I am a 50 yr-old woman who has been hounded by anxiety for as long as I can remember. I was miserable in school and as a teenager and I set myself to suffer extreme anxiety in adulthood by marrying a man with a seizure disorder who could not sustain any kind of regular employment. Further, I chose a midlife career as a high school teacher in special education.
I first disclosed my struggle with anxiety and depression with a friend I went to church with. It was a source of shame for me to be a professing christian who struggled with mental illness, but it was getting to the point where I couldn't get out of bed on the weekends. She gently chided me for feeling shamed and disclosed her own struggles and need for a daily dose of anxiety medication. I went to a doctor in our church, a very kind and non-judgemental individual, and after hearing me describe my difficulties he diagnosed me with generalized anxiety disorder and prescribed paxil. That was in 1997.
Since then I have seen a few counselors for brief periods of time, and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder II in 2009 after my divorce, a long hypomanic summer, and a crash with a suicide attempt in the Fall. I am now on an anti-depressant (wellbutrin) and a mood stablizer (trilipteral) and until this past summer I was also on visteral 2x daily for anxiety. I have remarried to a very kind, giving but poor man ,and I am in a relationship that doesn't require me to be a caregiver- a new experience for me. My children are grown and have families of their own. My greatest source of anxiety and stress at this point in my life is my job.
I went to college in my 30's while raising my children and caring for my husband. Teaching seemed like it would be a good fit with my personality and temperament so that was the direction I headed in. It took six years and as I got closer and closer to my realized goal I became fearful. I felt inadequate, was sure I would fail at it, and was terrified by the interview process. I went to a counselor and we worked on it, but it became apparent to us both that I have a significant problem with low self-esteem. This is the root of much of my anxiety and depression, and until we can get to the root of that low self-esteem, this will continue to distort all of my perceptions.
As I have studied more about this new diagnosis of bipolar disorder II, I have learned that low self-esteem is also a part of this disorder. This could explain why I have such a difficult time seeing myself, my value, and my accomplishments in any kind of a positive light. As a christian, I struggled to believe that God could love me just for who I was. When I receive awards, good evalutations, or any other kind of praise, I have a difficult time making eye contact and acknowledging them. A part of me is sure they have made a mistake and will soon discover that themselves.
I have been teaching for ten years and rather than getting easier, it is getting harder with each year. I struggle with daily interactions with peers, administration, and parents. Making phonecalls home to parents is stressful. Meetings with teachers and parents, a regular part of my job, fills me with anxiety and dread. I was involved last year in a situation where I walked in on a teacher I worked with in a compromising situation with a male student. A very popular teacher with her students and other teachers in our department, I experienced negative fallout after turning her in. It was a difficult year to say the least and I was taking a lot of anxiety medication on top of the bipolar meds. It affected my daily cognition and short-term memory and I "felt" drugged every day. My goal was to wean off the anxiety drug over the summer.