i have a mental illness.

February 12th is BELL’s mental health awareness day. so i thought i would share my story with you!

it’s not that major, or fancy (lol) but it’s all true.

my name is cathryn, and i have a mental illness.


call it postpartum depression, anxiety, depression or panic attacks, i have something. and have had it for a few years. after baby number one, i knew something wasn’t right, but i still felt like me the majority of the time…and by the time baby girl hit a year, i felt pretty much 100% fabulous.

and then i got pregnant again. let the hormones rage. i struggled with feeling more than tired, i was exausted. and taking care of a one year old, cleaning the house, laundry, groceries, working part-time and being pregnant was beyond my ability. so stuff was neglected. not my baby or groceries (a girl’s gotta eat!) but the house was a train wreck and lets just say my husband was beyond frustrated and at a loss as how to help me or what was wrong with me. finally i had baby number two and things got a little better. physically i was able to haul the laundry up and down the stairs and pushing a grocery cart alone was easy to do. but the mental part wasn’t fun. i was still TIRED and always felt like i was dragging 500 lbs behind me. any task was “ONE MORE THING TO DO” and i didn’t have the time, energy or patience to do it.

and then the panic/anxiety attacks started. looking back, i know i had one or two after baby #1, but didn’t know it. the summer after baby #2, it was crazy. i would have these attacks randomly. there were no triggers that i could think of, they would occur while driving, lying in bed, washing dishes, etc., etc., etc. it wasn’t until the end of summer that my sister and i went on a day trip shopping together that something finally clicked in my brain that something might be wrong. the whole day i was tense, stressed, nervous…i felt like i was about to give a speech (that was how all my attacks felt). the day was not fun, for me. my sister however had a great time…and at one point driving home she asked me when the last time i felt relaxed

and i didn’t know.


it was then that i realized that something was off. and i started watching myself from “above”. it sounds strange, but that’s the best way i can describe it. part of me was able to separate away and observe myself with my nursing background and skills. and what i saw wasn’t good.

so i made an appointment with my family doctor, who i actually work with, and so know fairly well. and he asked me a lot of questions.

– do you have any repeating thoughts? and i did. i had (since baby #2 was born) been imagining/daydreaming/had horrible nightmares about finding the kids in terrible situations…crushed under dressers, hanging from the playhouse by their jacket strings, drowned in the toilet (the baby), etc…and anything horrible in the news about kids or babies, i obsessed over. the thoughts/images would roll over and over in my brain. and it was impossible to forget them or STOP thinking about it. (my husband knew i was thinking these things and he just couldn’t understand how i couldn’t just STOP. and neither could i)

– do you sleep well? actually to well, every opportunity to nap, go to bed or sleep in i took it. and i still felt sooo tired.

– are your emotions/feelings interfering with your normal day? yes. a thousand times yes. taking care of two kids and doing ONE other thing was all i could do. a few loads of laundry one day. vacuuming the next. groceries another. and that was it. i could only accomplish one task. and i felt like a failure. how were these other moms planning birthday parties or baking or painting rooms, etc. and all i could do was go to town, get groceries, put them away and i needed a nap.

– do you think about or want to hurt yourself or anyone else? i answered “my husband” but that was just a joke. kinda. i was lucky never to have any self harm thoughts or thoughts about hurting anyone else, but my husband and i were arguing. A LOT. it was no one’s fault. i couldn’t find the energy or motivation to do ANYTHING. and he couldn’t understand it. and it was more than he could do on his own, farming all day and then coming home to a crying, stressed out wife with no dinner cooked, the kids running around (happy!) with dirty faces, nothing on but diapers and the house looking like a train wreck. there was never any clean clothes, and if there was, they were in a HUGE heap in front of the dryer. need clean socks? feel free to dig in the pile darling…

i know my doctor asked more questions, but those ones are the ones i remember. (here is Bell’s “tip” sheet for more information on mental health and how you can keep healthy!)

so he prescribed me some anti-anxiety/depression meds. depression and anxiety tend to go hand in hand, and one prescrition can “solve” both.

i started on them that night. and by the weekend felt like a million bucks.


i hadn’t felt that good in a LONG time. and it wasn’t a good drunk buzz or anything like that. i just felt like ME.

i had missed me.

that was two and a half years ago. and i haven’t looked back since. of course there have been ups and downs. pregnancy #3 was better and harder at the same time. i regressed some with depression and anxiety attacks (we made the decision to stay on the medication throughout my pregnancy) but with med dosage changes and the KNOWLEDGE about what was happening, made things much easier. i knew why and what the attacks were and so did my husband. i’m not going to lie, the piles of laundry were still there, but at least we both knew what was happening and worked together as a team to get me back on track and moving forward. and now that baby #3 is over a year, things are even better. i always describe that one year mark as feeling like my head is finally above water, and this time is the best. i am still on meds, and probably always will be. and i am VERY ok with that.

i like to describe that my mental illness is like having diabetes. i don’t make enough of what ever hormone i am missing, so i take meds to fix it. like diabetics take insulin because they can’t make enough. i have good days, bad days, and my emotions are all over the place, just like every fabulous woman’s should be…lol. what i mean is, i don’t feel “flat” or “high”, i just feel like ME. and i am not afraid to tell anyone and everyone about my illness. i figure, if i help even ONE person find themselves again, it is worth annoying the 1000’s of others that have to hear about it. lol.

so that’s my little story. the short version of it. (ha!) i hope you don’t mind me sharing, and feel free to pass this on, maybe someone you know needs to hear/read it and find some help for themselves!

xoxo  cathryn

p.s. if you want to help raise some money for mental health awarenss, every text message or long distance call made by Bell and Bell Aliant customers and every tweet using #BellLetsTalk and every Facebook share of their Bell Let’s Talk image on February 12, Bell will donate 5 cents to programs dedicated to mental health (regular long distance and text charges apply). In 2012, 8 million Canadians answered Clara’s call with more than 78 million text messages, long distance calls and retweets on Bell Let’s Talk Day, resulting in $3,926,014.20 in additional funding for mental health initiatives across the country.

36 responses to “i have a mental illness.”

  1. I really enjoyed reading this because like so many others who have written here, I have gone through these emotions as well. I admire your honesty and think that many people will be able to see these mental illnesses in a new light if we continue to talk about it. I just recently started taking medication and have been amazed at the changes I have felt so quickly. I hope that by breaking the stigma of anti-depressants more people can feel like themselves again, it’s the greatest feeling there is 🙂

    1. thanks and good for you getting the help we all need. meds changed me BACK to being me again. and i am grateful everyday!

  2. It makes me so happy to read this. Not because you have any health issues, but because I have had an inside battle going on with blogging about the effects of chronic illness on every day life. It is something that is LIFE and I think that it is empowering not baggage, to discuss.. I honestly would rather know this about people because this is what connects us. Everything else is frosting on the cake – but this is what is REAL about knowing people. Virtually or otherwise. Thank you so much for sharing.
    ~ Lori (diagnosed with MDD/Anxiety after a grueling 2 years of chronic illness)

    1. you are so welcome. and blog away! i have never blogged about it before only because it’s only a small part of me and the subject never came up. it is part of my life, i talk about it as freely as i do my kids or what i am cooking for supper. and blogging about it never crossed my mind until there was an actual reason to. so go for it. i received so much postive and heartwarming feedback that i know you won’t regret doing it!

  3. Very inspiring to read your truths, thanks for the share!

  4. I have also suffered from anxiety and depression and OCD for years. My meds are also working, and I’m so grateful to you for sharing your story. My husband and I are trying to conceive, and I’m glad to hear that someone else made the decision to stay on their medication while pregnant. I also suffer from very, very intense emotions, and I’ve realized that they are just part of who I am. How do you help your husband understand this? My husband is wonderfully supportive, but any advice I can give him would still be appreciated. I also have some advice for you, because I recognize something in you that I see in myself. Reading your post a second time, I can sense that you are really hard on yourself when you just can’t do things perfectly or how you expect. When you are tired and can’t seem to do anything except laundry, don’t be so hard on yourself. Focus on what you CAN do, rather than on how horrible you are for what you can’t do. 🙂 I realize that it is also important to realize when there is a pattern of days where you are so tired and more inactive, and in that case it is important to talk to your doctor as you did. But we all have days when we do even less than that. Be KIND to yourself. LOVE yourself.

    1. thank you so much. you are so right. focusing on the good is the only way to go. i try and will try harder!
      as for your darling husband, i asked my man what helped him, and he said education. learning about what it is and why helped him realize it wasn’t me being lazy or silly, but truly i was sick. once the meds kicked in, he really realized as the difference was amazing. talking to your man daily and letting him know if you are having a good or bad day can help too. if i let him know i am not doing good, he steps in more than normal with the kids, laundry, cooking, cleaning etc. for that day to make sure i am ok. and then after a good night’s sleep i am usually back to me! good luck and congratulations on your baby to be!

  5. I, too, have suffered with the same symptoms for years and it wasn’t until I was in my late 40’s that I found a doctor who went “above and beyond” to get me the help I needed. I am so thankful for that, modern meds that have less side effects and an amazing psychiatrist who helped me (over 3 years) to understand myself. I will also be on meds for the rest of my life and an so glad for them!
    It is NOT a “weakness”, it is a chemical imbalance! Thank you, Cathryn, for your honesty and humour! I miss you at work!

    1. hello doll! i am back at work (casual) so hopefully i see you soon!!! and meds, a great doctor and a family that understands makes all the difference. i am glad you are back to feeling great!! miss you too!!!

  6. Thank you for being brave enough to share your story! I HIGHLY, HIGHLY recommend this book to anyone dealing with anxiety and/or depression:

    1. i will have to read that! thanks!!!

  7. Thank you for sharing! I too, have anxiety and depression. It runs in my family. Everything you described above, was my life for over a year. I finally went and talked to a doctor, and we prescribed medication. I love it, and never had any doubts about it. Thanks for bringing awareness to such an important topic!

    1. i do truly think it is genetic, and when in doubt, go to a doctor. they are there to help up and should know how to ask all the right questions. but like any other career, some are better than others. so if you don’t get the resolution you need or feel good about, go to someone else!

  8. Thank you for sharing your story! I too have struggled with anxiety, panic attacks and alike. I never knew what they were or what triggered them, all I knew is that with two young kids, being a single mom, there was never enough time to worry about ME. Glad to see that things are on the mend for you. Isn’t it a wonderful feeling when YOU actually start to feel like YOU again! Again, thank you for having the strength to share.

    1. you are so welcome. and you are sooo not alone! it is a daily thing, even on meds. but knowing is a HUGE step in finding a way to feel better!!

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