I was diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, and Recurrent Depressive Disorder (Moderate) a few years ago. Although the diagnoses were pretty recent, I’ve been dealing with mental health almost as long as I can remember. As a child I would pace the kitchen floor and I remember my mom saying “Stop doing that you’re driving me crazy!” Which is funny considering she has the same disorders as I do, if not worse. I didn’t know I had anxiety. I was probably around 13 years old and I just thought I was nervous to take the exam the next day. I didn’t recognize the little tics that anxiety brought me. The shaking legs, playing with my ears, and rubbing my hands that I would soon come to understand more as I became older.
Nature or nurture?
I’m not really sure. I’m certainly no expert, but I have seen a few. I’ve been told that my anxiety, since it started at such a young age, was probably inherently cast upon me. Not that I can blame anyone, especially my mom who has gone through hell and back in her life as well. I just wish she would have told me what she knew. It might have saved me from some pain later in life. I believe talking about our mental health is probably the healthiest thing we can do. It can save lives. Sometimes we forget that fact. I think I am judged a lot by how openly I talk about my diagnoses. I’ve heard things like “Well you know, a lot of people don’t talk about those things so openly. It’s weird.” Yes, I suppose it is weird, but it shouldn’t be. Maybe if my mom talked about her anxiety and what she went through, I could have caught mine earlier and learned a few tricks along the way. That’s not how things panned out.
I didn’t seek help for mental health issues until I started having panic attacks. They came when life was going right or at least a lot better than they were. I had gone through a divorce which involved cheating, an abusive relationship that a close family member was in, and even lived through extreme poverty a few times, having nowhere to live except my car. I lost my job of 7 years because of a back issue. I went from making almost $30 an hour to working at speedway part time. It was a shock to my system. I had met a great woman who would later become my wife. Things were not perfect, but going in the right direction. I was getting back on my feet after all that trauma. That’s when it hit, right then, when I let my guard down. I remember driving to work and just the feeling of my stomach dropping, the intense feeling of crawling out of my skin, uncontrollable crying, shaking. A nightmare. This episode lasted about 30 minutes and I’ve never felt anything like it. Unfortunately, I would feel it again. It would come back to haunt me. Eventually I found myself at my doctor’s office explaining what I had gone through and he prescribed a benzodiazepine and an SSRI. It helped me, it really did, but not for long. I would soon realize just taking a pill or two or 7 wouldn’t fix the problem. Instead I needed support, real support that came in the form of talk therapy, medication, and being open about what it is I have gone through. I have found talking to other people about my mental health issues is what helps me the most. Seeking help really is the first step. Making that leap to say “Hey, I have a problem,” and talking to your doctor. If they can’t help you, seek out someone who can; A therapist, psychologist or a psychiatrist.
There is so much more to my story and I will share it all with you if you will let me. For tonight, I’ll end it with this. You are not alone. You will never be alone. Together we can beat this thing. Reach out for help. Hell, reach out to me. I won’t turn you away. Just realize there are others who have gone through the same things and might have some insight and knowledge. Talk about how you feel no matter how anxiety filled it might be. Just take that first step. It’s a big one!
By: Anthony Schoonveld