I grew up in the days of mental health being taboo. I didn’t want to take any antidepressants or see any type of psychiatrist because I equated that to people that were nuts. I thought I’d be thrown more medications to take and appointments to attend. I imagined I’d be laying on a couch experiencing a one-sided conversation; this all while being analyzed by someone looking over their reading glasses. Over the years, I’ve changed my views 180 degrees. I’m not inferring I’m completely nuts, but I’ve learned the needs and benefits of having a mental health team coinciding with IBD.
I fought back the cloud of stigma when my anxiety was at an all time high. I didn’t know what was causing it or that it even was anxiety. Then, the door literally opened to a tall male whose spouse has an autoimmune disease. He would be one of my most beneficial additions to my care team. Immediately, there was an underlying understanding that this male knew what my daily life was like because he lived through it personally, through his spouse and as a caregiver. Each time I would have a scheduled appointment with him, I knew, for at least that session, I’d have someone that would interact with me on a level of understanding and care that I could relate.
I’ve learned through this third party outlet, where minimal venting is allowed as it’s deemed unproductive, that antidepressants don’t do the whole job. The root of the causes in conjunction with medications aides in daily life.
Anxiety can be in many forms.
For me, my anxiety attacks were my body’s way of stopping me in my tracks and saying “Wait! Pay attention to me. Give me a voice.” I thought I was going through the motions and dealing with my health, until I randomly couldn’t breathe on the tennis court, an outlet for me. Another time, I had to stop an airplane from closing its door so I could escape. I knew something had to give. Discovering I wasn’t giving my inner body the attention and voice it desired, along with a little help from medications, resulted in a huge weight lifted off of my chest.
Many IBDers are stuck and tethered in a hospital facility with no escape, or at home with extremely low abilities for activity. I was very active and still having 20-30 of these anxiety attacks a day and they were debilitating. What was it? How could I make them stop? Will they ever go away? Do other people have these too?
Anxiety can come about from fears of the unknown. Fears of not fitting in. Fears of no answers. Fears of medicinal side effects, which is a large trigger for me. Fears of changing specialists due to many factors. Fears of losing friends. Fears of not measuring up to the expectations in your mind of how you imagined your life. Add the fear of missing out on events due to how you’re feeling, and many times you have no choice but to miss important events; which leads to states of depression and angst towards yourself, that once again you missed an important event. The list goes on and on.
I learned my body needed a voice. I could raise funds for non-profits, do events, work, etc., but was I really in tune with my body? Was I just doing what I was comfortable doing and what the specialists requested, no questions asked?
I try to work on myself on a regular basis. I try to be on top of any signs of a depressive state and make sure to be as open and honest with my care teams as possible. Holding things back only builds it up internally, and the cycle of not giving my body a voice begins again.