Byline: Just because I look okay doesn't mean that I am
Do you want to know the worst part about it?
Most people would never even know I had a problem.
With many diseases and disorders, you can see the visible marks it has left on a person. You can visibly see the suffering they've experienced. A mental disorder can go completely unnoticed.
A day in the life of someone with anxiety: From the moment I open my eyes, I think about my checklist for the day. What do I need to accomplish? Will I get it all done? Is my boyfriend happy? Will I have time to workout? I worry that I am not being a good friend, or a good daughter. I think about bills that are due three months from now. Did I blow out that candle I left burning?
And that is just the start.
I first noticed something was wrong my freshman year of college. It was my first “big” transition in life, and it hit me hard. I worried about everything. I missed my family and my own bed. I hated the change. I lost weight. I couldn't sleep or eat. I thought I'd never be happy again. It felt like the weight of the world was on my shoulders. I couldn't describe why I was feeling that way, but I knew it wasn't right.
After accepting the help from a therapist, I got on a small dosage of the anxiety medication Lexapro. All of a sudden, the fog cleared and I felt like myself again. It was crazy to me that a small pill could make all of those worries disappear. I got off the medicine about six months later when I felt “better.”
This awful feeling happened once again after my parents announced their divorce my sophomore year of college. This time, I chose to deal with the pain by controlling my eating.
I developed anorexia and fought it for a year and a half. I pushed aside the fact that I was depressed, and replaced it with an eating disorder. After getting back on medication, I gained back the weight and once again felt like myself.
Without the consent of my doctor, I got back off the medication my senior year. I remember thinking I didn't need medication anymore. I felt like I could finally handle life on my own.
This last time that the feeling happened, I denied it. Again. I didn't want to accept the fact that this wasn't something I could just “get over.” I felt weak. I felt like I wasn't as strong as I should be. I felt like a failure. “I have done this so many times,” I thought to myself.
Once again, I was in the doctor's office. My doctor said something to me that I will never forget. “If you have high blood pressure, you take medicine. If you didn't, you would get extremely sick. It's the same with this.”
Up until that time, I never looked at my mental disorder as an actual medical condition. I looked at it as a phase. I looked at it as a weakness.
The truth is, this is something I have to manage for the rest of my life. I have accepted it. It is my truth.
I still struggle on a daily basis with my mental disorder. I have had days where I don't want to get out of bed. I have had days where standing in a crowded area makes my chest feels like it is being wrung out like a wet towel. I have days where I don't think I'm good enough. And I have days where counting calories seems like the only way I can gain some sort of control.
I want people to know that just because someone looks OK, they might not be. It's is so deceiving, because those who suffer have become masters in covering up their symptoms. It is the masked disease, as I like to call it.
You are not weak if you need medicine to handle your anxiety. You might hear that a thousand times a day. But let me remind you. Because sometimes I need reminded myself.