The Day I Changed

Posted On: 04.23.12

{October 2007. Sister C’s wedding weekend. Big Girl is 10 months. Dad has just been diagnosed with cancer. A lot going on behind that smile of mine.}

I have been wanting to write this post for a long time. It’s been inside me for almost a year, the words rearranging themselves in my head. I’ve waited. For what? I’m not sure. For the right time. For the perfect time. But the thing is, the thing to remember, is that there is no right time. No perfect time. There is no right or perfect time to leave that job, or have that baby, or tell that truth. And so you must just do it, that thing that matters to you, that thing you will look back upon in years to come and say: Thank goodness I did that. Thank goodness I said that. Thank goodness I had the guts to go for it.

I wrote the following words last spring:

May 20, 2011

It’s a little past 5am. I shoot up in bed. My bangs are stuck with sweat to my forehead. I look down. My breasts pop from my tank, full and ready. I will feed my baby soon. She’s two months old. Asleep in her crib upstairs. On the monitor, I hear her pre-waking grunts.

I don’t remember the end of my night.

I shake my husband awake, as I do on mornings like this – yes, there have been others.

“Babe,” I say.

He grumbles something in acknowledgment.

“Why do I do this to myself?”

It’s a question he’s heard before. One he’s never quite able to answer. Why do I drink myself into oblivion only to hate myself the next day? It’s a tough thing to explain. Even for me.

The monologue begins. A true shame spiral. I travel down. My husband reaches out and strokes my arm.

I’m crying now. Shaking from the white wine aftermath, but also from some kind of awareness. This morning’s different.

I shake my husband some more. He sits up in bed, cradling a lavender pillow.

“I think something’s wrong,” I say.

“What do you mean?”

“I’m not sure.”

His eyes open now, and he looks at me.

It was a Friday morning. Husband was due to leave in just a few hours for his cousin’s wedding. It was the first time he would leave me with all three girls. The day before, the pediatrician confirmed that Little Girl still had blood in her diaper from a severe milk allergy; I was cutting all dairy from my diet in an effort to continue nursing (and barely eating as a result) but it was not working. The day before, Big Girl had taken her ERBs – a Kindergarten placement test. My beloved baby nurse was due to leave me in a couple of days. I had not slept much. I had too much wine the night before. My body was a mess. So was my mind. I was due to attend a building dedication to my family, a quasi memorial to Dad.

Still in bed, I considered two words for the first time: postpartum depression. I asked Husband if he thought it was possible and he said he didn’t know but that I should call my OB. I promised I would. But first I went with Mom and my sisters to Green Chimneys and sat in a folding chair as new dormitories were dedicated to the Donnelley family and as people, and Mom, talked about Dad. And I listened but in my head, my throbbing head, four words pulsed: The day everything changed.

You see. I am a writer and I title books that do not yet exist, and might never exist. I knew it, I felt it, that the day would be an important one for me, that it would mean something looking back. And so, it had a title, this story: The Day Everything Changed. It would be a story of waking up, literally and figuratively, to a truth, to a life. It would be a story of surrender and strength.

I came home. Wiped out, inspired, missing Dad. I called my OB. And she gave me two names, two numbers. I stood there in my bathroom and called them both. Left messages. Even though it was a Friday afternoon, they each called back. I arranged to meet both of them the following Monday. Monday came and I sat in two different offices and said the same things. I’m not sure what is going on, but I want to figure it out.

Tell me a bit about you, your upbringing, your history. And so I did. I grew up here. I am the middle of five sisters. We all went to the same schools – Dalton and Yale. I went on to law school at Columbia and practiced for a bit and then left to write a novel. I published it not long ago and am trying to write my next but it is hard because I have three kids under four.

They nodded, smiled, jotted notes.

Why now? they asked. Why did you call on Friday?

And so. I told them. Everything. About the buckets of wine. About the allergy. About the Kindergarten test. About my husband going out of town, the baby nurse leaving. About missing Dad.

More nods. More notes.

You are not depressed. They both said this and it was obviously a tremendous relief.

But they were not finished. They both arrived at the same conclusion: You are anxious.

I sat there, in those comfy chairs in two different offices on the very same day, and I nodded and thought something. Duh. Of course I am anxious. I have always been anxious. I am a perfectionist, an achiever. I spend my days writing about insecurity, and anxiety. I like things a certain way. Myself. My life. My world. I did not say these things aloud, but listened.

You have probably always had anxiety. And your anxiety has always served you well – it has helped you achieve and accomplish all the things you have achieved and accomplished. But. But now you are in a different place. You have a husband and kids and a life that is at its core chaotic, a life you cannot completely control. And this is making you anxious, it is. Three babies? A child testing for kindergarten? A child with a health issue? A dead father? A desire to be an author and a hands-on mother? This is the perfect storm. This is too much. And this is not really about drinking. You are drinking – as many people do – because you are anxious, because you do not know how to relax, and because you need a release. But drinking makes anxiety worse. Know that.

Subconsciously, I knew these things. That I was anxious, that I drank wine to quell my anxiety, to cope. But hearing someone, two someones, say these things aloud struck me. And I decided something: I wanted to change. My life would not change; there would always be stresses, the chaos would not magically abate, but I did not want to feel the way I was feeling. So. For several months, I traveled to the East Side and talked to one of these women about my how I was doing. For several months, I took a very low dose of anti-anxiety medicine. I think it helped.

The sad thing? I barely told a soul about any of this. Even though I knew I was surrounded by people who loved me and would want to support me. I didn’t tell anyone because I felt weak and ashamed. I didn’t tell anyone because I felt like a failure, like I couldn’t hack it. I didn’t tell anyone because I felt like I would, for some reason, be judged. Instead of opening up, something I wish I did in retrospect, I slogged through very much on my own – thinking, writing, mothering.

In time, I felt much better. I told my therapist this. I told her I wanted to stop the meds, and with her thoughtful supervision, I did so right before Christmas. In January, I went to see her one final time to check in and talk about things. It was a wonderful, real hour. I told her that I was feeling good, that my girls were thriving, that I got anxious of course but in a way that seemed appropriate and manageable. I did say that I was still drinking a bit more than I’d like.

I have been thinking of giving up alcohol for one year. Just as an experiment, a reboot. To see what life feels like, and looks like, without it. I don’t know but I just think it would be really interesting. The writer in me is curious and wants to do this, and write this, and just see.

My therapist smiled. I don’t remember her exact words, but they went something like this: Do you know how many people would want to read what you write? Do you know that every single one of my patients, most people I know, would relate to your story? Do you know how common it is to feel anxious or depressed or disillusioned and drink or do something else to feel better, to escape? This would be a more subtle story. Not about alcoholism or anything severe. About real life, about stumbling, about coping, about trying to do it all.

I smiled. Nodded.

She smiled. Nodded. This is big. This is good, she said. And then we said goodbye.

And I left her office that day and walked back out in the world. It was a sunny, but cold day and I was buzzing. Buzzing with the idea of change. The book, that imaginary book in my head, would have a slightly different name now, a name that Thoreau would approve of:

The Day Everything I Changed.

The Day I Changed. Because Thoreau is right. Things do not change; we do.

I look back to a year ago. To a time that was tough. To a time when I woke up, yes literally, yes figuratively, to a murky and meaningful morning, to a series of truths. I am struggling. It is okay to struggle. To struggle is to be human.

I am writing this because I have wanted to for a long time. I am writing this because one of you reading this might be in the thicket now, struggling with something similar or different, afraid and alone. I am writing this because this is my story and I am ready, finally ready, to tell it.

I am writing this because this is me.

There is no right time. No perfect time.

So I chose today.

Thank you to the lovely sisters over at Momalom for inspiring me to finally write this and post it. I am linking up with several other bloggers for the wonderful Five for Five community blogging effort. Click here to read many more musings on today’s topic of Change. Come back each day this week for more truth. I am also linking up with Imperfect Prose.

And leave a comment today before 11pm EST for a chance to win a copy of Danielle LaPorte’s FIRE STARTER SESSIONS. Per my vow, I purchased one copy for every five of your wonderful comments Friday and now I have a slew of books to give away! And big congrats to Susan for being Friday’s winner.

Have you or anyone you know dealt with any type of anxiety or depression, postpartum or other? Why do you think I was so scared to talk about this publicly? Do you agree that there is no right time, or perfect time to do and talk about important things? Please feel free to comment anonymously as I know this can be a sensitive topic for many. Thank you for listening 🙂

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80 Comments for: "The Day I Changed"
  1. Thank you so much for sharing this honest and brave story today. I know you know that I had pretty severe post partum depression after the birth of my first child, and the scars of that experience still run deep through me. As a result of my having been very open about my PPD, I am often the person others refer friends to, to talk, to see if something’s up, as a resource. I’m more than happy to do that because I think one of the most toxic components of PPD is the shame associated with it, the lingering fear that it is not OK to feel that way, much less to speak of it. That it makes us bad moms. I’ve had all of these feelings, believe me, but somehow bringing them to light erodes their power. I’m certain you’ve inspired someone to do so today. Thank you for that. xox

  2. Anon

    Thank you for this. I think everyone I know is anxious. We deal in our own ways. I applaud you for telling this story that will make so many of us nod and see ourselves. Your therapist was right that we want to read what you write. Thanks.

  3. M

    We must decide to change. You have. A brilliant example for all of us.

  4. I too have probably always had anxiety as well. It wasn’t until I was rushed out of physiology lab in my last semester of undergrad because I just.couldn’t.sit.there and ended up in student health why an astronomical blood pressure that it wasn’t serving me in a positive way. My roommate sa with me that afternoon until it was low enough to release me. He held my hand. We talked about academics, my multiple extra-curricular activities, my part-time job, my ex (who maybe wasn’t such an ex) boyfriend that had reappeared my in life just days before. I cried. Quite a bit. I felt a little ashamed and a little embarrassed because I was obvious not going to be able to keep it together. Like you, I found myself on a comfy couch less than a week later. I talked and cried. Talked and cried. Apologized for crying. I was a mess. I took my anxiety meds for the remainder of the semester and sat on the couch at the time the little cards they handed me reminded me to every week. And suddenly, something great happened. I let it be ok. I was ok talking about it with a few (very few) trusted friends. I gradually weaned off my meds, ran more, backed off of some leadership roles and reevaluated not what I wanted to do in that moment but what I needed to do. Thank you so much for writing this today. The last two Mondays your words have given me a big feeling of, “hey! That’s me too!”. For that, I really can’t thank you enough. We got through it.

  5. Beautiful post! I have been in the thickets and have the scars to prove it…there are so many scratches trying to free oneself. So happy for you that you have seen the other side!

  6. tara

    i’ve suffered with anxiety/panic attacks (and i don’t use the word “suffered” lightly) for quite awhile now. before i knew what exactly was happening to me, i only talked to my husband about it. unfortunately, he wasn’t the best option. he’s a problem solver and a “pull yourself up from the boot straps” kind of person when it comes to his problems, so he just couldn’t relate to how debilitating the condition can be. i ended up feeling very low about myself. that’s when the spiral began, and i sought professional help. my world changed. just hearing someone else say, “you’re not crazy, inept, or lazy; you have anxiety-induced depression.”, made me feel SO good. your post, aidan, is going to make someone feel that way today. i’ve known that about my anxiety-proneness for about 6 years now, and after coming off my medication about 4 years ago, i’ve learned to identify my triggers, and work it through. dealing with panic attacks can be very scary as they feel very much like what we imagine a heart attack would feel like, so i don’t take them lightly. but, in a way, i’m grateful for the condition b/c of the self-awareness i’ve gained and the perspective i have on the priorities in my life. like you, i have children (four of them, in fact), and i don’t want them to ever feel as alone as i did pre-diagnosis: when they seem stressed/overwhelmed i make a point of recognizing it, and emphasize priorities over achievement. i really feel like i’m helping to break a cycle that i now recognize from my childhood. you’ve done a brave thing by writing about this and i’m very happy that you’re in such a great place:)

  7. Aiden,

    This is a very brave post – as I think can be evidenced by how long it took you to put it all together and actually post it for the world to see (in my opinion, the longer it takes, the harder it is to share it).

    Like so many of your readers, I can completely understand your anxiety (maybe that’s not the right word, but I don’t think that relate is necessarily the right word either…maybe it’s just empathy, I’m not sure). I am (and probably always will be) a worry-er. My friends know this about me and figure it out pretty quickly. I, unfortunately, have a habit of keeping most of my really big worries to myself, which I’m sure is not very healthy.

    In college, a good friend started a 5K that was associated with Stomp Out Stigma. I believe it was my junior year (although it might have been my sophomore year) that it started. And the funds from the race were allocated to this club and this very important issue of stomping out the stigma that have a mental disorder – both serious and not-as-serious – is not a bad thing.

    And I think that’s what you’re doing with this post. Sharing your story is so very brave.

    Thanks for your words and making me think this morning.

  8. I realized something was wrong when we decided to move to Romania for a year. Instead of packing and planning, I hid under a blanket on the couch.

    This year as an expat would have been so entirely different if I had not felt that shift, that quiet but deafening moment when everything did indeed change.

    Thanks for this, Aidan.

  9. Sam

    Some families have a genetic predisposition to heart disease, high blood pressure, or a multitude of other health issues. My family has Anxiety and Depression. My grandparents. My sisters. My dad. and Me. It manifests itself in different ways, with varying degrees of severity depending on the person, but I have lived with these issues, in one way or another, all of my life.

    I remember my day of change. I had just graduated from college, and was home for the summer to relax and unwind before starting law school. I should have been thrilled – but I wasn’t. Something wasn’t right. So, much like you did, I found a wonderful and wise woman with whom I shared my thoughts and feelings once a week for the whole summer. And I learned many things. About my need to control. About anxiety, and drive states, and how to manage them. And during our summer of exploration she said something profound to me. She said “most smart and creative people suffer from anxiety. Learn how to harness it, how to manage and control it, and it can be your greatest tool for success.”

    And she was right. It is not always easy, and it is not always pretty. And there are days that I struggle. Weeks when I seem to lose my way. But understanding why I struggle, and knowing that sometimes there will be dark days, helps me find my way back to light. And hope. And happiness.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your story so eloquently, and for encouraging others to do the same. You are truly an inspiration.

  10. Thank you, Aidan, for saying (writing) aloud what so many of us are thinking, feeling and experiencing. There is definitely a need and desire to appear “perfect” and put together at all times. We never want people to know we are struggling, trying to find ourselves, to figure out a way through the maze, but we are all battling something. We all have anxieties, fears, frustrations that we experience every day, that attack us when we are weak and sit in constant judgement of our every thought and move. I wish more people had the bravery to speak honestly about what they are going through. I think we would all feel less alone.
    So again I say, Thank You!

  11. Julie

    I have been reading your blog for a while now but this is my first time commenting (I usually don’t comment on blogs because I feel I am not good with words at all + english is not my first language, so this is kind of intimidating).
    I have been feeling not-so-good myself for the past couple of years, as in often anxious and sad/depressed. It was never bad enough so that I wasn’t able to function and probably nobody besides me even noticed. But I was always afraid that I was missing something. That I could maybe be a happier version of myself if I just managed to get help. So about two months ago I finally worked up the courage and started seeing a therapist. So far I think it is going good, and I hope I will be able to work on some issues that have been holding me back.
    Anyway, I guess I just wanted to say that I could really relate to your post today and that I think it was very brave of you to get help, and to tell your story. Talking about these things takes a lot of courage and is probably the only way to raise awareness and help fight the stigma surrounding mental health issues.
    I wish you all the best!

  12. AG

    I think it is so brave of you to write these posts. You have inspired me to make a couple changes of my own in my own life…I think I was waiting for the perfect time to change and just realized no you can just decide one day I am going to change and do it. Like you said “there is no perfect time.” So thanks for these posts and for sharing them. If you ever decide to do an “Ivy league Insecurities Weekend with Aidan” I will be the first to sign up- I learn so much from you everyday.

  13. For the girl with an affinity for quotations, I offer you this one today, one I’m sure you know (or, at least, is in that quote book of yours!):

    “What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.” – T. S. Eliot

    This is where you begin, friend. A fabulous beginning to a fabulous story of transformation that I – like so many others here – can’t wait to read.

  14. This is a brave and wonderful post Aidan – thank you for sharing this.

    I know what it feels like to want to hide things that we’re not so proud of and what that can do to us. I had an eating disorder once, my Asian upbringing forbids me to speak of my divorce and now my “domestic partnership” and when I was going through a rough patch in my relationship, I felt I couldn’t talk about it. All of those, while it didn’t occur at once, ate at my insides every day.

    Then I realized that I’m perpetuating my own pain when I hide in shame. As Brene Brown says:

    “Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it…Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.

    So when I decided to unlock those skeletons, I received nothing but encouragement and understanding, and as you know, it’s an amazing feeling. It was also crucial in my journey to a better place. I hope this post helps you as well.

  15. Kristen

    One thing I adore about your blog is your honesty. You are real and you share and I appreciate that. Facing issues head on is the bravest action anyone can ever take. You have done that and you are doing that. You are brave. You are an inspiration.

  16. Thank you for such a raw, honest, thoughtful post.
    All of us, whether we choose to realize it or not, can relate. It is inspiring to read your words. Thank you. Xoxo- Rachel

  17. ATC

    Thank you for writing this post. Having known you for 15 years, I can sincerely say that you are one of the most private people I know. So I admire you all the more for going into the farthest reaches of yourself to expose yourself (in all the most glorious ways) through your post today. In the spirit of honesty, I must admit that reading your blog has at times felt impersonal. This wasn’t because your writing isn’t beautiful and relevant, but because I know you better than your blog, and I didn’t feel I was getting to know you better by reading it. Today really changed that. Thank you for sharing your internal struggles with us, but for also taking what you have to offer — your experiences — and inspiring conversation and debate through them. Remember your law school essay that got you into Columbia?… Remember the role you played in your family at the dinner table?… What you’re doing today follows the same thread of discourse that shaped you and helped define what you have to offer the world today. It is a true gift. Cyber hugs and lots of love to you today. Your friends and your readers are lucky to have you in their lives. xxxxx

  18. Wow, what a story! I admire you for tackling your issues and coming out on top!

  19. Brooke Hecht

    Your beautiful blog made me cry. I relate to so much of it… It’s so human (I’m thinking “really real”).

  20. This intrigues me:

    Instead of opening up, something I wish I did in retrospect, I slogged through very much on my own thinking, writing, mothering.

    Why are we like this? Even when we haven’t decided to change? and have started changing? Perhaps its because we just can’t write about getting out while we are in the midst of getting out. Its easy to package it later, and see the big picture. It’s hard to do anything while we are “slogging” through changes, and tough times, and taking care of a family.

    Thank you for sharing now. The time, inevitably, has to be perfect.

  21. Emily

    Such a wonderful post. I can really relate to it. I am definitely anxious much of the time and struggle with these same types of issues. As a younger person, I, like you, was driven to accomplish and achieve. I thought I was prepared to step away from all of that when I began having children. For a time it was fine, but that underlying (and rather blind) “need to accomplish” came back, and with it the tide of anxiety came rushing back in. It has been a constant struggle and balancing act ever since, between being there for my kids and understanding what my needs really are — and that much of what I thought “my needs” were was stuff that I was doing to please someone else (who, I’m not sure). There is so much pressure to “have it all” and “do it all” that I wound up totally overbooked, stressed, anxious, and completely without reference to what is really important and why I stopped working in the first place. But, as with you, I was embarrassed to talk about this or show any chink in the armor, making it a lonely and much more difficult struggle. I remember crying in the hallway one morning after drop off because my son was really struggling in school, and I was overwhelmed with feelings of not knowing what to do or how to help him; but then being so, so embarrassed because I was crying at school. Everyone else looks so put together and seems to take everything so in stride, that it is easy to forget that we are not alone. A post like this is so helpful and reassuring. Thank you Aidan. And I’m so glad you are feeling better and have found a great resource should you need it in the future, and that you have the confidence and courage to talk about this.

    • No one is so put together. We have felt broken at some point in our lives. Many of us hide them by wearing a mask (cheesy face, plastic smile). It’s “Stained glass masquerade”.

  22. A soul sister of mine recently taught me a little something about sitting in the uncomfortable. About how when anxiety rises and frustrations mount sometimes we need to just sit in it and let it work through us. Sometimes we push it off until tomorrow. Sometimes we shut down. Sometimes we bury it. But I think when we can just let it sit in us, and we can just sit in it, we can get through it fast than we’d ever have imagined.

    Thank you for choosing today to share this story that’s been weighing on your heart. I hope that you feel lightened and ready to tackle what’s next.

  23. heather

    Bravo, my friend. Bravo for posting this, for sharing this, and for providing a place for all of us to come to think and to nod knowingly as we read your words, words that so often are what we are thinking or have thought or provoke new thoughts.

    I am a full-stop anxious person who has dealt with (and still deal with) bouts of depression. I’m trying to figure it out how to cope with it and have finally realized that I always will deal with it. That doesn’t make it any easier. I have yet to find the perfect pocket to fit it in, the best want to carry it with me, but I’m trying.

    It comes back to that, through all of this, this struggle, the real thing is that this is Life. All of it — not just the good times, but the struggling times too. And to truly walk this life and guide our little ones through it, we have to be honest about that. Struggles like this, struggles of time, struggles of purpose, struggles to remember the non-struggling times. Sharing the struggles, delving into that not-so-mindless chat about how each of us manage this (or don’t manage at times) is a treasure, really. A cool byproduct of struggle: finding another person who is constantly thinking and questioning how to live life the best way they can to share this with.

    Thank you for reminding us of that, Aidan, and for being that person for so many of us.

  24. Speaking the words that you can’t take back and that expose your vulnerability often brings an avalanche of healing. Hopefully your bravery in sharing today will start that avalanche for someone else.

  25. Anonymous

    What a wonderful post – it takes courage, self-awareness and a commitment to yourself and family to write that. I’m not sure if I ever told you but with my kids so close together and all of the medical complications I had when my child was born, I suffered from postpartum – and I think we all suffer from anxiety… we live in NYC, we deal with the private school nonsense… I’m still seeing someone, actually, and it’s helped tremendously. I’m so glad to hear you’re doing well and that you’re managing work/life/motherhood. :o)

  26. D

    I am so sorry that you have suffered so much. I write to you from my bed, I have a herniated disk which presented out of nowhere yesterday at a 8 yo “bowling and minigolf” birthday party (I was neither bowling or mini-golfing). Right now, walking is excruciating and between the spasms, I keep thinking about that until yesterday, I took “normal” wholly for granted. Even when I had little twinges of pain, I ignored it favor of work, the kids, middle school applications etc. But now I know what you know, that you can’t ignore pain just because it is inconvenient. If you take care of everyone but yourself, it will catch up with you. I am glad you are taking care of yourself, and hopefully in a few days, I will be back to normal. And I will relish every step as. I know you are as well. Good luck to you. D

  27. Brave and beautiful.

    My anxiety came to a head just after college. I was lost, so lost. The next steps weren’t just there for me and I couldn’t make the world fit together. My heart would race, keeping up with my thoughts through ridiculous panic. I talked and talked and met with a group to discuss ways to stop those revving thoughts. I don’t know why it’s hard to talk about.

    It’s been years now, and for the most part, I’m better. I have coping techniques and recognize my triggers. But sometimes we all feel anxious – it is normal. I know my mom is full of anxiety and wine is her calming mechanism too. I wonder what I self medicate with? I think we all do.

  28. I am so glad you shared this, and I’m really, really glad you shared it today on 5 for 5, because I might not have read it otherwise. I can understand why it would be hard to talk about publicly. We all want to seem like we have it together, even when we don’t. We worry not just about the superficial, but what it might mean about our ability to be good parents to our kids if we admit the struggles we are having. But it is your reality and it is the reality of so many others, there is no wrong time for a voice saying what is real, harsh though the reality may sometimes be.

  29. alita

    We do make our own changes don’t we? Your therapist is right, too. So many people struggle with anxiety. So many people struggle with escaping. And so many people can relate in ways to your story. I am one of them. I saw a therapist, I hit my re-set button, I gave up drinking to escape, I took a low dose pill to help with my anxiety, and I made changes.

    You are not alone. And you are making the right choices for yourself and for your family. Getting help was a huge step and one that shows that you are brave.

    Some change is just meant to be.


  30. Aidan, you are a thought-provoking inspiration to me. I drink. I drink too much (in my opinion). Your experiment here has me contemplating a similar trial for myself. You are courageous to do it much less make it so public. Your strength of character is impressive.

  31. Friend. Taking the words from your heart and soul and then putting them on paper and then hitting publish are all acts of faith. And courage. And POWER.

    As I think you know, I’ve had depression for roughly 15 years. I started writing about it openly about a year ago and although scary, it has been liberating. I hope that you find the same grace in sharing that I have. Secrets only have power over us when they are secrets.

    Hugs and love to you.

  32. Aidan, I could have written that (and yet I didn’t) and now I’m sitting here knowing that I’ve been doing myself, but mostly my family, a disservice. I don’t call it depression (I call it drive and motivation), and maybe it IS that, but it’s wrapped up in anxiety, as I try to juggle three kids and a part time teaching job and the final edits of my first novel and a more than part time freelance travel writing career. I’m grumpy all the time. The logical thing would be to cut back, but the drive is what makes me happy. The ambition is what I live for. Anyway, thank you. Because I guess I needed to READ what I’m living before I could WRITE it (or even identify it). Be well.

  33. Aidan,

    Anxiety. Yes. I know this feeling well. It has driven me to be successful, but also held me back in other ways. I applaud you for having the guts to write this post and the heart to share it. Because I know your words will resonate for so many of us. Thank you Aidan.

  34. Jess

    I think it is amazing that you can face your fears so directly and so publicly. And to do so while giving up your beloved vino crutch is all the more commendable. A lot of us strive to “do it all”, me included. But my version of doing it all, and I am quite A-type as you know, is way less than yours. And I get overwhelmed too. So if it helps, just take a step back and take a look at the people you know and admire. Look at what they do (me for example, I stay at home with two kids and try to remain interesting and in shape and connected to my husband and all of that – my version of doing it all). You do all of that plus you have this great career, and one more kid than I do. You could cut your plate in half and still be doing way too much for some people to be able to handle. I know I am rambling but my point is, if it helps, that you do an amazing amount and all of it really well. Even on days when you do only 10% of your goal I am still impressed. Truly. Big, huge hugs and kisses to you. xoxoxo

  35. Leslie

    Oh, Aidan, this is a lovely post. So brave. You never know who is out there who will be helped by your words.

    (I still owe you that email. It’s coming, I swear!)

  36. T

    Thank you for sharing this. It is okay to struggle.

    Our struggles are different and yet the same in so many ways.

    Wishing you the best.

  37. Thank you so much for writing this! I hope you understand what I mean when I say that I am excited about it. It’s terrible that you had to go through all this, but it is wonderful that you are sharing, and wonderful to find someone who lets me know, once again, that I am not alone.

    I’m also excited because I am also a writer (though not an author yet), and I’ve been working on a book that includes this very subject. One big point of my book is that if we were all more open about our experiences with pregnancy and motherhood, many of the unrealistic expectations mothers experience would disappear. We remain silent because of stigma, when all our secret experiences and feelings actually amount to reality, not failure.

    I just started a blog using some of the writing for my book, and I also posted my experience with postpartum depression. Thanks again, and I look forward to hearing more.

  38. Yes, I can identify with your story too. And am trying to get comfortable with me being _me_, anxieties, obsessions and all, right here in the middle of life. Blessings to you.

  39. You are so brave and beautiful, Aidan. I’m so proud of you for telling your story and for moving forward. xoxo

  40. Amy

    I have read your work before, including your book, which I loved, but have never commented before today. However, your post is so beautiful, so well-written, so perfectly descriptive that I cannot help but write today. I swear, you are the one blogger with whom I most identify. I read your blog, and I think to myself, “I want to be like her. I want to write like she does. I want to be brave like her.” Your bravery and clarity in the face of so much are truly inspiring. I, too, have a similar background — I went to private school and then college and law school. Excelled, but at a great price. I have been working in the legal field for 12 years now, not enjoying it, but too afraid to try something else, to venture out of my comfort zone, to attempt something “less than.” I, too, have faced struggles too numerous to explain in details here — the most recent being the death of my mother; the death of my beloved family pet; my father’s battle with cancer; and then, my husband, and the father of my the 19-month-old son, abruptly leaving me for a job 1500 miles away as I tried to cope with all of the changes around me. I’ve now been a single mother for almost a year. A single mother working a more-than full-time job. A single mother with very little support. I, too, have had anxiety my entire life. I remember being anxious as a child, as a teenager. I thought it was normal. It wasn’t until I started my first job post-law school that I realized that I didn’t have to live this way. And I saw a therapist. Yet, yet…my anxiety is chronic, on-going, anxiety-producing itself. The prescribed medications help a little bit, but, like your wonderful piece of writing acknowledges, it’s hard to make that change, that change into thinking a new way, feeling a new way, “doing” a new way. For as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled with anxiety, and I’ve done so privately, ashamed that I can accomplish so much, but think so little of myself. I’m the person who is such a perfectionist that I fear the day when someone will find out that I’m really just a fake. Yes, I believe I fake being smart, fake knowing what I’m doing. And because my personal life has been such a disaster for the last year, my job is, for the first time ever, in jeopardy because I am unable to “produce” enough work product for the numerical requirements of a government job. I never told my mother about my anxiety. I’ve hinted at it during conversations with my father. But I hide it from the world. Your therapist was right, is right, and I think you know it, too. People WILL read you because there are so many people who struggle with you, but do it from a place of silence. Thank you for today. A million times thank you. You are amazing! I’m at a loss for words…I am grateful to you, and for you. May your words continue to flow…

  41. Dia

    Hey Aidan!
    Another raw and real post. Thank you for it. I often feel like the one-man effort to de-stigmatize emotional troubles. Reading your post and all the comments was great to know this can be such an open dialogue. Wherever I am I’m always sharing about my mom’s intervention to get me help, my depression, my anxiety, being medicated, going through several therapists over the course of several years… because I want people to feel free and willing to engage in healing activities- and by not being embarrassed by it I’m hoping it gives permission to others). And like so many people here, my anxiety manifested in a truly useful defense mechanism where I worked hard and did well. I found my worth in achieving more, and that would settle me. I coped by working long hours, and yes by drinking to unwind from all the working. All the time avoiding sitting in silence and getting to know me. Just me. Not the me society told me I should be, or the me I dreamed up I could be, or the me that was focused on a never ending to-do list… but just me. I had to learn how to not just be with what’s there NOW, in this moment, but to love myself for exactly where I am, in each moment. I found that only in truly being with what’s there, could I move past it. And I did. It’s funny because now when I get upset, I literally can’t work. I have to stop what I’m doing and dive in, explore it, and then recognize my power over it. Convenient? Nope. So very much more efficient in the long term? Yup. It’s part of what i love about the coaching i’m doing now– it’s not just about getting people excited and inspired, it’s also about listening to those voices that get us anxious or depressed or distracted or doubtful… and then, once we’ve really felt that and explored what’s there, finding our true voice. And our true self is loving and compassionate, but obscured by the gazilion other voices in our head. That kind of makes us all sound insane (and I think many spiritual beliefs would agree– that we’re crazy for letting our minds control us, rather than us controlling our minds). I’m getting pretty far off topic, but I’m glad for this real dialogue. And I’m glad for your willingness to be with what hurt. And I’m glad that others may find permission from your sharing.

    Thanks for being you! (just you 😉

  42. TJ

    I will echo many when I say thank you for being open and sharing this…the experience of so many of us trying to be supermom and talented writer and beautiful partner/wife and ambitious and witty and intelligent and strong and perfect…the list goes on! It all does seem too much at times. How I can relate to your words. big hugs!

  43. PortlandMomma

    This is such an important post. THANK YOU for raising awareness about anxiety/depression. I have struggled with anxiety for most of my life. I finally found a wonderful psychiatrist; she has helped me a great deal. People need to know that anxiety is a common problem even for (especially for?) pregnant women and new mamas. With the right help, life will be manageable and joyful again. Hugs to all of those struggling.

  44. Betsy

    You are amazing lady!!! I have read your blog for a little over a year now and you still amaze me. You remind me a lot of my sister, cause she is going through similar issues as yourself. It makes me understand her better since I am not a wife or a mother. Thanks for everything, and I’m sure my sister thanks you as well.

  45. Sara

    As I prepare for the birth of my third child I am realizing just how important it is to take care of me. Your post was honest and real and I needed to read it. Thank you for sharing.

  46. I’m of the mind that when we share our vulnerability with others, we also share with them our capacity to be strong and brave. I have no doubt that there are some of us reading this who draw strength from sharing this with us. xo

  47. I think I had the same buckets of wine and conversation with my doctor. thanks for putting this into words….alot of them could be mine.

  48. z

    My beautiful, amazing friend Aidan,
    I am so, so very proud of you for having the strength to come forward with all that you are feeling, going through, living. Your blog is an amazing platform for all of us mothers, wives, daughters, friends… to listen, to talk and most importantly, to relate. You know I am an avid reader, hardly ever miss a post. I consider myself a good friend of yours, one of the few lucky in your inner circle. I have watched some of your struggles, as you have watched mine. We are all in this crazy journey together. Your words are beautiful and so true. We all suffer from some kind of anxiety but you certainly are the perfectionist kind and I’m sure anxiety effects you and your kind a little more. My personality is very easy going, I don’t try to stress over things too much and I think I am a pretty happy person but I certainly drink a lot more since I have become a mother, I find myself waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to go back to sleep because I can’t stop thinking about my kids or all that I have to do the next day and my only job is my kids and house. I am not writing a book or a blog. Even having to come up with something different to cook every night can get stressful after 10 years!! It may seem silly to some people, but it is reality to so many of us.
    You are brave my friend. I thank you for coming forward. For all these people who have shared their journeys and struggles above, you must know that you are doing the right thing. Thank you for being so gifted with your words. we are lucky to read it all.
    You know you are not alone. Let’s talk more about these things on our amazing Friday nights.
    I love you tons.

  49. You must know how I relate to this, a struggle that started, for me, when I was 9 and hit harder than ever when I became pregnant with number 2. While I haven’t had the opportunity to turn to alcohol, I know I would have, given the chance.

    You are so very brave and yes, it’s a story that many people can relate to and understand.

  50. The best part of blogging is the chance to share your burdens/challenges with other people and the knowledge that there is always someone to help carry the load.

  51. I have been heavily depressed twice. The first one was few years ago due to a failure of achieving my own expectation in school for the first time in my life. I was so ashamed that I only shared it to a friend (a Christian) but lived thousands of miles away at that time. She encouraged me a lot and told me that she would pray for me. For unknown reason after two months still being depressed, I ended up meeting people involved in Christian ministry. They invited me to their home for dinner, discussion and weekly Bible study if I was interested in (since they knew that I wasn’t a Christian but believed in YHWH (God)and eternal life after death). I enjoyed the dinner and discussion (as an escape)and I felt relieved for one or two days after we read and study together verses from the Gospel, so I kept coming back. They were so loving and seemed peaceful and joyful. After eight months, the Bible study leader was asked me if I’m interested in knowing what Christians really believe and who Yeshua(Jesus)is. I became a Christian few weeks later and my depression/anxiety were fading. I will never forget what Jesus said during the Sermon on the Mount “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” and the “do not be anxious” lists.
    Sorry for the long comment with religious words, it’s a personal experience.

  52. Janet

    Thank you for sharing your words, your experiences and your heart. I read this post earlier today, but haven’t had a chance to comment until just now. However, your words have been with me all day. I think being able to talk about these issues is so profoundly important and I think seeing someone who has come out on the other side, like you, is such an inspiration. Your inner strength — the ability to acknowledge that something didn’t feel right in your life, delve into what it was, take charge of it, accept some support from others, and then overcome it and write about it — it’s just tremendous. I admire you, and the example that you set for those precious little girls. Wishing you peace.

  53. I just want to give you a big hug.

  54. Your words never cease to amaze me Aidan. You are brave every day. Real every day. Strong every day. You know who you are better than anyone I know. And knowing who you are and who you want to be is more important than anything. I think it’s what I struggle with most. i have this fight inside of me of who I am, who I want to be and who I think I should be. I grapple with it far too often. But you’ve got a strong hold on it. Don’t let it go.


  55. Liz

    Holy shit. I’m sorry, I know that is not eloquent. But that’s how I felt when I read this. Holy shit.

    Your honesty. Your bravery. Your story. I am almost speechless.

    The drinking I can relate to, although not to that level, but the anxiety? The fear that “something is wrong”? Completely. Utterly. Thank you for sharing this.

  56. I admire your bravery in living through these moments and searching for answers. I can’t thank you enough for sharing it. You are certain to reach someone who needs to hear these words.

  57. C

    A, I feel lucky to be one of the few you called that Friday last May – hard to believe that was almost a year ago. Hard to believe all that has happened since, for both of us; in different ways, we’ve each had a second before and after moment, in which our worlds changed, irreversibly, in an instant. I was really proud of you then, knowing how hard it is for you to show weakness and to admit in such an honest and vulnerable way that you don’t always have it all together (it’s a family trait, after all). I am just as, maybe more, proud of you now, because you are truly walking the walk, doing what this blog was always supposed to be about. Not that you haven’t done it before – you certainly have – but, as all of the comments above mine attest, this is a new and compelling level of openness.

    I don’t say it much, probably because I assume it goes without saying, but you inspire me on a daily basis. I have so often tread down paths you smoothed for me with experience and insight, and I think the scariest part of what I’m going through now is that it feels like nobody has been here before, that I am completely on my own in this bizarre corner of the universe. But in the end, finding my footing on this untrodden path is all about being a mom, and being honest with myself about when I need help – two things you have taught me so much about, directly and by example. I am as lucky to call you my sister as your girls are to call you mom. I love you.

  58. What a great post Aiden. We are a lot a like in that we are both achievers who think we should be able to do anything, everything. I struggled with anxiety for a couple of months in 2006 before we moved to Shanghai. A lover of change, I found the limits of my comfort with extreme changes. I talked with someone a few times and learned to cope but the experience left scars in my psyche. In my case I stopped drinking caffeine and have never gone back. I still enjoy wine though.

    It is a scary scary experience and I wish you the best!

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  60. Friday night wife

    Thank you for being so brave in telling your story with such raw emotion. Sadly, the wives have been distracted. Too distracted to listen and help. We have stumbled off the path and are just getting back on. A new path that in time will bring us the strength and knowledge to get back to the basics of why we banded together. Admiration, love, laughter, respect, and of course our babies.

  61. Your therapist was right. I needed to read your words! Thank you for baring your innermost fears and how you conquered them. Thank you!

  62. anne

    I very much appreciate your words and the courage it took to write them. Bravo for taking steps to face it when you knew something was “off”. I hope you continue to heal from this experience, and bask in the beauty of your sweet family. At the risk of sounding super-trite…hang in there:)

  63. P

    Wow – what a fantastic post. It is so brave and insightful to hear your experience. Depression and anxiety are things that often get shoved under the rug, but they affect so many people and should not be third rails in conversation. I’m glad you had such a strong family/friend support structure to help you through your tough time. Now you’re post will help countless others who are similarly struggling, I am sure. Thanks Aidan.

  64. Writing this was brave, but reaching out for help when you needed it was braver. I’m glad you faced the implicit vulnerability in confronting your problems and worked so hard to resolve them. It sounds like you’re in a much better place today than you were a year ago and I’m so happy for you about that. Well done!

  65. Jill

    It is so very hard to take the first step towards changing ourselves. It is so moving to read about your first step and all the others that have followed. I wish so much that we (women, moms, friends)could be this real all the time.
    I want to thank youfor this raw and courageous post. I read many thoughful blogs written by smart, witty, talented women. Most of the time it is enlightening, engaging, literally heart-warming. But sometimes, the appearance of successfulness, fulfilled ambition, the mirage of having it all (career,thoughtful blog, kids, soulful friends) feels so intimidating to me. It is refreshing and so very helpful to also read about your struggle. Because it’s not possible to have everything all the time, which maybe we don’t talk honestly about enough (at least for me). I feel so much comraderie reading my own story again and again in your post and these comments.
    As a woman, mother, friend, anxiety-sufferer, therapy-seeker and therapist by profession- I wish we all had the courage to be open about our struggles. I’m imagining all of us a bit lighter, less weighted down by the measuring up. More of our hearts, minds, psyches available for creating, mothering, becoming. Thank you for setting it down where we can see it.

  66. Thank you for this! Your post describes me in so many ways! I am a “high strung”, anxious Type A personality…and until motherhood, it has always served me well – to divide and conquer, so to speak.

    I have 3 kiddos too, 6,4 and 1. And -holy cow! – there are so many days when I wish I had Valium! So I usually indulge in wine or some other libation near dinnertime – because that’s when the day has just finally caught up with me and I’m ready to be done with it all!

    I was actually treated for post-partum depression, but I am starting to wonder if the underlying issue is really anxiety – nails shooting out of my skin, and my chest tied up in a tight knot – serious anxiety issues.

    Thank you again!

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  70. you have a story…and one that will touch lives…and there are many that need to hear…we are all on a journey…now write it…smiles.

  71. I applaud you for sharing this. I went through postpartum depression with my first child, and it was the bravery of two women who shared stories similar to yours that saved me from a second bout when my twins were born three years later. And until I read this today, I hadn’t given enough credit to the connection between the perfectionism that haunts me and anxiety. So for what it’s worth, thank you.

  72. I had PPD after the birth of my second son.And years prior I’d suffered with terrible panic attacks. I thank you for this post. I love to find other bloggers so raw, real, and transparent!


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  74. I am going through a super-duper stressful time right now and the last few weeks, I have been having a glass (or 3) of wine a night. Today I woke up feeling awful and somehow, I came to this post through today’s post. It was like finding a park ranger when I was lost in the forest. Thank you!! I too don’t think I have a Problem, but it’s a problem in terms of integrity and not living my fullest life by using wine sometimes as a crutch. It’s my weakness too and you have inspired me to quit as well. I’m not as brave as you but I’m going to give it a go for the next 40 days and see how I feel. Honestly, this was such a gift to read today. I can identify with everything you write here and so appreciate your courage and honesty. Much love to you!! xoxo

  75. Powerful post. Oh, my. So glad to have discovered you.

  76. Just reread this and wanted to say that your words really do matter. I’m in the same boat as you when it comes to needing to calm a Type-A personality and wine has been a crutch at times. But I’ve changed (just like Thoreau said). I’ve decided this year is when I’m kinder to myself: physically and mentally. I’ve stopped beating myself up for every little mistake and I’m finding physical outlets to calm my mind (spinning, pilates, etc.)

    So just wanted to say that even two years later, this is means a lot 🙂

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