As new regulations have been put into place amid the COVID-19 crisis, my newfound downtime has caused me to reflect on my mental health journey. Through these reflections, I felt a timely push to share what I’ve recently been going through. My hope is that you will find my vulnerability to be relatable, insightful, and valuable in these confusing times.
Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, you suffer with anxiety or depression, or the turmoil is simply sending you over the edge, social isolation can be a testing time for anyone. In reading my struggles with Panic Disorder, Anxiety, Depression, and Hormones, I hope you find comfort, coping skills, and an empathetic take on much-needed connection.
Coping With Panic Disorder
That was my first thought as a familiar feeling of dread and hysteria began to spread throughout my body as I was barely opening my eyes this December morning. Waking up to shortness of breath with a side of dizziness is not a welcome breakfast-in-bed, let me tell you!
It was my third panic attack in three months and although I’ve suffered with Panic Disorder since I was a freshman in college, getting them on a monthly basis had set a new record.
I was completely aware I had Panic Disorder for the last 10 years and I’ve been telling myself I can cope on my own. But when I decided to get on the pill for emotional reasons, it was then I understood I needed professional help.
Birth Control & PMDD
Every other month or so I would experience 2-3 days a month of complete hopelessness, anxiety, and anger. As a woman, we know the strong effects hormones have on our bodies so I self-diagnosed myself with PMDD, a disorder with severe PMS symptoms.
Not only was it unfair to live with these symptoms myself, but ultimately I made the decision to get on the pill in hopes these hormones would become more manageable and that my boyfriend who I recently moved in with, wouldn’t have to “deal” with my relentless mood swings.
But man was this the wrong choice. So wrong.
Like a lot of people, the gym is a place for me to relieve stress and walk out feeling energized and amped. Around the time I started taking the pill I not only lacked energy, but I was consistently nauseous. The worst part though, was walking out of the gym and feeling WORSE than I did before. After my attempted workouts, I walked out feeling depressed and bitter, which would make me even more despondent! Vicious cycle.
On top of blaming my side effects on adjusting to the pill, I assumed I must have mistakenly eaten gluten.
Last year, while trying to figure out some digestive issues, I soon learned I was gluten intolerant. While avoiding gluten doesn’t resolve much in the digestive department, I know that it does give me severe brain fog, joint pain, bloating, and fatigue.
I’ve learned to adjust to a gluten-free diet but sometimes it can sneak its way into foods you’d assume are gluten-free (i.e. pepperoni?!) so naturally I assumed I had unknowingly consumed gluten.
You Can’t Hide Depression
After feeling physically drained and emotionally unhappy for several months, I knew something needed to be done after my holiday vacation back home in Arizona.
I typically only see my family once a year during the holidays. It’s usually a time when I am intentional about the time I spend with them, relishing every moment I get.
Last year however, my plummeted emotional state was severe– and it was noticeable. The person who knows me best – my mom – mentioned how I wasn’t myself. At the time, this comment frustrated me but deep down, I knew it too. I was emotionally distant, triggered by the littlest of things, and as much as I didn’t know it at the time, depressed.
As someone who’s never suffered from depression, it never crossed my mind that I could be depressed. I mean, I was still getting out of bed and eating– that means I’m good, right? Wrong.
Looking back, I remember how even the thought of showering was distressful. I would still go through the motions of the day, but that’s just it. I was going through the motions and not recognizing how distant I was, from even myself.
Enough is Enough
When I came back from Arizona, I knew something had to be done and the go-getter in me resurfaced and made the necessary appointments.
Just like I knew I suffered from years of Panic Disorder, I was also aware I had General Anxiety Disorder. But witnessing friends who have dealt with an anxiety disorder their whole lives, I always felt unjustified in getting proper treatment. I could still live my life somewhat normally: I was sociable, I was ambitious, I was self-aware. That doesn’t mean these things came easily, but hey, I was making it-ish.
When I finally saw my doctor, I told her my terrible experience with birth control and how my intentions in taking it affected me completely opposite of what I was trying to accomplish: A carefree lifestyle where I wasn’t worrying about things out of my control.
The psychological issue I placed on hormones turned out to be a lack of Seratonin– duh. But TBH, my mind was blown! After years of qualifying how my anxiety wasn’t “bad enough,” I was prescribed an SSRI.
3 Things to Put on Your Emotional Health Checklist During the Pandemic
It’s been three months since being on Prozac and I can honestly say, I feel SO good. This is something I absolutely should have done years ago BUT I full-heartedly believe I needed to hit that emotional low to come to terms with my diagnosis.
Make sure to check in with yourself during this time of intense isolation and listen to what your body and mind is telling you! Here are three tips to get you through the crisis and beyond:
1. Help Yourself & Get Medicated
If you’re like me and you’ve been putting off getting a proper diagnosis, get it taken care of. For real. It’s either going to get worse or you’re just going to put yourself through an unnecessary struggle, on the daily.
What’s stopping you? Is it pride? Get over it. (I say that with a lot of love, but really.) Is it a financial burden? The first step is finding out the cost. You might be surprised at how affordable it can be! Is it time? Then it’s time you learn to prioritize your mental health.
2. Give Yourself Something to Look Forward to Every Day
Whether it’s a game on your phone, your favorite snack, or a creative hobby, make a time during the day to allow yourself to indulge.
Something that’s helped maintain my sanity during this time is making short workout videos posted to social media to help inspire people with ideas on working out from home. It’s so much fun and getting positive feedback gives me beneficial lifts throughout the day! (Hi, Words of Affirmation!)
Try finding something you’re passionate about and post to social media to help others during the crisis!
3. Stay Connected and Talk to Others
It’s so easy to get comfortable in your quarantine routine. While I recommend maintaining a routine, be sure to include checking in with your friends and family and talk about how you’re feeling.
We’re all in this together and if you’re having anxious thoughts or feelings of loneliness, don’t hold back! Express yourself because chances are, others are probably feeling things to and there’s nothing like a good vent sesh.