Roughly 26 million Americans suffer from Anxiety, Depression or PTSD, this is based on those who have been identified, I am guessing the number is much higher. For those who have never struggled with any of these crippling mental conditions, they can’t possibly imagine the hell it is for those of us that do. It’s not fake, it’s not imagined, it’s real and consuming. It takes over your soul, destroys families.
I have suffered from anxiety and depression since I was 17 years old. When I was 21 a life-changing event caused me to add PTSD to the list of things I can’t control. I have never been one to show weakness, so I learned very early on how to hide my pain. I would make sure I always dressed the part; I would be funny and entertaining doing all I could to make others happy.
Some people even assumed that I had never seen a bad day in my life if they only knew. I felt like I had a million friends but was the loneliness person in the world.
I hurt inside.
I cried, I felt frustrated, like I wasn’t good enough.
There were times I didn’t want to live; I’d pray that God would take me in my sleep and I would no longer be a burden on my loved ones. I didn’t have the courage to kill myself, or the heart to leave my family with that life long pain.
My kids are what kept me going, even if I felt I was a failure to them and others. There was a time where I would engage in risky behavior, in hopes that would result in my death. I self-medicated with heavy amounts of alcohol, putting my life and others in danger.
Depression; the best way I can describe depression is a black ooze that comes over you, without warning or reason. It will literally consume you. You have no motivation or energy; you can sleep for days and never feel rested. You will go without sleep for days as well. People around you will think you are just being lazy, that you don’t care but depression can be physically disabling.
Depression can actually cause you to have a physical illness. Those who don’t suffer have no idea how hard the struggle is, even simple things like taking a shower can be difficult.
Over time some of us have learned to see the signs and try to fight it before it consumes us because once depression takes hold it’s almost impossible to break out of it. Things like diet, exercise and fresh air defiantly help combat the symptoms of depression but for a person in a depressed state, the energy and motivation to get up and get moving can feel impossible.
Medication is available but some of the medications on the market have worse side effects than the illness itself.
Anxiety: For me, it’s this overwhelming feeling, like an 800 lb. man is sitting on your chest. You feel panicked and stress and this often happens for no apparent reason. It feels like you can’t catch your breath and the walls are closing in on you. It’s a scary helpless feeling.
Again, there are exercises one can do to calm themselves down, there are medications on the market that can help but the majority of them are addictive, habit-forming and are classified as a narcotic.
It seems ironic we as American’s will trade the affliction of anxiety for addiction.
PTSD; Many people think about PTSD as something that only affects soldiers in the military. A large percentage of combat veterans do suffer from PTSD but it’s certainly not limited to them. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a broad term used to describe what happens when a person has survived a traumatic situation.
This could be many things, war, violent crime, natural disaster, abuse or any significant traumatizing event. The effects of PTSD can be devesting and crippling. A sound, smell or event can trigger a PTSD episode. I’ve seen Vietnam vets dive under the table because an inconsiderate person set off fireworks without any warning.
I’ve watched grown men lock themselves in a room to avoid hurting themselves or others. My PTSD was brought on by being a victim of a violent crime. The years that followed brought on various symptoms. I found myself afraid where I had never been afraid before. Smells and sounds would put me in a panic.
I went through a roller coaster of emotions for many years. Self-medicating, self-destruction and risky behaviors became my norm. I pushed those who loved me away because the pain was too much to bear alone.
For years medication combinations were forced on me.
Trial and error became the monthly game, trying to find the right combination of heavy psychotropic drugs. The medication didn’t cure me of anything it just made me cold, it made me numb, it made me not want to care about anyone or anything.
I didn’t fear consequences and my risky behavior escalated. For years I worked with a therapist, she was a wonderful lady. After year six of trying to help me through my issues, she finally had to tell me she wasn’t qualified to help me and recommended I find someone that was more experienced in severe trauma.
It broke my heart; I had become so dependent on her and I suddenly felt completely alone. Eventually, I spun out of control until I hit the bottom. My bottom was a hard place to be, I had to work my way back up and start completely over.
The first step was getting off all those medications so I could have a clear mind again. The second step was to find some form of faith, any form of a higher power helps.
Also learning to not stress about things beyond your control.
Finding inner peace with things.
Life is unexpected and will throw you off in many directions, you have to stay strong.
It’s been 8 years since I felt I overcame my PTSD and got a handle on my depression, not to say depression doesn’t come on from time to time but I recognize the signs and try to get ahead of it before it takes me down. I thought I had completely overcome my PTSD for many years.
PTSD never goes away; it just lays dormant.
I found this out when Harvey hit the coast of Texas. The five nights of rain followed by devastating flooding that destroyed out small community caused all that fear, anxiety and stress to came flooding back. It took weeks for me to feel normal again. I understood the very definition of shell shocked in those days after Harvey.
Mental health is oftentimes not discussed, something we are programmed to be ashamed about it and we have limited services and resources to help. I am not against medication; however, every person is different and there is no magic pill that will make your life better or make you happy.
It’s a process. You have to surround yourself with good people, make sure there are people you can reach out to. Do not be afraid to call someone if you are feeling down.
Many of us consider suicide but for most, it passes, whatever is taking us down usually will blow over.
Suicide is a final thing; you can’t come back from it and the devastation it leaves in the wake is everlasting.
Please know you aren’t alone, there are millions of us who struggle every day, we are here for you.
It wasn’t till I found myself in a place I never thought I’d find myself until I found myself in a place, I never thought I’d be.
~~~~ Food for thought Mary Goodnight
- National Suicide Hotline Number: 1-800-273-8255
- PTSD Crisis Hotline: 855-339-1144
- Veteran’s Crisis Line: 1-800-273-TALK press 1
- National Veteran’s Foundation Hotline 1-888-777-4443
- Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAIN): 24 hours 1-800-656-4673
- National Domestic violence hotline: 1-800-799-7233
- National Council on Alcoholism and Drug dependence hope line: 1-800-622-2255
- NAMI: 1-800-950-NAMI