There has been a lot of talk about anxiety and depression since the suicide of Robin Williams last year. I grew up watching Robin Williams in various roles. My mother played Mork and Mindy re-runs. Watching him on Inside the Actor’s Studio, I don’t know when I have laughed as hard. The man was unbelievably talented and such a blessing to me when I needed that laugh.
When I heard of his suicide it took me by surprise. I felt it on a few different levels. First, it was the loss of an entertainer whose talent I have admired for decades. Second, it was the unnecessary loss of life. Third, I felt a kinship with him.
I also deal with anxiety and depression. I was always a worrier as a child. However, after the death of my mother, things got worse. Shopping trips became torture. I would strategically plan shopping trips for necessities during non-busy hours. Anything to avoid crowds. When I had a panic attack in my classroom at work, I sought help. My doctor diagnosed me with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and prescribed medication. Over the past decade I have been on a few different medications and have seen different counselors. However well it is managed at the moment, it is still an enormous part of my life and a constant struggle.
It is hard to describe clinical anxiety. As with most illnesses, unless you have been there, you can’t truly understand. You don’t look sick and people constantly tell you to “just let go” or “stop worrying.” If only!
I can give a few examples from my day today. And today was while ON medication. We had an insanely busy day planned, which is a cause of stress itself. In the middle of getting all 5 family members ready for the first appointment of the day, my son knocks on my bedroom door saying he had a rash on his chest. At this point, my true talent kicked in: imagining the worst possible scenario. Measles. Strep. Chicken pox. Shingles. We called the pediatrician and got an appointment for 25 minutes later. The diagnosis: virus. Not contagious.
I was supposed to be at a baby shower for my sister-in-law a few hours later. So now I was worrying about whether he should be around my SIL. Would he catch this from her and would it cause a complication with her pregnancy. Now keep in mind, this was AFTER the doctor said he was not contagious. My mind was STILL coming up with terrible possibilities. A text to my SIL assured me that she agreed with the doctor and still wanted us to come. So I headed an hour east through the city of Atlanta with my three children for the shower. Driving in Atlanta causes stress for me anyway, but with this day already causing my head to spin, it was even worse.
At the shower my children walked between people talking and even got a bedroom door locked from the inside – with everyone else outside. This required the door handle to be completely removed to open it. Two of my children got into an argument that disintegrated into hitting each other with toys. Time out left one daughter crying on the stairs while the other is climbing on a sofa with her shoes on and a plate of food in her hands. All of this was pushing me to the edge of tears. What would the other people think? Would they think I am a terrible mother? Would they think I have no control over my children? Would this look bad on my mother-in-law? All of this ran through my head in about 2 seconds. Then we were late leaving and … well, see the trip through Atlanta above but add traffic this time.
All of this is amplified with my anxiety. Everything is a crisis. Everything makes you feel judged by others. And. You. Can’t. Stop. It.
Now, I am currently working with a fantastic counselor who is helping me to work through my panic. However, I have been where Robin Williams was on his final night. I have been at the point where I felt there was no hope and I was desperate to do anything to stop the panic. While I have never attempted suicide, I can completely understand how it can seem like a viable option. I have had nights where all I can do is sit huddled in a ball in the center of my bed, rocking back and forth, asking God to help me. I have had mornings where I laid face down on the floor begging God to give me the strength to get up and face another day. I have had mornings where I couldn’t even form a prayer. All I get out is “Jesus.” I have watched my children or husband sleep and sobbed over how I felt they would be better off without me.
I have found comfort and strength in Scripture and Christian music. I am attaching links to three songs that truly helped me.
I don’t know why I have these struggles. I know God will use it somehow. Someone will benefit from my experiences. However, that can’t happen if I keep silent. Others cannot learn from me or help support me unless I share my struggle. I don’t look sick. Many do not see this has a true illness. However, those who support me want to understand it better. That can’t happen unless I share. God gave me a love of public speaking. I need to use it to alert people to an illness I have experience with. Maybe it will help keep someone else from feeling like they have no hope. Maybe I can help keep someone from Robin Williams’ path.