and down time for me. But I thought I was strong. I thought I was dealing with the stress well. I rarely thought there might be some “problem” emotionally or psychologically with me. I thought what I was feeling and how I was thinking and acting was normal.

I did notice, though, that I was hypersensitive. Everything went to my heart and hit me hard. Everything was personal no matter what.

I got tired of this. I hated myself for feeling this way. I recognized that it was causing more trouble than I needed and I took the initiative to change my thinking in this respect. My husband helped me. I learned that not everything is meant to hurt, not everything is said to be personal. Not everything is literal or serious. It took work, but I overcame my hypersensitivity. I can actually take a joke now.

My thirties started out OK, then sunk into the pits of hell. I discovered the therapeutic qualities of tobacco and alcohol. Forget that they almost killed me; they frickin’ made me feel good!

hook

With tobacco I could relax. The anxiety would go numb for awhile and I could smile and feel my muscles relax. The alcohol would increase that feeling and also kill my inhibitions so I could talk, joke, dance, and just have a good time socially.  Life was good.

Then I ended up in the hospital having triple bypass heart surgery. After this, everything changed.

The depression and anxiety tripled over the next few years. Suddenly I couldn’t leave my house without becoming super tense and anxious. Slowly I slid further and further into depression. I knew the anxiety was bad, but I really didn’t notice the depression until nearly three years had passed.

It wasn’t until I was sleeping 15+ hours a day, eating erratically, lethargic, numb, inactive, uninterested, and not showering that I realized I needed help.

I consulted with a behaviorist and she sent me to Intensive Outpatient Program therapy. I didn’t want to go because it was group therapy and with my anxiety being mostly triggered by social things, well, you see my concern. I went, though, because I wanted to get better.

Each session I felt more at ease. The discussion part wasn’t so fun, but it did help to know that so many people have the same experiences, they go through the same struggles and symptoms. Believe it or not it was the art therapy portion that helped me the most. Just sitting and coloring a picture set me at ease and made me feel a bit better.

After the IOP program was over I began to see a psychiatrist. I wasn’t thrilled to be put on medication, but I realized I needed more than just therapy…just a little extra help. I was already taking a low dose of depression medication to help my neropathy (leg pain) so the psychiatrist increased the dose to see if it would help my depression. And it also can help to stop anxiety symptoms before they even begin. It has been working very well for me.

The past couple of weeks have been extremely stressful for me and let me tell you I haven’t had any unbearable anxiety at all! It’s there, but it’s so mild I can just ignore it. And I have no depression at all!

I. Am. Happy.

I take Cymbalta and have zero side effects. So that’s good, too.

What caused my depression and anxiety? Mostly for me it is hereditary and apparently in me it was mild at first but slowly over the years (due to diabetes and hormone changes and very traumatic life events) it got worse.

Things that contributed to the depression and anxiety getting worse in me are: type 1 diabetes (uncontrolled), PCOS (set in at puberty), Heart surgery (no idea why but it changed things), Peri-menopause (started around 36 years old).

The symptoms I’ve lived with most my life: Palpitations, trembling, shortness of breath, sense of choking, nausea, dizziness, de-realization, social phobia, agoraphobia, worry, restlessness, fatigue, anger, muscle tension, feeling worthless and helpless, hopelessness, pessimism, overeating, self-destructive behavior, noise sensitivity.

good

One point I’d like to make here is that so many people refuse to get help for anxiety and depression because of the negative stigma attached to it.

It means you’re weak. It means you’re crazy, unstable, dangerous. It can’t be cured and meds will just give you bad side effects.

None of this is true. Most of the time depression and anxiety are rooted in chemical imbalances. Depending on what triggers it, it can be cured, or at the very least controlled, with therapy and/or medications. Yes, some of the medications can come with unpleasant side effects, but now days there are many to choose from and your doctor will help you find one that works well for you.

 

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2 thoughts on “The Transformation”

  1. This is exactly what i found as well Tamara. I was so worried I would be weak if I admitted my anxiety and depression, I was weakened. When I admitted my issues I was strengthened.

    I referred your blog to the TUDiabetes.org blog page for the week of August 8, 2016.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You are so brave for posting this. You are a survivor and thats amazing! I too deal with social anxiety and depression, and I know so well many of the challenges you wrote here. Hope all is well my friend 🙂

    Like

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