Over the last year I have dealt with mental health issues after some stressful events in the late spring of 2017. I’ve since been diagnosed with anxiety, something I now realize that I’ve had my whole life. With mental health being on the forefront of many conversations, especially in the agriculture community with the newly founded Do More Agriculture Foundation, sometimes I find myself believing the stigma that I’m weak or that I should be able to handle this on my own. After all, my grandma, and her mom, and her mom (and so on, and so on), didn’t need medication and therapy to cope with their lives as farmwives… but here I am, owning and sharing my anxiety with you.
Sometimes I reflect in awe of how they did it all with so much less than what I have today. I have often been told from my mom, that in my grandma’s generation you “just didn’t talk about feelings,” and sucked it up and dealt with it.
I did suck it up and deal with it. I did it for so many years, and the last of which I was a busy mom volunteering on our playschool board, shuffling kids to and from school, packing lunches, making farm meals, keeping our home, finding childcare for our baby so I could take the older kids to soccer by myself during seeding, and taking shifts at the hospital when I could while feeling guilty I was taking precious time away from my husband who could be working on the farm. I dealt with a baby who needed surgery at 11 weeks old and then required a seven-hour round-trip drive to appointments every two weeks for 4-1/2 months. Then, like a pressure cooker that had reached full pressure, the valve of my mental health capacity released, and all the steam along with my emotions came shooting out the top in a fury after a traumatic event at work.
I got over that event from work rather quickly, as it is part of my job as a registered nurse, but it also brought to the surface so many issues I’d been keeping at bay for the previous four years of my life. My dad died in April 2013 from alcoholism-related health issues; he was only 55. A big part of any addiction is the mental health component, even more so than the overall physical health component, and I promised myself last spring that I would finally address everything that came up since his death.
One night when I felt like I was really struggling, I sent a text to my husband when he was working, that I thought it was time to go to therapy and try to sort out what I’ve been going through that had been dragging me down. I really hadn’t processed the impact my dad’s alcoholism had on me when he was alive, and, even worse, how his death impacted my family relationships and dynamic afterward. I also made an appointment with my family doctor and took him my Generalized Anxiety Disorder score from therapy and talked to him about my options for medication and further treatment. We agreed to put me on an anti-anxiety/anti-depression medication that had very few side-effects. I would check in with him frequently to see how I was coping and I agreed to keep going to therapy, as medication alone wouldn’t be the solution.
I cannot tell you how much my life has changed for the better since starting my medication last summer. Anxiety isn’t always what you might picture it to be, and mine appeared in the form of irritability, anger, and even rage. I wasn’t sleeping, I wasn’t eating properly, and it appeared as physical symptoms such as nausea and shakiness. I am a much happier and patient person, and my husband and kids deserve that of me, and I deserve that for myself. You cannot pour from an empty cup, so never feel guilty or that you aren’t worth enough to fill your cup so that you can take care of others.
If you were diagnosed with diabetes there would be no shame in taking insulin, the medication that diabetics require, and learning all there is about how to adapt your lifestyle. I see mental illness and the treatment it requires no differently. If you are suffering from depression, anxiety, or another illness — take it seriously and reach out for help. You’re not alone.