August 16, 2022

COLUMN: Today was better than yesterday

I’m one of those people that wants to know your zodiac sign. I don’t even ask what your sign is, I ask your birthday so I can practice remembering the dates for all the signs.

I know it isn’t “real,” but it’s fun for me to see the similarities between the major attributes of a sign and the person in front of me. It’s an ice breaker.

I have joked for the last year or so that someday it won’t be “what’s your zodiac sign?” it will be “what anti-depressant are you on?”

It’s crazy how many people my age and younger are on anti-depressants. My four best girlfriends, previous coworkers, random strangers. We’re all on them for different reasons.

I said I would use my voice and platform, small as it may be, to help break the stigma. I meant it.

I’ve always been an anxious person. But I didn’t identify as having an anxiety disorder until a few years ago.

In the summer of 2019, I went to a friend’s bachelorette party - one of the four I mentioned previously. It was in Minneapolis, and I drove myself. There were a lot of girls there, but none of my closest friends other than the bachelorette herself.

I didn’t get a lot of sleep since I left early to be there on time. I had a migraine. She got an awesome party bus. We went to a winery, a place with fancy drinks and then to a restaurant. I remember looking at my watch. It was only 8 p.m. I had to make it until the bus came back home at midnight. I started to feel nauseated. I went to the bathroom and was sick.

It was the food or the migraine, I thought. I tried to push through, but my friend had the bus drop me off early. She really is an amazing friend - I was willing to take an Uber. I was sick all night.

Over the several months, this continued to happen. I would travel to see a friend, and I would be so sick I couldn’t participate in whatever I had gone to do. Dress shopping, bridal showers, girls’ weekends, all ruined.

I thought it was the food or the travel making me sick. I couldn’t understand what was happening to my body.

It came to a head at a work meeting in Des Moines. I was in a hotel overnight. My heart rate was at 150 all night. I paced, I laid on the bathroom floor. I wanted to pull my hair out. I couldn’t do anything. I went to urgent care that morning.

It was an anxiety attack. All of it. Getting sick, heart racing, everything. They were all from my anxiety. I never knew it could be so physical.

My doctor is amazing. She got me on Lexapro, which has changed my life. I can travel. I can see my friends. I don’t live in fear anymore. But it isn’t a cure.

This weekend I had the worst anxiety attack I’ve had in more than a year. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t do anything, but sit in the pain. It’s not a rational disorder. Anxiety can’t be reasoned with. I knew I was safe, and yet I felt like I was dying.

Maybe this makes you uncomfortable. Maybe I’m oversharing. But mental health is just health. It’s starting to feel better and then feeling worse than you did to begin with. It’s feeling so much or nothing at all. It’s being able to laugh genuinely in one second and then be overwhelmed with sadness 30 seconds later. It’s what makes seemingly happy people attempt suicide. It doesn’t make sense.

I’m a writer. It’s what I like to do. One of my friends recommended journaling my thoughts. I wrote so hard I thought I would tear the paper. I cried. I felt better.

Today is better than yesterday. Hopefully tomorrow will be even better.

Cheyenne Roche

CHEYENNE ROCHE

Originally from Wisconsin, Cheyenne has a journalism and political science degree from UW-Eau Claire and a passion for reading and learning. She lives in Creston with her husband and their two little dogs.