I picked up a prescription today. It isn’t an antibiotic. It isn’t birth control. It is an anti-anxiety medication. Since May is Mental Health Awareness Month, I want to tell you why I decided to take this step. Being a DC mom, I feel like we put on extra pressure to do it all (like so many do and feel)! Whether you work inside or outside the home, our lives in this fast-paced, highly charged and wound-up city, DC area moms deal with a lot—and that causes a lot of stress, anxiety, and depression. After two plus years of a pandemic, a political environment that seems crazier every day, an up and down economy leading to high gas and grocery prices and now a formula shortage, we all need to check in on our mental health.
My mental health awareness
For me, mental health has been something I’ve always thought about. My family has a history of anxiety and depression, so I am acutely aware of my own mental health. My journey has included being in and out of therapy, trying different coping mechanisms and relaxation techniques, and talking to trusted friends and family about how I am feeling.
I think I’m finally in a place where I know how I’m feeling, how to gauge my steps to help myself, and when I need to reevaluate what I am doing. I’ve invested the time and found a therapist who has helped me navigate a lot of topics (like a volatile relationship with family, issues with my spouse, changing friendships, work changes and goals, societal pressures, and my first pregnancy and starting motherhood).
As helpful as therapy has been—and I highly encourage it for anyone wondering if it’s right for them—recently I’ve decided that it isn’t enough. My normal coping skills haven’t lessened my anxiety and worry. I cannot focus or stay motivated to accomplish both the small and big things. I try to distract myself instead of figuring out the root of the issue so it goes away.
Starting Anti-Anxiety Medication
I talked with my therapist about this and we came up with a plan. Since she isn’t licensed to prescribe medication, we decided that I needed to talk to my general practitioner about anxiety and ADHD. My doctor diagnosed anxiety and gave me referrals to talk to a psychologist about an ADHD screening. We decided that the best next steps are for me to start on an anti-anxiety medication and an ADHD screening.
That led me to picking up my medication today! It will take a few weeks to see if there is an effect, but I feel liberated. I feel a sense of vindication. I feel…better. Because I had been trying to manage my anxiety and make it go away and it wasn’t working. I was aware of my mental health continuing to struggle, but nothing I did was changing it. In deciding medication is the best next step, I feel empowered. I’m hopeful that it will work, but even if it doesn’t, I feel good knowing that I am trying things to improve my mental health.
Looking forward to the future
I share this because we’re at a time when millions around the country are also struggling with mental health. In the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic alone, there was a 25% increase of anxiety and depression, according to the WHO. A CDC survey found that 37% of US high-school students reported regular mental health struggles. We all have struggles, and that makes me feel less alone as I navigate these new next steps.
I share this because I don’t think I’m alone in knowing that something is wrong but not knowing why nothing is helping. I’m very lucky and privileged to have access to therapy and a good therapist who helped me come up with a plan. I want others to know these steps exist, there are additional resources available, and it is ok to seek them out.
I am excited about this next step in my mental health journey. Picking up that prescription and taking that first pill puts me in control of what feels like an uncontrollable situation. And sometimes, that little bit of control really does make all the difference.