Shelly: My Story


As long as I can remember I have been anxious, or as some might say, a “worrywart.” My very first memories are of a child of four or five having stomachaches every morning before school. Sometimes they were so bad that my mother would allow me to stay home from school. This was a rare event, however, as every source she consulted maintained the importance of routine in combating my symptoms. Unfortunately, this anxiety, or sensitivity, has been a large part of my life ever since.

It wasn’t just school that triggered my anxiety. Relationships and work were affected as well. My symptoms would range from chewing my fingernails and having stomachaches and headaches to insomnia and night terrors, not to mention occasional vomiting and shingles. It was, and still is, difficult to interact with people; relationships with co-workers, family, and friends were strained. The thought of going through the process of applying for jobs and interviewing seemed so overwhelming as to be impossible. The resulting isolation fostered depression as well.

Indeed, it was this anxiety and depression after a traumatic divorce and subsequent loss of job that led me to recovery. Since the spring of 2003, I have been hospitalized twice for major depressions and have been on numerous pharmaceuticals to combat my illness. The journey has been rocky, to say the least. Thankfully, I have had a loving family to support me, especially my parents.

Living with depression and anxiety can be a challenge. I have just recently accepted the fact that I will be on medication for a long time; five years was the estimate suggested by my most recent psychiatrist. I have learned that for me life is a little easier on medication. Going off tends to land me back in the hospital. It is a good thing that I am a determined and focused person and that I have a mother who strongly supports medication due to the difference she sees it makes.

Probably the most memorable event that has occurred during my ongoing recovery from depression and anxiety was my second trip to the psychiatric hospital. Suffice to say I had not slept in four days and had stopped taking my medications regularly and had a terrible reaction, landing myself in the ER because in my mind I thought I was going to die before the night was through. It was during this visit to the hospital, however, that I realized how important it is to live and to create a sustainable and loving relationship with my family. Watching my father cry and realizing how tired and frustrated my mother had become, I vowed to do whatever it took to get stable and well again. I hated causing them pain and I hated being ill.

Ever since that episode, I am much more open with others, family and friends alike, about my illness and treatments. I share what I can regarding my successes and failures along my path. I work on being a better friend and daughter, and I make sure to take my medication as prescribed. It is my hope that telling my story will help others who are struggling with the same demons as myself to reach out for supports. Medication, therapy, and family have made all the difference in my life; I even have fingernails now.