I’ve been pretty open and honest about my experience with depression and anxiety during my first pregnancy and during my second pregnancy. It’s been cathartic for me to share my journey, but also really awesome because I know I’ve helped some other women out along the way. I know this because they’ve reached out to me and thanked me, which was so brave! It’s because of those people and their kind words that I’m able to keep on sharing so others can read through my experience, see themselves in my story, and maybe get some answers to some questions they’ve had, or even get a proper diagnosis like I finally did.
The first time I really felt depressed was when I was 17 and I had just moved out on my own. I would have daydreams about driving off the highway and crashing my car on my way to class, wondering if anyone would even notice or care. This was the first of many times in my life where I would attempt something new, not enjoy it/lose interest, and feel like a complete failure. This cycle has been playing out for years and years and years and it wasn’t until very recently that it become clear that this wasn’t just a flaw in my character, but rather a really common disorder that I had no idea I had been living with my entire life.
Lets back up to the feelings of depression and anxiety. Since I was 20, I’ve been taking medications to help ease those feelings, and they worked, somewhat. I was certainly less depressed and less anxious, but still not living my best life. It wasn’t until I was pregnant with my second child when I started receiving really amazing care at the children and women’s hospital in my city and I was given a whole new diagnosis. Sure, I was depressed and anxious but the underlying reasons for those feelings was because I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Say what? When my psychiatrist told me this I was so shocked. I mean, surely she was mistaken. But she wasn’t.
I was under the impression OCD looked a certain way because I’d only seen it portrayed in movies and TV one way. But there’s a type of OCD called Pure-O where you have these really intrusive obsessional thoughts. Here’s an example of an intrusive thought I have quite often. When my husband says goodbye before leaving for work and I wish him off to work, tell him to be safe, and that I love him, the second he shuts the front door I think back to what was the last thing I said to him in case he dies on his way to work and that was our last exchange. and instead of just leaving that thought there and thinking about something else, I’ll create this entire narrative about how I’ll be a widow with two kids. I let myself wander down this really unhelpful path.
One of my favorite quotes from one of my therapists:
There is no such thing as good thoughts or bad thoughts. All we have is thoughts and some are helpful and some are unhelpful.
With the help of my psychiatrist, we found the right medication that actually helps me with the real problem, which was these scary and unhelpful thoughts, and it was these thoughts that caused me anxiety and depression.
BUT THAT’S NOT ALL.
This journey has been like peeling back an onion — each layer that gets peeled back reveals even more.
The intrusive thoughts were all but gone which meant the anxiety and depression lessened considerably. But then I started noticing other aspects of my life that weren’t improving and becoming glaringly obvious as other aspects of my health improved. For example, I could stand in the kitchen and look at the sink full of dishes, go to wash them. But then I’d see something else I needed to do and start working on that, meanwhile the dish water is getting cold and the dishwashers half unloaded and the washer has wet clothes in it that I forgot to switch to the dryer last night and the garbage needs to be emptied and then I remember that thank you card I need to send, an appointment I forgot to book and my to-do list is growing and I can’t seem to focus on one thing long enough to finish a task. In these moments I feel like I’m spinning in circles but going nowhere.
I had all but accepted that this was just who I was. This was part of my character. That I just wasn’t cut out to be an adult. I would go to the store to get a specific thing and leave with everything but that one thing I needed. Then I’d beat myself up about forgetting something so basic. I would cause myself to become depressed and anxious over these things that felt out of my control. I was trying so hard to stay on track but nothing worked. It didn’t matter how many reminders, day planners, calendars, and to-do lists I had. I couldn’t get my s-h-i-t together.
But then a friend posted an article on Facebook about Adult ADHD in women. As I was reading this article the tears were streaming down my face. WHAT? Who wrote this? How do they know exactly what I’ve been through? But then I was confused because I thought ADHD was for hyperactive little boys.
What I didn’t know is there are different types of ADHD and girls don’t get diagnosed like boys do because boys generally have the hyperactive ADHD while girls trend toward inattentive or impulsive. I fall somewhere in the inattentive zone and I can see so much evidence of this behavior all through my life.
For a moment I was really sad. I thought about all the time I’ve lost and how much of my life I’ve spent beating myself up, calling myself a failure, starting things and never finishing them. But then I became so happy. Happy that I finally have some answers. Finally able to start living my life and enjoying it. The way I felt before was that I was just getting through life but never really enjoying the journey. The journey was agonizing and arduous so why would I enjoy it?
It’s been such a journey to get to this point and I know it’s just beginning but I have to say it’s such a wave of relief to know I’m on the right path, surrounding myself with the right information and learning lots of new skills to help me cope with my new diagnosis.
The moral of my story is if you think something is going on, trust your instincts. Talk to your doctor and keep digging. My doctors were never wrong. I was depressed and I was anxious but that was just a symptom of a much bigger issue.
PS: All photos c/o Morgan Webb Photography