I have Anxiety: My Mental Health Journey

NM hike

Re-posting with some edits after it got lost in our website host server transfer – originally posted October 26, 2018.

As last week (or maybe the week before… “What week is it?” is one of the games Reid and I like to play now that we’re on this vagabond adventure) was National Mental Health Day, I thought I would share something I’ve been trying to figure out how to best post about on my blog and have been procrastinating hitting publish on – which is – how I’ve recently begun therapy for anxiety.

But First, Depression…

So, for the first stop on this mental health journey, I need to first touch on how I’ve experienced periods of time where I felt, for lack of a better description, utterly helpless and hopeless with no desire or motivation to do much of anything about anything.

And, not only did I feel like that, but I also felt like I had NO RIGHT to feel like that because I have been brought up and raised in the literal epitome of the best childhood and upbringing possible. Even though I studied psychology for my major (and should know that sometimes there are chemicals and hormones at play that we have no control over), I STILL believed that because I have an INCREDIBLE support system, and had experienced nothing near a detrimental level of trauma in my life, that I didn’t “deserve” to be able to say that I was feeling depressed.

My first job out of college was sales/contract recruiting. And I don’t regret my time spent doing this endeavor at all, because I gained much-valued experience and valuable relationships (as in, not networking contacts but, a best friend) from it, but also, it was very detrimental to my mental well-being.

When the lives and well-being of others become numbers and metrics to hitting my bonus, I, as an emotional and empathetic being, floundered. Incredibly. Also, there’s this element of when people are your product, people are unpredictable, and ultimately, they’re uncontrollable, and because I couldn’t control everything that I was then going to be held accountable for in my performance reviews, I began to resent people. I became jaded, and felt like I couldn’t trust anyone, because I couldn’t trust that this job candidate would show up to their interview, and I couldn’t trust that my manager would see me as still being a valuable asset to our company even if I had a downpour of crap outcomes due to no fault of my own, and I became bitter and resentful.

I realized this when, through one of the employee engagement efforts of my company, they had us take this “Depression Screening” in exchange for points towards an employee store, and I scored something that meant “moderately depressed, see a professional”. So, I took advantage of one of the benefits that Reid had access to through Boeing, called EAP (Employee Assistance Program), and as a wife of an employee, I saw a counselor in-person onsite at Boeing for 2-3 visits in January 2017.

I realized through talking to her, that anything sales-based, while I may have initially excelled at it because of my drive to succeed and hit goals, wasn’t beneficial for my mindset. I wanted and needed something more in a helping role because I wanted to be able and enabled to view people as people and help them in their human-being-ness. My therapist asked me, “Would you have ever sought out a job in outright sales?” and my answer was a resounding “NO,” so she then asked, “Why would you then consider a job in sales recruiting?” Therefore, I started seeking a job in administrative assistance, where I could help others who knew what the heck they want to do with their careers since I clearly didn’t know that for myself yet.

And, through that experience, I found my job at Ozobot, which was a definitely defining moment of my life. When I was interviewing, I literally CRIED while I was talking to the hiring manager, and she asked me why I was so emotional, and my response was, “I want to find my place in this world. I want to use my gifts to benefit others, and I’m still trying to figure out the best way in which I can do so,” and then when I got the job, I was definitely happier than I was as a recruiter.

But, even in a better job or even while Reid and I were RVing and living so many people’s dream or even still to this day sometimes I wake up with this unexplainable sense of dread for the day stretching out ahead of me.

Anyways, in fall 2017 I was at my new job at Ozobot and I wasn’t miserable and crying on the way into work every day like I was with recruiting, but I was still having periods of just feeling really down about life, so when I went to my yearly physical, I asked my doctor for a hormone panel to see if anything was wonky there that would explain my depressed moods.

Got a hormone result that offered no explanation for my down-in-the-dump-ness, and after doing his own depression screening, the doctor offered a recommendation for antidepressants instead (which I chose not to accept the prescription for). For one, I feel like he jumped to medication too quickly when I hadn’t even tried therapy yet, and two, I still like to believe if I just try to focus hard enough on the positive and on gratitude then I can control my own happiness.

Experiencing Anxiety

I always thought that everyone has a baseline level of constant worry, and that anxiety is a super pronounced all-the-time intense and debilitating worry. I guess I just never realized how debilitating my worries were until I started RVing. In doing this adventure, while it has brought me out of my comfort zone in a good way, it has also put my brain in a more constant state of unrest, where every day means facing decision fatigue and every day brings another risk that “the unknown” will turn into a state of known failure. Thankfully, through talking to Reid about the constant stream of thoughts and questions and worries running through my mind about 90% of the time, I had the epiphany that not everyone walks around thinking like I do all the time.

On a hike in Albuquerque, Lincoln (our collie) almost overheated. Reid and I actually had to carry him back to our car. Needless to say, this brought on an overflow of emotions and anxious thoughts that actually helped serve a purpose in me being able to separate different elements of (what I’ve now realized is) my anxiety’s tendencies. Normally, I know I overthink pretty much everything, but I haven’t been able to define any mechanics of
what my thoughts work like, so here’s me attempting to –

  1. I ruminate on all the different ways something could go wrong in my head (i.e. at a birthday party for one of our friends’ kids during our first two weeks in the RV when we were parked on a street in Los Angeles, I kept thinking that we could come back to the RV and Lincoln may have overheated and died from heat stroke, or someone could have broken into the RV to rob it and shot him), and I actually see/picture these scenarios playing out in a sort of mental movie reel, like Final Destination-esque visions.
  2. Not being able to tell the difference between a normal / healthy amount of worry that could help prevent something bad, vs. the irrational and detrimental level of worry that I probably participate in most of the time. But at every instance, I constantly wonder, what if THIS is the time when taking action because of my worry could save the day? So for example, at the birthday party whenever I thought about Lincoln back at the RV, I was thinking over and over again WHAT IF we left now to go back and check, would NOW be the time where if we left that we could get back in time to catch something? It’s like I can’t let my mind rest because I’m constantly berating myself about what if I’ll look back and realize that if only I had taken action at THAT point, then I could have prevented the bad thing from happening. This was also true while on the hike, I kept thinking, “What if we don’t turn back NOW and he overheats, will I always wish we turned back 5-10 minutes in, oh but now we’re halfway so it’s too late.”
  3. Another element is how I feel like nothing truly terrible has happened to me yet in my life, so I feel like I don’t even have a good reason to be this anxious, and therefore have this level of expectation that I’m due for a major life crisis to occur. I feel as if so many people who have found their purpose in life did so because of rising from the ashes of a terrible, hard thing that happened to them, then figuring out how to overcome it themselves, or making it their mission to prevent it from happening to others, or something of that nature. And then it would also be like a validation of why I’m anxious because this terrible trauma happened to me so there’s a legit reason. Whereas right now, I have no idea why my brain does this to me, and I feel crazy.
  4. …Which is a primary reason why I don’t talk about or share my anxious thoughts with people most of the time – I feel like I don’t have any right to burden others with what’s bothering me because I don’t feel deserving of asking for help because I don’t know of a valid enough reason for why I’m having these anxious thoughts. I’ve always thought that everyone has worries and doubts that pop into their head, but everyone else is just much better at dealing with it than I am. I never imagined that other people don’t even get these thoughts popping into their head in the first place.

Anyways, somewhere along the line of thinking all this earlier this summer and talking with Reid about it, I realized I may be experiencing some anxiety, and I should see a therapist (even just because it’s probably good to see a therapist for pretty much anyone – at the very least it can’t hurt to talk 100% openly and honestly with a completely impartial third party just to get validation on if your thoughts are normal or if you should try to adjust your mindset or way of thinking for living your own best life).

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