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Living with chronic anxiety

Kelly McMillan

July 2019

I have suffered from anxiety for as long as I can remember. I recall that starting elementary school was very hard for me. I never wanted to be away from my Mom; I felt safest when I was home and with her. In grade four my anxiety intensified when my best friend’s mom got sick and died from cancer very suddenly. I spent a lot of time with my friend’s family, and I still remember that day and how it felt getting that news. I’m sure this event amplified my already existing anxiety, as after this I started calling home “sick” and never wanted to be away from my parents. My anxiety continued for the next several years, and daily life was difficult with thoughts of wishing I was never born so I didn’t have to feel this way.

Fast forward to grade 12. I had a scheduled routine doctor’s appointment, where at the end of the appointment he mentioned how he noticed my anxiety. He felt it was something I needed to address more in depth and referred me to a psychologist. I remember feeling so relieved and excited that I was maybe going to get help. Upon getting home from the doctor, my Dad immediately cancelled my referral and said I was only allowed to go to a Christian counselor. That appointment was never made or spoken of again. A few days later the doctor himself called me at home asking why my referral to the psychologist was cancelled, and I remember being so embarrassed. I was brought up in a fundamental Christian home as a Pastor’s kid (PK). I lived with a lot of shame and looking back it seems my Dad was filled with so much fear of any thinking that wasn’t fundamental and was consumed with how we as a family “appeared”.

My anxiety continued into dating and then into marriage. Thankfully my husband, Chris, was so kind and patient to me during those years. Chris really encouraged me to try counseling, and I started going to a Christian counselor. This ended up being a nightmare, as I was told the typical things that Christians would say: “You can do all things through Christ”, and “have more faith, prayer, fill your mind with the Word of God…etc.” I totally shut down and shortly after this I decided to never go back. For me, this was not a spiritual matter, and I knew it wasn’t. I needed tools to manage my anxiety, so Chris and I talked about using medication, but I would have some “good” days and I would tell myself I could handle it. It's very hard admitting that I needed help. Pride got in the way.

I had my first baby at 34, and my second baby at 36. Although my first baby was very colicky, my second child was very content which helped me to cope with the busyness. Somehow, I was holding everything together. I enjoyed being a Mom so much, and my kids were the joy of my life. When my first child started kindergarten, my anxiety ratcheted up again. My memories of going to school all came flooding back; seeing the little chairs and desks, the hooks for the tiny kids’ coats, and the library made me so anxious. Through this, I continued to push the feelings down. At age 40 I had my third and final baby. I remember holding him in the delivery room and while I totally loved my new baby, it was different than the first two births. I came home and my anxiety was at an all-time high. Shane, like my first, was very colicky and this seemed to intensify every feeling that I was having. I kept telling myself I was ok because I loved him so much, and I was able to convince myself that everything was fine.

Thankfully, I had the most amazing family doctor and while at an appointment for my baby the focus soon turned towards me. Noticing something that I thought was hidden by my “brave” face, she stood up, rubbed my back and asked me how I was doing. I instantly replied that I was “good”, but then I crumbled and said, “it sure doesn’t seem like I am...” In her kind and gentle way, she was able to console me, telling me I was a strong independent woman and getting help does not change that. Leaving that appointment on that day I once again, decades later, felt so relieved about getting help but this time, I was in control of my health. My kids and husband deserved a healthy Mom and wife, and I deserved to be healthy. That day I started anti-depressant medication in conjunction with counseling and have NEVER looked back. I am so thankful for that day in my doctor’s office and for her taking the time to care and listen and encourage me to get the help I needed.

I’ve come to realize I will probably be on anti-depressant medication for the rest of my life. It has changed my entire life, my family’s and every relationship I have. Today I am healthy and happy, and I now understand that I didn’t realize just how unhealthy I was. People often comment on how calm I am. It’s great because it gives me the opportunity to tell them a bit of my story. People like real, and often I find that they are going through the same stuff, can relate to my story and are encouraged by it. I am thankful to my God who loves me despite myself and has taught me so much about mental illness and the church. People struggling with mental illness want empathy and someone to listen to them. As Christians, we are very aware of what the bible says concerning trusting God in all things. Sometimes we just need more, and that’s ok. I’m thankful to my husband Chris and my three treasures for their patience and unconditional love and support, always. I’m also thankful for my parents, for my Mom who always had my back and for my Dad, who I know was doing his best at the time and has grown just as I have.

All of life’s experiences are chances to grow and learn. I’m thankful for this journey I’ve been on, for without it I wouldn’t be the woman I am today.

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