COLUMN: Feeling down? Don’t wait to get help

Unfortunately, many people don’t open up about mental illness because they feel ashamed or scared.

It was during my daughter’s second grade Christmas concert that I had a suspicion something was wrong, but it would take me awhile to realize I was suffering from anxiety and depression.

Normally, I’m that mom snapping photos and cheering my baby on in the stands, but not this time.

“Let me see the pics,” my husband Jason asked at home that evening.

I went to scroll through my phone and realized I hadn’t snapped any. Not a single one of Molly in her cute elf hat.

“That’s not like you,” he said.

The truth is I felt like a shell of my former self – numb and exhausted.

Decorating our home for the holidays seemed like way too much work.

Meeting a friend for coffee seemed like way too much work.

Having a shower or putting on make-up seemed like way too much work.

Over the years, my anxiety level had slowly crept up. This past Christmas, it was at an all-time high.

If my family was out on the road driving somewhere and I heard a siren, I’d feel sick to my stomach.

Right away, my mind would go to the worst-case scenario. I stopped driving further than my own community, fearing I’d get lost or in a bad car accident.

At night, I’d over-think everything.

Will we have enough money for our girls’ college savings? Did I say too much at that party? Did I not say enough?

As you can imagine, it was exhausting to be living in my head All. The. Time. It was just easier to avoid everyone and everything.

No wonder I have been so tired. No wonder I started drinking three to four glasses of wine at night to tune out the noise. No wonder my body, mind and soul decided that it had finally had enough over the holidays.

It was during the peak of my nightly wine habit that I began to think maybe everyone would be better off if I just didn’t wake up. That was the first time I’ve ever had a thought like that. It was enough to scare me straight.

Talking to my doctor took a lot of energy – I felt completely depleted and demoralized as I slumped into his chair, too tired to nag Zoe to stop climbing on the furniture.

I left with a prescription for an antidepressant with the warning that I’d feel awful the first week. He wasn’t kidding.

It’s been almost two months and I’m happy to say that I’m feeling better than I have in years, which I chalk up to the anti-depressants, new gym routine and sober lifestyle. I wake up with pep in my step and general feeling of calmness. I’ve started reaching out to a few close friends and have been getting out of the house, enjoying activities that I used to.

My only regret is not getting help sooner, especially now that I now I am far from alone.

About one in five people – over six-and-a-half million Canadians – experience a mental illness or substance use problem in their lifetime.

Unfortunately, many people don’t ask for help because they feel ashamed or scared.

I was one of them, but not anymore.

Kristyl Clark is founder of the family blogazine, ValleyMom.ca. Follow her on Twitter @shesavalleymom

 

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