I recently sat in my boss’s office for my annual evaluation. I teach 4th grade, and my principal had some data pulled up on the screen in front of us.
“So,” she started. “What do you think has been the biggest change this year? Something you’re proud of?”
I hesitated, of course, but, luckily, I trust my boss and have never felt judged by her in any way. So, I answered.
“Honestly, the biggest change for me was that I finally got my anxiety in check. I tried so many different meds and dosages and whatever else and finally this fall I got it to all come together. I feel more like myself than I have in years.”
I’m not sure this was the answer she was expecting–probably something more along the lines of, “I’ve been working hard on math talk!” Still, this didn’t seem to faze her.
“How long would you say it has been since you felt like yourself?”
“At least 9 years.”
9 years. 9 years ago my twins died, and the old me never came back. And she won’t ever be back. But, I have to say, I put off seeking medication for my anxiety for years and years. I just kept telling myself it was situational. It would get better. I just needed more time.
The next thing I knew, I was yelling at my kids. No, not yelling. SCREAMING at my kids. My obsessive cleaning was at its worst, with me losing my mind when my kids made a mess. With my students, I was better, but could still feel myself getting sucked into the feelings of losing control.
It took me months to try to ask a doctor for help. After about 6 months of hanging up the phone when the receptionist at the clinic answered, I finally sent a message to my doctor’s nurse. “Hi, so my anxiety is at an all-time high. Could I do this by messaging, because I’m so anxious I can’t even make an appointment to deal with my anxiety.”
I know. Ridiculous. But true. Their reply? “You need to come in.” I get it. It’s serious business, the handing out of meds. But, it took me another 6 months after that message to actually find myself at the doctor’s office, with a doctor I didn’t know (because mine was too busy), explaining how worried I am whenever my husband leaves the house and I have to wait for him at home. “I feel like when I ask him to go for french fries that he’ll die in a car crash and it will all be my fault.”
15 months later, like I said in the beginning, I feel like I am making my way back to where I need to be. I would never, EVER judge anyone I know for taking anxiety medication, but I judged myself. It felt like giving up like I was losing the fight against my grief.
If you’re reading this and relate, I want you to know/do a few things:
*Keep an eye on your symptoms
*Keep your doctor updated
*Ask your spouse or close friends to watch for the signs of depression, anxiety, or anything else.
*Read articles about it-be aware
*Don’t feel like any of this is your fault
And, finally, remember that we are survivors. But that doesn’t come for free–there are costs along the way. It’s so much work to get better, to be better. Hang in there.
You’ve got this.
Christy Wopat is a 4th grade teacher and writer. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband and who hilarious, energetic children, and without her boy/girl twins, Sophie and Aiden, who lived for a very short time in 2009. She is honored to share her words in hopes of breaking the stigma surrounding infant loss and grief.