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My Dark Night of the Soul

Trigger Warning: Anxiety, Depression, Suicide, Eating Issues, Mental Health

I don’t know who I am anymore. I was on the birth control pill for 12 years and ever since I got off the pill, I haven’t felt the same. I started experiencing intense mood swings, depression, and anxiety. In February, the anxiety escalated to a concerning level; I was experiencing panic attacks every week. These panic attacks interfered with my ability to function in daily life – I wasn’t sleeping well, I was hardly eating, constantly in fight-or-flight mode, and working became extremely difficult and draining because any ounce of stress easily triggered a panic attack.

I never dealt with excessive anxiety until my early twenties. In 2015, I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and mild PTSD. I was in therapy, but I struggled with anxiety symptoms for 2 years, after which I became extremely depressed from having suffered for so long, and finally resorted to trying antidepressants. They helped tremendously for the anxiety and depression. I was on them for 6 months, but I gained a bit of weight so I decided to taper off the medication. Tapering off the medication went smoothly and I was completely fine after that, no relapse or resurgence of panic attacks. Sure, I still had anxiety from time to time, especially during periods of stress, but it was nothing that felt unmanageable or interfered with my daily life.

Fast forward to nearly 5 years later, in December 2021 when I got off birth control. There was definitely something biologically amiss in my body because as the weeks went on, my anxiety and depression worsened, and I started having panic attacks. I reached out to my doctor to get on medication and started going to therapy again. But, there was also a psychological factor at play as well.

Two years of working from home, feeling extremely isolated, and struggling to find genuine, long-lasting friendships isn’t easy on an extrovert. I began to feel like I was living the same day, over and over again. Same work, same routine, same everything. I became so comfortable being at home, and since I was lacking a close group of friends, I didn’t have many reasons to leave my apartment. When I did have to go to the office, or participate in social work settings, I had extreme anxiety that I kept at bay with anti-anxiety meds (or alcohol when at social outings).

The other factor that contributed to my anxiety was that I began to slowly piece together why I was where I was at in my career, and it had zero percent to do with what I wanted. I was in a corporate marketing job because it was what I thought I SHOULD do. It was the responsible path, it was the societally acceptable path. It was the logical path – after all, I studied marketing in college, I tried and failed at making a living from my passions, and marketing was much more creative than the other jobs I had held and disliked, so why not? I fully convinced myself that this is what I wanted, and it didn't hurt that I was actually really good at marketing. But, when I began to crack, the illusion I had built up around me started to fall apart.

The job wasn’t me... I felt like I fraud. When I would have to do presentations I needed to be confident, cool, collected, but I felt like a scared little girl inside. I would feel intensely anxious about what my colleagues and superiors would think of me. My hands would shake, my voice would tremble and my stomach would hurt, regardless of how many times I rehearsed. After my first time presenting, my mind froze on me several times, and from there-on I learned I needed to pop an anti-anxiety pill and put on the mask of who I needed to be, instead of who I was.

When my anxiety/panic attacks started ramping up this year, I really began to feel like a fraud. I was immensely struggling, in so much emotional pain, and no one knew. I distinctly remember, one day, I was so distraught and sobbing minutes before I had a meeting. I somehow pulled myself together a minute before the call, put on my mask and was actually able to smile. No one on that video call picked up a thing. I was really good at hiding my symptoms, especially since I usually worked from home. You could say I had high-functioning anxiety.

But, when the panic attacks started becoming more regular, it was harder to keep up the façade. The antidepressants weren’t working; I was dealing with a ton of side effects, and my panic attacks increased in severity. I finally came to acceptance that if I kept going like this, I would eventually let people down, which was the last thing I wanted to do. I decided to put in my resignation notice so that I could fully focus on my healing and recovery.

Since then, I’ve continued to have anxiety, panic attacks, and depression. I stuck with my medication for quite some time because my doctor said that it can take 4-6 weeks for the side effects to subside and benefits to kick in. I dealt with fatigue, sleep issues, depression, disassociation, anxiety, panic attacks, but I stayed on it for the hope that it would start working after each week passed. When my dose was increased, my appetite decreased even more. But, I secretly enjoyed that side effect because I was terrified to gain weight. I also dealt with teeth clenching and TMJ (a known side effect), but I was the skinniest I’d been in years, so I told myself that it was worth it.

Then, after 9 weeks I began to have suicidal thoughts and ideation. It was so hard to push through the fear of gaining weight, and the chance of losing the thin figure I had, but the depression was torture. I felt the closest I've ever been to ending my life. I finally called my doctor and changed my medication to the one I took years ago. I am praying that I’ll start feeling better soon.

Is this all TMI? Do I seem like I’m crazy? Even though I know I’m not, I can’t help but judge myself. I see so many people, in the same types of jobs, the same age as I, and they don’t have mental breakdowns. They juggle, they balance, they thrive, they do it all. I'm sure there are plenty of people in the world that aren’t making a living from their passion, but they’re able to do it. Why can’t I?

Ever since I came out of my job, I don’t feel like a fraud anymore, but instead I feel useless. I’m no longer contributing to society like everyone else, it’s like I’m not able to be a grown up. I am leaning on my parents and boyfriend for financial and emotional support. I question my existence and my purpose for being on earth because frankly, I feel like a blob and a waste of space. I am aware that I beat myself up a lot, but I am not strong enough to stop it right now. I know that my chemicals are out of balance, but with how many weeks I’ve been suffering, I have an enormous fear that I will always feel like this.

I wanted to share all of this when I had come out of the other side, so that it could be more inspiring and uplifting. But, this is how it is for people that suffer from mental illness. They fall deep in the depths of despair where they are unable to see the light at the end of the tunnel, even if they’ve been through it before. People with physical illnesses and diseases can lose their life because their body gives out; people with mental illnesses lose their life because their mind gives out. I know that there are so many others out there that are also struggling, maybe even from some of the same reasons that I shared, and they may not have any family or a partner or friends that they can turn to for support. My heart breaks for them because no one should have to deal with this alone. Even though I haven’t made it out the other end yet, I am trying. I have lost my job, my sense of identity, my passions and interests, but I’m still here. I’m sharing my story because it is important to destigmatize mental health; it’s just as important as physical health.

If you or anyone you know is feeling depressed, suicidal, or going through any kind of emotional crisis there are resources out there to help. You can call the National Suicide Hotline 1-800-273-8255 or if you prefer to text, send the text "Home" to 741741 and a crisis worker will text you back immediately and continue to text with you.