You Are Not Alone: Starting a Conversation About Mental Illnessby Alisha Perkins September 23, 2014 Health & Wellness 7 Comments by Alisha Perkins I want to break down the barriers and stigmas surrounding a growing issue so many of our friends and family deal with. We are all good at hiding it—believe me, I know—but we don’t have to hide anymore. There is nothing to hide from. I constantly struggle with high anxiety—probably have all my life, but I did not recognize what it was until after I had kids (and it got worst with each kid as the hormones changed). At first I tried to brush it off, assuming it was “new mom worries,” just an overwhelming want to protect my kids. I was overthinking everything, internalizing everything and “what-if-ing” myself into panic. I wasn’t sleeping, constantly worrying and unable to quiet my mind. From the editor: RedCurrent launched with a mission to maximize your most valuable commodity: time. We want to revolutionize the way you to explore, discover and share events around the Twin Cities, and we’ll have news on our core platform and app soon. For now, welcome to our blog—where each day you’ll find new posts previewing various MSP events, profiling the people behind the scenes and occasionally telling an important story about ourselves. Today, we visit the topic of anxiety and learn why one Minneapolis woman (whose name you may recognize) wants those battling any form of mental illness to know “You Are Not Alone.” Anxious paranoia I was obsessed with the idea that someone wanted to hurt me or my kids and was wrapped up in the idea that my husband’s travel schedule was public info and therefore people would know when to break into our home. I was such a wreck that every night that he was on the road I would have my mom sleep over in bed with me. Yes, you read that right, I (26 years old at the time and now a mom myself) needed my momma to sleep over with me to protect me from the “bad guys.” I knew that if something was going to happen my mom was no better in the situation than me, but my anxiety had me so twisted that I could not sleep without her there. Incredible, huh? I remember the first time I discussed the way I was feeling with my mom, and she was like “oh yeah, its anxiety. I have it, my sister has it, a few of your cousins have it and it is hereditary ya know.” That was the very first time I realized that this needs to be talked about. So here I am…stepping outside my comfort zone and going to try my best to be as candid as possible with all of you in hopes of helping others. Multi-pronged therapy After putting a name to the feelings, I went about trying to treat it the “Type A” way. I thought I could deal with it on my own. I didn’t need drugs. I just needed therapy. So, about five years ago I started seeing the most wonderful therapist—whom I still see on and off to this day. I truly believe that the world would be a better place if everyone saw a therapist and just got it all out. If you know anything about me, you know I love a good self-help book, and therapy is like having your very own self help book. I loved every minute of it. I learned some great tools to “talk myself down,” figured out where all these thoughts stemmed from and most importantly learned how to differentiate between what is real and what is the anxiety. I also learned how to trust God and his plan. I know he will protect my path. Even though I so badly want control, I have to realize that only He has control. I stuck solely with therapy for about two years, and saw amazing changes, but I still felt like I couldn’t “take it down a notch” in general. So I finally went to my doctor to talk about medication. Taking the damn pill I want to preface this by saying I’m not in any way a big medicine person. I hate taking Motrin, Tylenol, cold meds and refuse antibiotics until I’m on my death bed. So the idea of taking “medicine” everyday was something I struggled with big time. My doctor said something profound, though, and I have never forgotten it. “ Alisha,” he said. “I workout everyday and eat healthier than most, but no matter what I do I cannot lower my high cholesterol…got it from my dad…and so I take a pill everyday for my health. You are no different. No matter what you do you cannot control the levels in your brain. If you have to take a pill to feel better every day, just take the damn pill.” So I took the damn pill. I remember asking him how I would know if it was working, and he said “its not the type of thing where you will feel all relaxed tomorrow; it’s the type of thing where you will look back in a month and realize things just seemed easy and less stressful.” Man alive was he right. I wish I could explain the difference it makes in my life. The best way to say it is that it just takes it down a notch for me. I am a better wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend since being on it. A friend once bought me a dishcloth that said “medicated and motivated” and it is totally me now I did not want to be one of those people who went on medication and gave up on fixing the issue, so I still see my therapist and work through things that bother me or raise my anxiety. In fact, there have been times when I have tried to go off the meds for a period of time to see if I still needed them. Glen’s Springer Spaniel It was crazy (pardon the pun) how much I felt the anxiety come flooding back. Everything felt so pronounced and overwhelming, so I know being on the med is the right thing for me. Another thing I found that has worked wonders for me is running. I already knew the benefits of the endorphin release you get from running, but I did not realize the adrenaline release and how beneficial it would be to my anxiety. When the “what-ifs” start going in your mind, your adrenaline starts to rage, and without an outlet it can consume you. For me running got it out and helps me be able to process things at a more “normal” level. My hubby always jokes that I am his little English Springer Spaniel: I just need to be run everyday. In fact, at times he uses it against me when we argue and he slyly slips in “hey…did you get a run in today?” I’m sad to say that most times he is right. I just need to be ran In part two of her latest blog, Alisha will talk about why those suffering from any and all forms of mental illness no longer need to be ashamed of something beyond their control. She’ll talk about the importance of talking, how to communicate with family and friends and explore a variety of resources here in the Twin Cities.