Lauren Daniell from Ordinary Me reached out and is sharing her story about Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Her story, like many others, is raw. But it is real, honest, brave and inspiring. In May 2017 she was hospitalised and has had spent the last year on a journey of self-discovery.
Lauren’s mission is to raise awareness for mental health and to remove the stigma’s associated with mental health illnesses. We are on a similar mission. She wants to share her story so other women and families don’t feel so alone. In sharing her story she wants to demystify the hospital experience as it was the best thing that happened to her in regards to her mental health.
I’m learning to manage anxiety so it doesn’t manage me
By Lauren Daniell
In 2017, after ten years of struggling with mental health issues that I’d broadly presumed was depression, I got an actual diagnosis.
Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
It’s the anxiety that’s at the centre of it all though. It’s the big boss and the MDD and OCD are its faithful followers.
When I’m severely anxious for a period of time a depression is bound to follow as my self-esteem plummets and I struggle to see I’m still a worthwhile human being. OCD is something I try to use to manage anxiety. If there are control, order and routine then I know what to expect. It’s safe. It also means I know when something isn’t right, which causes me anxiety, but at least I don’t question my judgment about it because it’s out of routine.
Magical thinking is one of my major OCD tendencies. Have you ever driven to work and got every red light and thought ‘well today is going to be terrible.’
It’s kind of like that but slightly more controlling. With my first baby, I bought eight pairs of the same pyjamas for her because the best night occurred in those ones. And by best night I mean there was no crying at bedtime and she slept through. So she wore the same pyjamas every night and I had a spare for washing or misplacement. If anyone tried to put her in something else, my heart would constrict and I’d feel panic rising in my throat.
This kind of behaviour went on for two and a half years until I became pregnant with our second daughter. The OCD lessened when I was pregnant. Depression and anxiety hit me hard in the first trimester because I was off my medication. After that, when I went back on it again the rest of my pregnancy was wonderful.
However, despite my best efforts with medication, yoga, counselling and support I ended up in another bout of postnatal depression and anxiety when my second daughter was about five weeks old. It was a crisis this time. I was deemed a risk to my own safety and was hospitalized in a mother and baby unit for three and a half weeks.
It was there I received my diagnosis and it gave me a huge sense of relief. It was real, all those things I was feeling and thinking for so long was real. I wasn’t just weird, overly sensitive or lazy, or any of the other things I tended to think of myself. I was mentally ill. It was scary but liberating.
While I was in the mother-baby unit I learned a lot about anxiety as an illness and how to manage it rather than trying to run away from it.
It seems counterintuitive but I learned to accept the moments I felt anxious rather than thinking ‘Oh no, here it comes. I hate feeling this way.’
One of my doctors said trying to run from anxiety, or other distressing feelings is like trying to push an inflatable beach ball under the water. You might succeed a few times but eventually, it will rise up and smack you in the face.
Accepting I was anxious began with recognizing both my triggers and my symptoms.
- Too much loud noise
- Too many people
- My baby crying
- Some social situations
- Being left alone with my kids
My physical anxiety symptoms:
- Hands and feet go numb
- Dry mouth
- Heart racing
- Blurry vision
- Shaky hands
My anxiety behaviours:
- Unable to think or speak clearly
- Become distracted
- I seek reassurance about everything (should I put her to bed now or do you think it’s too early? Is it okay if I go and have a shower now?)
- Can’t sit still for long
How I manage my anxiety behaviours
Now that I know what my symptoms and behaviours are I try to intervene before they take hold of me. Because I know now, that’s allowing anxiety to take hold of me.
I notice my hands and feet are feeling numb and my heart is starting to beat faster. I also can’t concentrate on what my husband is saying to me and I desperately want to get up from the couch and move around.
I’m anxious and I need to intervene.
I’ll sometimes need just one of these or a few, it depends how I feel at the time.
- Stop and take three deep breaths.
It calms my mind and stops my shallow breathing.
- Try and be mindful and in the moment.
If I stop and just listen to the noise around me, focus on what my kids are doing or saying to me I realize my mind is actually full of all these future thoughts and worries that just make me more overwhelmed and anxious.
- I use my coping statements
These were five statements I developed in the hospital with my psychologist. I have them on a piece of paper stuck on the fridge and I will read them often throughout the day.
- This is not an emergency. I can stop and take three deep breaths and slow down.
- It’s okay to be anxious in this moment and still deal with this situation.
- This is an opportunity for me to learn to cope with my fears.
- Fighting and resisting this isn’t going to help, I can just let it pass.
- There are just thoughts, not reality.
But of course, I am human and don’t always manage to put these things in place. I do try and take each day as I can and do my best though.
Thank you, Lauren, for sharing your story. You are a strong, brave and remarkable woman. I know we all wish you well on your journey, you have come so far and are an incredible inspiration.
You don’t have to feel alone if you live with depression, anxiety, OCD or any other mental illness. There is help out there and there are people that care.
Do you want to share your story? Find out more information here.
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