Columnist Kristyl Clark writes about the importance of blowing the whistle on mental illness.

Valley mom: I didn’t know I was suffering from anxiety and depression

It was during my eldest daughter’s Christmas concert that I had a suspicion something was wrong

It was during my eldest daughter’s Christmas concert that I had a suspicion something was wrong, but it would take me awhile to realize I was suffering from anxiety and depression.

Normally, I’m that mom snapping photos, cheering my baby on in the stands, but not this time.

“Let me see the pics,” my husband Jason asked at home later that evening.

I went to scroll through my phone and realized I hadn’t snapped any. Not a single one of Molly, 7, in her cute elf hat.

“That’s not like you,” he said.

The truth is, I wasn’t really me and hadn’t been for quite some time.  I felt like a shell of my former self — numb and exhausted.

Decorating our home for the holidays seemed like way too much work.

Meeting a friend for coffee seemed like way too much work.

Having a shower or putting on makeup seemed like way too much work.

Over the years, my anxiety level had slowly crept up. This past Christmas, it was at an all-time high.

If my family was out on the road driving somewhere and I heard a siren, which happens often due to living next to the fire hall, I’d feel sick to my stomach and light-headed.

Right away, my mind would go to the worst-case scenario and I couldn’t focus on anything else until I was able to get through to them. I stopped driving further than my own community, fearing I’d get lost or in a bad car accident.

At night, I’d overthink EVERYTHING.

What if our youngest, Zoe, 5, ends up being a wild teenager and we can’t control her? Will we have enough money for their college savings? What if they go away to college and something bad happens? Is that sharp pain in my ovary ovarian cancer? Did I say too much at that party? Did I not say enough?

As you can imagine, it was utterly exhausting to be living in my head All. The. Time.

It just became way easier to be a recluse — to avoid everyone and everything.

No wonder I have been so tired. No wonder I started drinking three to four glasses of wine at night to tune out the noise. No wonder I have been such a hermit for the past two years. No wonder my body, mind and soul decided that it had FINALLY had enough over the holidays.

It was during the peak of my nightly wine habit that I began to think, maybe everyone would be better off if I just didn’t wake up. That was the first time I’ve ever had a thought like that. It was enough to scare me straight.

Honestly, it wasn’t something I thought or felt during the day, but the mix of alcohol and undiagnosed depression at night was proving to be a recipe for disaster — one that was robbing me of my serenity and sanity.

Talking to my doctor took an exuberant amount of energy — I felt completely depleted and demoralized as I slumped into his chair, too tired to nag Zoe to stop climbing on the furniture.

I left with a prescription for an antidepressant for depression and anxiety with the warning that I’d feel awful the first week. He sure wasn’t kidding.

Although I was prescribed to take just half a tablet the first couple of days, I decided not to heed his advice. I took the whole damn tablet, as I was desperate to feel ‘normal’ as soon as possible.

Of course, I ended up feeling sick to my stomach — I had to sit down several times while we were decorating our Christmas tree from the dizziness.

As promised, the pills stopped making me feel ill after around a week.

It’s been almost two months and I’m so happy to say that I’m feeling better than I have in years, which I chalk up to the anti-depressants, new gym routine and sober lifestyle.

I wake up with pep in my step and general feeling of calmness that even the best cab Merlot could never compensate for.

Finally, I’ve started reaching out to a few close friends and have been getting out of the house, enjoying activities that I used to.

I feel free.

My only regret is not getting help sooner – I’ve wasted so much time, which is why I’m writing this column.

“Kristyl, you’re not actually going to write about this? said my mom when I was started taking antidepressants. I don’t blame her reaction. She comes from the generation of keeping this kind of stuff under wraps.

It’s the job of our generation to blow the whistle on mental illness so our children don’t grow up afraid to ask for help.

About one in five people—over six and a half million Canadians—experience a mental illness or substance use problem in their lifetime. Unfortunately, many people don’t ask for help because they feel ashamed or scared. I was one of them, but not anymore.

If someone judges me or treats me negatively based on it, that’s more of a reflection of them than myself.

If you’re struggling with anxiety, depression or both, please don’t be afraid to chat with your family doctor about it. Mommas, you deserve to be happy for yourself and your families.

Kristyl Clark is a work-at-home-mom and founder of the family blogazine, ValleyMom.ca. Follow her on Twitter @shesavalleymom.