The other day at work, a colleague walked by my office and poked her head in to say hi.
“How are you?” she asked.
My automatic reply…”I’m fine, how are you?”
“Are you really ok?” she asked, concern in her voice and on her face.
I shook my head. My throat closed up and my eyes filled with tears. Turns out, I’m not ok. I haven’t been for a while. The last few months, I’ve felt overwhelmed, tired, stressed, forgetful, irritable, broken, useless, sad, and worried. I thought for sure I was anemic again, as I had all of the physical symptoms-maintenance insomnia, fatigue, heart palpitations, difficulty concentrating, etc. Turns out, these can be the symptoms of many conditions-vitamin deficiencies, high or low cortisol, depression/anxiety, etc. I had blood work done to look at iron levels, thyroid function, and inflammation. Would you believe…my blood work is perfect! My doctor thinks my symptoms, both physical and mental, stem from one of two things-depression or not getting enough sleep.
So that begs the question-does the worry and sadness cause sleeping problems, or does lack of sleep cause the sadness and worry? I don’t have the answer.
I have not been diagnosed with anxiety or depression, but I’m not sure that matters. The feelings are there. I’m doing what I can to eliminate stress (running helps!), and getting more sleep, which is, well, a work in progress. Some nights I sleep better than others, but most nights (6/7 nights of the week), I wake up between 3-3:30. I’m taking a cortisol leveling supplement which I think is helping, but not consistently. I don’t know if these struggles and feelings will go away if I get more sleep.
But I do know this. I need to talk about it. There’s no shame in feeling worried and sad. I need to take care of myself by running, resting, reading, relaxing, and eating well. I need to cut myself some slack, knowing that I’m doing what I can to feel better. Most importantly, I need to ask for help, and accept help, from those I love and who love me. I’ve always been the one to take care of others when they are sad or worried….so it feels strange to have it the other way around.
I don’t share this to gain sympathy or attention. I only share this because I know it needs to be talked about. There is nothing taboo about anxiety and depression. There is no shame in these feelings. I truly feel that if more of us share our experiences, our worries, our fears, our joys and our pains…we’d all be in a better place.
I felt so bad for my friend-little did she know what she was getting into when she asked a simple question-how are you? But I learned two things.
If someone asks how you are doing, answer honestly. OK, maybe not with the checker at Target or the gas station attendant. But if a friend asks, answer. Honestly. It may be the catalyst you need to a healing discussion.
And then there’s this. If I ask you how you are doing, it’s because I really want to know. I care about you, I love you, and I want to be a good friend to you. I will take the time to listen to you and do what I can to help you through whatever you are going through.
Thank you for caring. Love to you all.