“I did not see myself as a typical mental health consumer; I just worried more than other people,” writes Cassidy Duckett in the guest essay below, before she started facing the increasingly constricting role that anxiety was playing in her life. Whether it’s anxiety, ADHD, depression, or something else, we sometimes don’t see the impact of these mental-health conditions on our own lives. Yet, we still feel the impact. And, often, so do our loved ones.
I’m delighted to share with you the story from the daughter of two old friends. They are both writers, so it’s no surprise that Cassidy shares her parents’ story-telling talent. This story, however, is a very personal one, and one that Cassidy hopes will inspire other people to make positive changes in their lives.
Little by little, almost imperceptibly, anxiety was limiting her life and her possibilities—until she looked it square in the face—and took action. Fortunately, her fiance not only supported but also encouraged her.
I hope this story helps you to take that next step to take care of your total health, including brain health—or to reach out to a loved one.
Finding My Way to Total Health
By Cassidy Duckett
I’m pretty sure any plane I get on will crash. If I’m heading into a bank, there’s no doubt a robbery is about to happen. On a daily basis, I’m almost positive I’ll encounter some sort of tragedy. I have anxiety, and I am 24 years old.
I have always been a worrier – worried when my parents would go on trips, worried in crowds and worried when the clouds became dark grey and the wind picked up. It has always been part of me. However, as I grew up and began to take responsibility for my own future, this worry suddenly didn’t seem like something everyone else had. My family members and friends would have to assure me disaster was not about to strike. I’d hear a loud noise, rush to my fiancé and ask him what it was. He’d reply, “What noise?”
I didn’t connect my incessant worries to mental health, because I was still able to succeed in a full-time job, have fulfilling and quality relationships with friends and family, and go on adventures, like backpacking through Europe and taking a road trip across the United States. I did not see myself as a typical mental health consumer. I just worried more than other people.
Physical Health is Only a Half of One’s Well-Being
In the fall of 2014, I shared my worries with my fiancé about going to a college football game. The crowd will be huge, I explained. Who knows what would happen? I’d been to many major sporting events before, but my worries continued.
“You have to get help,” he said. “You’re going to miss out on so much if you don’t take care of yourself.”
It struck me then that staying healthy included not only physician appointments, dental cleanings and eating well. Physical health is only a half of one’s well-being. My mental health wasn’t in check. I could function, enjoy life and pursue my dream career – but I couldn’t stop worrying, and it was wearing on me and those around me.
As a marketing coordinator at Parkwest Medical Center, I’ve learned a lot about the resources at Peninsula Outpatient Centers and am comfortable discussing their wide range of services. I’ve written stories about the progress their patients have made and the wide walks of life from which patients come.
Still, picking up the phone to call someone and admit how anxiously I viewed the world was, frankly, anxiety-inducing. Would I be judged? Would I have to tell the person on the other end my symptoms? Lastly, how would the rest of the world react when I became a mental health consumer?
One Day, I Called
I hesitated, put it off and hesitated some more. One day, I called. The Peninsula staff member on the other end of the line was kind, patient and non-judgmental. I went to my appointment and – after having plenty of anxious thoughts in the waiting room – met with three Peninsula clinical staff members who were friendly, polite and eager to help me. I spoke with each of them for about an hour and they legitimized my symptoms.
For the first time, I felt like I did have a real problem, and there was a real solution.
Since beginning low-dose anxiety medicine after that first appointment at Peninsula, I have made great strides in living with anxiety. When faced with a situation that may have made me anxious before – traveling to a new place, being in a crowd, getting on a plane – I no longer jump to the worst conclusion, or any conclusion at all. I finally understand how others can go about their days without uncontrollable and invasive worry. It’s such a relief.
Better yet, I have been able to embrace the qualification of being a mental health consumer. My experience with Peninsula in my initial treatment and follow-up appointments has been eye-opening. There is no typical mental health consumer. We must all take care of our minds as well as our bodies. If I were to break my leg tomorrow, I’d have no doubts about seeing a physician. Why not give the same level of attention and care to my mind?
My pursuit of better mental health has only brought support from my family and friends. I am still the same daughter, fiancée, sister, friend and coworker as I was before. I see the world a bit more brightly now. There’s so much more world to see.
My plane will not crash. That car will not swerve across the line and hit me. My parents will arrive safely home from a night out to dinner. I don’t know any of those things for sure, but I no longer worry about them. I am 24 years old, and I am a mental health consumer.
Cassidy Duckett is a healthcare marketing professional in Knoxville, Tenn. After stints at University of Southern California, Salt Institute for Documentary Studies and woodworking school, she graduated with a degree in Art History from the University of Tennessee in 2013, and is currently pursuing a Masters in Emerging Media through Loyola University Maryland. Follow her on Twitter @cassidy_duckett