• A Secret Battle

    For those of you who have been following my little blog for awhile, you may (or may not) have noticed a few long absences. I never intended on fully and completely honestly disclosing why I was radio silent for so long but I’ve  come to realize what I’ve been dealing with is nothing to be ashamed of. If sharing my experience can connect with just one person and let them know they aren’t alone that would make any lingering embarrassment I still feel completely worthwhile. So here goes…recently I have been diagnosed with panic disorder. My first reaction besides feeling like any hope of a normal life was over was to not tell anyone, this was something that needed to be covered over and hidden.  I basically threatened my husband’s life and made him swear not to tell a soul including his own immediate family. But too late I have realized I could have gotten the help I needed much sooner if I merely was honest with myself and honest with those closest to me. I would have saved myself and those I love a whole lot of heartache.  I hated myself so much for not being able to control what was happening to me that I shut out everyone who was close to me for fear they would hate me too. Because of that I reached a place where I was never more alone or scared in my life in spite of being surrounded by loving family and friends. A place so dark it absolutely terrified me, a place I hope I never go again.

    Just before I was properly diagnosed I  was so confused and felt completely helpless. None of what was happening made any logical sense. Everything had been going so well. I had a great life. I was adjusting well to being a mom, my life finally felt complete and I felt whole and so incredibly happy. We had just purchased a new home and now, besides having always been an incredible partner and my very best friend, my husband was now the most wonderful, attentive, and loving father that I could have ever hoped for. I was the mom who never used a bottle, who made her own baby food, whose toddler never had one bite of processed food but now, suddenly, microwaving a pizza seemed overwhelming and was enough to induce a panic attack. I have always suffered from abnormal levels of anxiety off and on and at times it could be pretty intense but NOTHING like this. I could barely function. No. That is an understatement. I could not function at any level. I wasn’t sleeping. At all. Sometimes going as long as 5 days straight without even one second of sleep, something I didn’t even know was humanly possible. I was in a constant state of panic. I could barely remember that happy girl I used to be not that long ago. That girl that was so full of life and love. She seemed like a very distant memory, one that was slipping further and further away with every passing day. Now I found myself wondering if my husband and son might be better off without me in their lives. That…that was rock bottom.

     I wanted it to be medical so badly and went that route at first. Finally after seeing my primary doctor several times over a few months I called her, this time absolutely hysterical, after a five day stretch without any sleep whatsoever. She gently told me she wasn’t sure what else she could do for me and that she felt I really needed to get a psychiatric evaluation. She gave me a number to call and with a sinking heart I hung up the phone. I knew she was right but partly because of the stigmas that still surround mental disorders and because of my own ignorant and misinformed beliefs about them I was completely devastated and felt as if I’d been handed a death sentence. We made the appointment and I’ve never been more ashamed and hopeless as when I walked into those doors. I’m not exactly sure what happened in those 45 minutes that changed me but something did. Maybe it was the fact that I now knew I wasn’t alone, that I wasn’t a freak. Maybe it was just my deep stubborn streak refusing to wean my son cold turkey to get started on several heavy narcotics but whatever happened turned everything around. I chose NOT be a victim anymore. I now knew that help was available and I was going to accept it and find a way to deal with this unexpected hand life had dealt me. But most of all I knew I was going to fight, that I would not let this control me and take over my life and that I would do whatever it took to get back the person I’d lost. The wife, the mother, the friend, the daughter, the human being.

    It’s been months since those terrifyingly dark days. Thru therapy, opening up to friends and family, healthy diet and exercise, focusing on my spirituality and on helping others I am slowly getting back to my old self. On some days I can feel the panic resurfacing but instead of giving in to the fear and letting it completely take over I use the techniques I’ve learned to face it, calmly and logically countering negative thoughts and emotions with more realistic and positive ones. On some days I’m even able to enjoy life with far less anxiety and with more peace than I’ve ever felt my entire life. At first, being diagnosed with panic disorder made me feel like a terrible mother, wife and friend and I was devastated that I couldn’t be the perfect mom that I so desperately wanted to be. But that’s ok. Instead of trying to do everything exactly “right” and getting it all “perfect” I’m simply doing the best I possibly can, every day, with whatever my given circumstances may be. One day at a time. Some days my best will be spent fighting a battle no one else sees. A battle whose weapons are words no else hears, dark thoughts attacking from every side, a battle where I am the only one fighting on either side. a battle that I continue to fight far after I’ve exhausted all my physical and mental strength. A battle that I fight because I have to, because I don’t want to be this way. One that I fight to be better, to be stronger…one that I fight until I think I can’t quite possibly hold on another second…and then I do….for another second, and then another and then yet another.. hanging on for those I love, for those I need and who need me, and for myself.

         Thru this experience I’ve been completely overwhelmed by the amount of love I’ve been shown. First for my dear friends who have been there thru this dark time (you know who you are) there are no words to express my gratitude for you. That you are part of my life. I only hope someday to be able to repay the favor. As for my family…I really don’t know what I can say. I couldn’t have made it without you. All of you were there to hold me, to cry with me, to share my fears and to hold my hand when I needed you to. Thank you for being there for my son and being there to support my husband at a time when I could not do those things myself. As for my husband….. you went above and beyond doing whatever you could to get me thru this and to help me help myself. I’ll never understand how you were able to take care of our son and myself and care for us financially while I was such a non-functional mess. But you did and not only did you just simply “get us thru it” but you did so with such an amazing amount of love, grace and compassion. Even though you couldn’t personally understand or relate to what I was feeling. I know I tested your limits to the very extreme and I was waiting for you to break at any moment but you didn’t. When we were dating you promised me you would always be there for me no matter what happened. I didn’t believe that someone could love me that much but now I do. Thank you for loving me thru the bad times and the good and I promise to always do the same for you. Our life isn’t all fairy tales, romance and rainbows but it’s these moments. These moments when you are all hanging on for dear life that really test every fiber of your relationship. And after coming thru something like that and standing on the other side of it together it truly makes you feel like you can face anything.  Its those trials that make you a real family, a strong family, one that proves their unconditional love for each other again and again and again. So once again thank you, thank you, thank you.  To my husband, to my family and my friends. Thank you for believing in me when I couldn’t believe in myself and for loving me when I couldn’t see what there was to love. Thank you for giving me my reason to be, my reason to fight, my reason the live. To really live.

    For those of you who have dealt with anxiety or a mental disorder of any kind my heart goes out to you. The battle you fight is a silent one but so very painful. Please remember you are never alone even though that is exactly how you may feel. Approximately 1 in 4 Americans suffer from some type of mental disorder. Next time you are in a group of people remember there are others in the very same room as you sharing this secret and silent battle with you. Please know that you have nothing to be ashamed of and please don’t believe the way you feel about yourself is the way others feel about you. Never let that shame or guilt or whatever else you might be feeling be an excuse to hold you back from reaching out to people, to getting help. No matter how hopeless you may feel know that it CAN get better. There is so much help out there all you have to do is ask. There is one book in particular that has absolutely changed my life and forever changed my perspective on things. It’s called The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook by Dr. Edmund Bourne and you can purchase it here. Since reading it I’ve successfully been able to use the techniques and mental exercises in it to avoid going into a full blown panic attack and so far it’s also kept my insomnia at bay. After months of having panic attacks almost every day this is nothing short of miraculous for me.  If you have suffered from an anxiety disorder in some form, panic attacks, or phobias it is definitely worth checking out.

    For those of you who have made it this far and are actually still reading this…..congratulations you have successfully almost completed what will hopefully be the longest and wordiest post I will ever write. Thank you for humoring me. For those of you who can identify with this I am so sorry for what you have gone thru and continue to battle. I hope in some small way this post has been helpful. If you can’t relate to any of this I hope this has been informative and will maybe change some preconceived ideas you may have had about mental disorders. For me, in the past, I honestly had the tendency to be judgmental and insensitive toward those who suffered with these disorders because I didn’t personally understand what they were feeling. Unfortunately it took experiencing this myself for me to learn to be more compassionate and understanding. I hope I won’t make that mistake again. We all have our secret battles and inner struggles whether they be mental, physical, or whatever else. Lets all be more resolved to be more loving, more compassionate and more aware of each other. It’s that unconditional love from my friends and family, some of which didn’t personally understand but they didn’t allow that to stop them from being there and it literally made all the difference in the world to me. I hope to follow their example and not allow the inability to understand someone prevent me from reaching out to help them, to love them and I hope that it won’t stop you.

11 Responses so far.

  1. Nadine says:

    Wow!! Thank you for such beautiful words and honesty.

  2. Tuesday says:

    I’m so proud of you for the bravery it took to post this. You know I love you and understand (lol unfortunately) what you have battled thru. You’re a wonderful friend, mother, ‘sister’ and daughter. I respect you deeply for opening up and being so raw with this. Love you.

    • Ali J. says:

      Awww thank you so much. Reading this made me tear up! Thank you for being there then and being here now, love you too!

  3. Lance says:

    Very well written and very comforting to read. Alison,I applaud your bravery and am so happy for you and your awesome family. I’ve been dealing with anxiety and depression for awhile and finally feel ok. But, it is a daily struggle. It’s nice hearing your words. Thank you

    • Ali J. says:

      I am so very sorry to hear that you too have had such a struggle but I’m so glad that you are feeling better. It is a daily struggle for me too but the good days are so worth fighting thru the bad!

  4. J.Ott says:

    So THIS is the post. I am so glad I came here to read this. In my mind, you are stronger than you have ever been before. You are more beautiful, your arms and heart are more open, and you are more touchable, real, whole – from having suffered and shared. I am inspired by your approach, your diligence in not becoming a victim but taking hold of the things that frighten you and conquering them…especially through your spirituality. I love you and could not be more proud to be your friend.

    • Ali J. says:

      Thank you so much, what a beautiful compliment! That means so very much to me and I am so thankful everyday for friends like you. Friends who are always there to remind you that you are never alone, that you are loved and that you have so much to fight for. Thank you for being on of those special people who make my life so full. Love you too!

  5. Monica says:

    Dearest Alison,

    Today I finally connected to and read your blog. And so glad I did. I’m so proud of you. For so long, I’ve felt like such a bad friend to so many, not because I didn’t still love them or want to reach out and connect to them, but sometimes all that negative internal pain- depression, anxiety, etc. can be so overwhelming. I clearly remember times when things like pioneering, getting some job training, and other seemingly small goals in life really seemed impossible. And realistically speaking, they were when 100% of your energy that day is focused on surviving and just trying to keep your head above water. It makes me think how loving and how important are Jesus’ words that ” those who are ailing need a physician” . Not until I really let go, and learned modesty in accepting that statement did I really find the help I needed. And isn’t it amazing, once you get such help, how different everything can be? Not every day is perfect, but at least you realize there IS another way to live. And there is another side completely removed from that dark hole. So glad you shared this info with others, it is so important to those struggling with similar things! Those who have gone down such roads in their minds can definitely help and empathize with others having these struggles in a way no one else can. Despite all the pain, Jehovah can actually turn the pain into a blessing when we come out wiser, stronger, and more compassionate on the other side. I love you and your family so much, am so proud of you, and even if we don’t see each other often, I’ll be following your blog! Keep up the good work girl!

    • Ali J. says:

      Thank you so much for sharing your personal experience with me. I’m so sorry you also went thru this but very happy that you got the help you needed. It is amazing how much having the right resources and help can completely change everything. Miss you a lot, great to hear from you! Lots of love!

  6. Kelly says:

    This was so beautiful, thank you so much for sharing. I too like you felt like seeking mental help was something that I didn’t want to do and shared with no one, until now. It has been building for so long and this year has finally become a time when I could no longer deal with everything, I don’t even like to leave home and see no reason to be here anymore. I have been facing panic attacks and anxiety that I don’t even want to get out of bed, I am the opposite of you where I sleep all the time. I have finally went to see a therapist at the urging of my Doctors, I am hoping that it will help. I am so glad that you have a loving family and friends that have helped you through, it has to feel so good to know that they are in your corner all the way and are always there for you. You are such a beautiful person and I for one am so glad to know you. Working on fighting my way back to the person I know that I can be. thank you again for sharing your story.

    • Ali J. says:

      Thank you so much for sharing your priate struggle with me. I had no idea how much of a battle this is for you. I am so sorry to hear that things have been so difficult lately for you. I know just how hard and debilitating it can be so my heart goes out to you. I know you have the strength and power to get thru this, you have already taken the biggest and hardest step which is seeking help. I know how hopeless everything can feel and how it seems like things can never get better but having been at absolute rock bottom I can tell you that this is NOT reality. You CAN and WILL make it thru this. I am keeping you in my heart, my thoughts and my prayers. Thank you so much for your kind words, they mean so very much. Love you and just know you are not alone in your fight!