Anxiety and Depression: Coming Out of the Closet

anxiety and depression

Depression by Optiknerve at deviantart.com. Used with permission of artist.

In 2006,

  • Approximately 15.7% of people reported being told by a health care provider that they had depression at some point in their lifetime; approximately 11.3% of people reported being told by a healthcare provider that they had anxiety at some point during their lifetime.
  • Persons with current depression and a lifetime diagnosis of depression or anxiety were significantly more likely than persons without these conditions to have cardiovascular disease, diabetes, asthma, and obesity and to be a current smoker, to be physically inactive, and to drink heavily.

Source: CDC.gov

Coming Out About Anxiety and Depression

I take medication to manage anxiety and depression. Many people mistakenly believe that to be on medication for something related to how we think or feel makes us crazy, or weak, or unstable, or unspiritual. I started taking medication back in February, actually. But I wanted to put some time between starting medication and coming out publicly with it. Read my posts since February and judge for yourself whether I seem crazy, weak, unstable, or unspiritual. Read my posts before that and you’ll see I was none of those things before going on meds either.

This is for you

So today is liberation day for me. And I hope it’s liberation day for you too. Yes, you. My reader who ravenously reads every word I write about anxiety and depression. The one who remains in silence because you are not only not crazy, you are downright brilliant, and you fear you have so much to lose if too many people know you live in fear and/or anxiety. You are the one who, on one hand, says and does world-changing things every day and who, on the other hand, isn’t sure you can keep going this way. You are the writer, the dancer, the comedian (yes, the comedian) the composer, the photographer, the painter, the philosopher, the musician — the creative one. You may be celebrated often for your work. You may be praised and valued and adored by most everyone around you, but you experience the world as a fearful, lonely place. Maybe you do not consider yourself an artist, or creative at all, but nonetheless, I am still describing you quite well. If so, welcome! Maybe today can be liberation day for you as well. All are welcome. All who are depressed, all who are afraid, most of all, all who are afraid of their fear, yet continue to empower it every day by remaining in silence.

The Struggle

This was me. For 20 years. Afraid. Depressed. Carrying constantly a weight I did not understand and could not control. And when I say could not, it is not a euphemism for “would not.” I am living proof that sometimes this thing is bigger than you are. In the past 20 years, I have tried harder to fix myself than any other person I know. I have tried exercise (running, working out); spiritual stuff (prayer, reading/memorizing scripture, going away for silent retreats, meditating, going to church); reading; counseling (both becoming a counselor myself and seeking counseling); talking to friends; refusing to talk about it (yes, I’ve consciously used the technique of denial); “sucking it up” (the good old American stand-by) — I’ve tried everything. Some things helped a little. Nothing fixed it. Nothing changed the fact that no matter what, I was still fighting against a monster I could not see, something that seemed to sometimes want me dead, something that would sometimes disappear long enough to leave me certain I had defeated it before it came roaring back and robbed me of yet another week, or month, or year of my life. I am living proof that living with anxiety and depression does not mean one is weak. I don’t think my students, clients, family, friends, or congregants experience me that way. And I certainly don’t experience myself that way. Just being able to have a productive life while carrying these burdens is evidence of an extremely strong person.

The Leap

Enter Cymbalta. This past February I got sick of being me — or the version of me I had been becoming over the past twenty years. I got sick of almost never feeling happy, of weeping over almost everything, of feeling my heart constantly threatening to beat right out of my chest with anxiety that I often did not even know the cause of. I got sick of offering to others a peace that continually eluded me. So I went to my family doctor and told him what was happening and that I couldn’t live this way anymore. He asked a few good questions and prescribed medication for me. The first two he prescribed didn’t work. But Cymbalta did. And beautifully so.

The Results

Not everyone who lives with anxiety and depression needs medication. But many sufferers are going to need medical intervention at some point. What I’m saying is, get whatever help you need, but you don’t have to be miserable anymore. For the first time in my life, I would describe myself as happy, peaceful, optimistic, energetic, motivated, and joyful. It’s not that I found a magic pill that has turned me into all of these things. It’s rather that I have worked hard on these things all of my life and am finally free to be the person I have always wanted to be.

You hear so much talk about drugs being the easy way out. “People are just looking to pop a pill for whatever is bothering them.” I know this is sometimes true, but more often what I see are people who are suffering profoundly and either don’t realize help is available or are too ashamed to admit they need help. That’s you. If you are reading this right now, and you have lived under the burden of anxiety and/or depression, get the help you need. Cymbalta has not made a new person out of me — it has simply released the one that was always in here to begin with. Please don’t struggle even one more day. See your doctor.

Disclosure: I have received no compensation from Eli Lilly, makers of Cymbalta, for this post. Cymbalta may or may not be right for you. Allow your medical professional to determine if you need medication, and if so, what the right medication may be.

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  • Elizabeth

    I have been medicatted for depression for 20 years. Until recently, i never even contemplated coming out of the closet. I just went on short term disibility, and already wonder what i will tell people when i go back. Thank you for being so brave.

    • Elizabeth: It’s a really hard thing to deal with. You may know I also have MS, and that’s another condition where it’s hard to figure out what to tell people (especially employers), when, and how much. Just go with your gut, since there’s no right or wrong answer.

  • JJ

    I take two anti-depressants, and an anti-anxiety medication as needed. I am not crazy. I am not weak. In fact, I am an over-achiever, admired by many for having it all together. I am a wife, a mother, a student, a daughter, a sister, a friend, and a community volunteer.

    Thank you for coming out publicly and encouraging others suffering in silence to get the help they need and deserve. I am glad you are experiencing the joy of being the person you always were. Thank you for empowering me, and others, to do the same.

    • Thank you for commenting, Janelle, and sharing a little bit of your story as well. Every person who is willing to “come out” with it helps us to kill the stigma.