Picture this: A traditional European family who often look to tea, sleep and praying to God Almighty as remedies for everything and anything and refer to mental illness as ‘being messed up’
Picture me: Terrified (and anxious, of course), writing this in her diary (yes, this is a real excerpt from 2 years ago):
March 15, 2015
I’m so conflicted and scared and anxious and worried and nervous and undecided and hyperventilating and having panic attacks and so fucking depressed. Someone please end this feeling cause it fucking sucks so much sometimes I think about just doing it but then I think no, I won’t do that, I can’t do that.
I can’t do it
Yeah. I basically used every synonym for “nervous” that you could find in the dictionary. Looking back, it makes me so sad that I ever felt like there was no light at the end of the tunnel.
Back to my family. What I’m trying to say here is that telling them that I couldn’t go certain places because I would have panic attacks, or that I couldn’t concentrate for more than 20 minutes because of racing thoughts, was going to be really freaken’ hard.
But, I did.
Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love my family. (I’m just putting that out there before you read the rest of this) But when it comes to mental health and talking about emotions, you can pretty much count that out of the question, which is actually kind of a funny thing. Funny because, essentially everyone in my family has some form of mental illness, diagnosed or not. Mom. Cousins. Aunts. Grandparents. Yup, all of them. Heck, some are even on medication! If this is true, then why are they so scared of depression, scared of anxiety, scared of OCD, scared of PTSD? Was I just imagining all of the disappointed glances and eye-rolls?
I still don’t get it to be honest, but I digress. The important thing is I did it, right?
The way it happened for me was actually pretty routine, I guess. I had been trying to deal with it on my own for a really long time. Secret therapy appointments, hiding behind school stress, crying myself to sleep etc etc. One day, I was at a doctors appointment with my mental health physician. It was a follow-up to our last meeting when we had decided we would wait 1 more month to see how I was coping and then, if I was still not okay, we would try medication.
Well, as you can guess, 1 month passed and nothing changed. It actually got worse, to be honest. Exams were around the corner and my grades were at their lowest, taking my self-esteem down alongside them. I left the appointment with a prescription for a starting dose of Zoloft. Safe to say, I had mixed emotions.
Then it all kind of happened really fast. I left the appointment, called my mom and at first, I lied. I told her the drug was for concentration because I knew she would be supportive if it was to help me get better grades, right? Of course, she asked me what the name was and I told her. She Googled it right there and then while on the phone and said, “Wait, this is an antidepressant..” to which I replied, “Well, yeah it’s actually for my anxiety, OCD and mood….”
At this point, I’m bawling because I’m actually so scared of what she’s going to say. At first, she definitely was confused because she had no idea. I kept thinking, how could she not know after all these years and me dropping hints? But then again, I was really really good at hiding it. After talking with her a little while longer, she saw it from my perspective and told me that no matter what, she was there for me and if this is what was going to be best for me, then she supports it. Basically, that is all I could have asked for.
The way I explained it is that, sometimes, out of nowhere, I get this sudden, overwhelming feeling of fear. I don’t know what I’m scared of. I don’t know why I feel this way. I feel very alone in this. That’s what anxiety is to me. I also explained to her that, so many things contribute to this. School. Pressure to succeed. Family issues. Friendship issues. Relationship issues. Self-esteem. And sometimes, absolutely nothing. My mind will go through a situation 500 times before I feel okay about moving on or make up worst case scenarios of what will happen is i don’t do something. That’s the OCD coming in, too. Anyway.
5 months later, here I am. She’s still supportive of me and medication, but she does ask me frequently if I want to stay on it or if I’m thinking about getting off of it. For now, it’s working for me, I’m the happiest I’ve been in a really long time and I’m not as anxious as I used to be on a daily basis. Trust me, it’s still there, but it almost feels like I turned the volume of my ‘anxiety voice’ down. It feels good.
Medication or not, I hope you can find your peace. Whether that means telling your family or secret therapy appointments, I understand. I’ve been there. If you feel like no one supports you, I am here to tell you: I support you and your recovery.
I would love to hear your stories too, so if you are comfortable, please share them with me below.
stay anxious & brave,
5 thoughts on “explaining my anxiety to my family”
I’m so glad you were able to open up to your mom and that she supports you. It’s difficult to let people in to the anxious ridden exhaustion that is your mind, but it’s helpful to have people on your side. As for why your family is afraid of mental illness even though they have mental health illnesses of their own, is due to the generational differences. Our older families were taught to keep things private and were shamed if people knew they were having a difficult time dealing with their mental health. Mental health is still very much stigmatized but I see how much more open people are about it, and it makes me so happy! I was tired of hiding and keeping my feelings and thoughts to myself. Now, my family and friends understand my anxieties, they have also opened up about theirs as well because they felt they no longer had to hide. So you being so open and honest is a great way to help your family so the same eventually. Wishing you all the best on this new journey, xo.
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The generational differences are definitely there….some things are still quite taboo with other family members, but as you said, because they were shamed for it for so many years, I am very understanding of this and would never hold this against them. I am so happy to hear that your family understands your anxieties and that you sharing this with them has created a safe space for them to talk about their’s as well! That is all we can hope for!!
Thank you so much for your lovely comment – you are a fellow sister combating stigma!
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Thank you so much! Wishing you and your family all the best, xo.
Hi Carol! First of all, I think it’s great that you created this blog! I’m sorry that you struggle with anxiety, but am happy that you’re feeling a little better! I have struggled with anxiety for a while now and just so you know, you’re not alone. While I don’t have as many panic attacks, my anxiety can get pretty severe. While my dad is very supportive, my mom isn’t as patient and I know how difficult it can be trying to explain something that seems so hard to, well, explain. Please know that if you ever need to talk, I’m here for you!
Wow, what an amazing comment ❤ I know exactly what you mean – it can make it so much harder when you don't necessarily have that understanding from your family, but we will get through it 🙂 Thank you for being so open with me and sharing a little bit of your story. Knowing that people out there listen and care is all that we can ask for! xo