coming clean: when anxiety & depression come back

This is the post I alluded to yesterday. We’re about to get heavy up in here, kids. You’ve watched the blog go through some changes in the last few weeks. Behind the scenes, there’s been another type of renovation going on.

I first shared my struggles with anxiety and depression last August when I wrote Owning It versus Being Owned. I was sick and tired of hiding the shame I felt for dealing with these conditions, so I owned up to them. Writing that post was extremely therapeutic and allowed me to feel open enough to share my thoughts on my emotional wellness through my journey on finding happiness in 2011. While significant life changes occurred between that initial August 2010 posting and this summer (training for my first half marathon, my parents divorcing, changing jobs), I was managing my stress levels and winning the battle.

Then my grandfather passed away. As much as I tried to cope head on at first, I started distracting myself from my emotions. I threw myself into half-marathon training, attended as many networking events as possible and continually worked as hard as possible to develop business for my new employer. But that didn’t last long: I started pulling away and hiding not only my emotions, but myself.

On a particularly dreary day in September – both outside my house and inside my head – I saw this tweet:


I immediately clicked over to the Intuitive Bridge blog to read Bridget’s post entitled The Difference between Trey Pennington and Me. In it, she writes:

My depression has a stealth brutality to it. Along with exhaustion and sadness, I get a healthy dose of shame and inadequacy.

When my depression comes back, I feel like I’ve failed. I know cognitively that having a depressive episode is not failure. It’s my body experiencing disease.

I’m telling you this because if you are experiencing this right now, you’re not alone.

Even though the experience weighs you down and it feels like there is no end, there will be a day when the depression lightens.

If you can just take care of yourself until then, and wait it out, you’ll be happy that you did.

As I read, I quickly realized I was heavy into a depressive episode of my own. I wasn’t living up to my high expectations of myself and the guilt I’d put upon myself was too much. Case in point: I almost talked myself out of running the Air Force half marathon as I was standing at the starting line, only to prove my negative thinking wrong with a nearly 20 minute PR. (Also, check out this Hyperbole and a Half called Adventures in Depression for a light hearted version of exactly how I’ was feeling.)

On the anxiety side, the “monkey brain” was in full force. I was constantly worrying about everything: my ever changing work responsibilities, getting enough mileage in, my relationship with my husband, if my dog was getting enough attention.  Something new also appeared as social anxiety kicked in. I was constantly rescheduling/cancelling appointments. I let phone calls go to voice mail, ignored text messages and struggled to put email responses together in a timely fashion. The rational me knew this was the irrational me running the show, but she couldn’t do anything about it.

Before reading that post I recognized I needed help, however I already felt too far gone. But it was that post about Trey Penttington’s suicide that kept me from spiraling further. I finally had the first sense that I wasn’t the only one battling these horrible thoughts and feelings. I knew drastic times called for drastic measures, but I was scared and overwhelmed. Whenever I’m overwhelmed by the fear of the unknown, I always think of Sean’s post Does Fear Overpower You? Fight or Flight? In it, he wrote:

I am telling you that you can harness fear as a motivator to get out there and get in the game, to push yourself further than you have ever before, further than you ever thought possible, to use fear as a positive force instead of a negative one. Use fear as a motivator and not an inhibitor of change.

Uncertainty had been driving the vessel of my life and I couldn’t be afraid of the unknown any longer. And for the first time in a long time, I knew what I had to claim back my life and my health. The first step: I resigned from my job.  There were no ill feelings on either side from my departing. We both knew my interests & career goals were not longer aligning with my job responsibilities. I relinquished my job duties and took on a new one – finding myself by battling the depression and anxiety once again.

In reality, the path to finding health requires a lot of work. I knew this was the case on my journey to a physical well being through many years of weight loss, but building mental and emotional health is just as much as a practice. It means dealing with all the sh*t that you’ve hidden away. It means calling those friends and family you’ve avoided to reconnect to realize you are not alone. It means checking out a dozen self-help books on meditation, mindfulness and stress strategies from the library. It means being able to say “I’m not okay, but that’s okay.”

I’m doing much better than I was a few months ago. That wouldn’t have been possible without the help of many, many people. Your interactions – on any level – have kept me feeling alive in a time when I just wanted to fade away. From the yoga sessions to the girls-nights-in, from the Twitter conversations to the family dinners around the kitchen table: those moments are the reason why I am here today – your love kept me going. I am eternally grateful for you all.

I don’t know what’s up next for me or for my family, my career or this blog.  And for the very first time in my life, I’m okay with that and I am THANKFUL to not have a plan for every single little part of my being. I know there will be bumps along the way, but I’m better equipped to deal with them now. A depressed, anxiety ridden person won’t be residing in this body anymore – a happy, healthier me will enjoying life instead.

My plea to you: If you or someone you know is struggling with emotional health, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Not sure where to start: connect with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

EDITED TO ADD: Via a concerned commenter, I realized my mention of returning to therapy got lost in my editing the post. Scheduling a doctor’s appointment was my actual first step in the process (happening before the job resignation). Unfortunately, it took longer than expected to find the right one that could give me the tools I needed to fight this in a way that would work for me. While self-help books are a nice supplement, there’s no replacement for professional help.  Remember his/her point: I am NOT a medical or mental health professional. I am just doing the best I can to describe my experience as responsibly as I can. I apologize for my oversight and thank that commenter for his/her posting. 

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  1. Susan says:

    Thank you for sharing this, and the links you’ve provided. Knowing there’s resources and solutions and .. hope, is important. I hope you’re able to battle through everything and find peace and relief that you deserve.

  2. CLEgal @ Why CLE? says:

    I am so proud of you for publicly sharing your struggles. I am also so proud for how far you’ve come since the anxiety really crept in. You are doing an amazing job and I’m just so happy you’re in a better place. I know my life is better for having happy, healthy Alicia in it!

  3. Holly says:

    Alicia I’m sorry to hear you are going through all of this. But I commend you for being so strong to share.

    My parents divorced when I was 18 and that’s actually quite difficult. I don’t think many people think it would be as an adult, but it is. So I understand that pain.

    Wishing you the best.

  4. Sarah says:

    Wow – this post couldn’t be more timely for me. Thank you so much for being brave and sharing. I also have anxiety and depression – and am struggling at present with both. I hadn’t heard of Intuitive Bridge before, but love her writing style and will be following her site.

  5. Jess says:

    I am so glad you published this post. I heart you my friend. I am always here for you, by email, by twitter, by phone, whatever. Hell, I’ll even fly to the CLE to see you! Stay strong my friend, you’re winning this battle. xoxo

  6. Katy Widrick says:

    Thank you so much for this honest post, although I admit that my heart is breaking a bit.

    My family struggles with depression, so I’ve always been on alert for signs. It’s a disease that I wish more people talked about, so those who suffer didn’t feel like they were alone or had to keep quiet.

  7. Jessica B. says:

    I just want to run over and give you a giant hug right now! (that would probably be a long run since I don’t know if you are at home or work). I would have never guessed you struggled with anything. You always come off as very calm and collected and that everything is under control. I just think you are absolutely awesome.
    Thanks for sharing this with your readers so extremely brave!

  8. Amanda @ Clue Into CLE says:

    You’re amazing for sharing this journey publicly. While your experiences with anxiety and depression have been difficult, I think they are a part of the wonderfully complex and unique person whose willingness to share her experiences have helped me — and a lot of other people.

    I have always had the tendency to bury myself in activities to escape from or deal with other things going on. Some of them have been activities that were truly helpful (even if they added stress at times), others have not been healthy distractions — and hurt more than they help.

    It can be extremely difficult to separate yourself from those things that are not healthy.

    I applaud you for not having a plan for everything and being ok with that — I’d like to have that moment one day but I think I have a lot of work left to do on myself emotionally before I get there.

    I’m proud of you and am here if you need me for both the bumps and the smooth roads!

  9. Mike T says:

    Thanks for sharing. The most important message to communicate to those that know someone is that the WORST thing you can say to someone suffering is nothing. It may be awkward initially, but it will be helpful and appreciated in the long run.

  10. Angeline says:

    Hello, Thank you for posting this. It took courage. Since I found your blog, I have been impressed by you and your adventures and I thank you for your honesty. We don’t even know each other, (but we’ve both got Parma pride) but we are not alone. Building emotional and physical help takes practice and work. I have about a dozen self help books checked out my library card right now too. (Thanks for using the library 🙂
    Thank you for sharing this.

  11. Morgan @ Becoming Rooks says:

    Thank you for being brave and sharing your story. I understand the struggles with anxiety, and I could see it in your posts while you were training for the USAF half, but I didn’t know it was so strong in your life. Lots of hugs and prayers your way, and I am just on the other side of Target if you ever need a quick get together! 🙂

  12. A. Nonymouse says:

    I’m sorry you’ve hit a rough patch lately but I wonder if you have actually sought professional help. I would personally hesitate to self-diagnose with any disorder, particularly depression. If you are truly suffering from depression, it is very risky to attempt to “treat” it solely by reading self-help mumbo-jumbo and cozying up to your friends. Don’t get me wrong, those are important elements of treatment for depression, but seeing a professional counselor (and sometimes even antidepressant medication, in many instances) is the appropriate way to deal with something that is actually a very serious health issue.

    I think it is irresponsible for a fairly high-profile Cleveland-area blogger such as yourself to offer your experience with “treating” “depression” by checking out self-help books from the library and quitting your previous job as clear solutions to readers who may be searching for answers relative to their own states of mind and mental health. You are not a medical or mental health professional.

  13. John says:

    Thanks for sharing Alicia. It’s great you have such an awesome support group…please leverage them everyday!

  14. Cynthia (It All Changes) says:

    Alicia thank you so much for sharing. My heart hurts for you yet I am so proud.

    As someone who knows the shame and fear that goes with depression I know how hard it is to share that with others. Thank you for being strong and taking care of yourself.

  15. jobo says:

    Wow. I am really glad you posted this one, even if you were afraid to. It took a lot of bravery, I’m sure. But after being fortunate enough to meet you last month, you have got to be one of the warmest, nicest, REAL people I know, and not to mention, strong, resilient and MORE than ABLE. I, like everyone here, support you always. And I am so glad you are starting to feel better and have gotten some support and help. XOXO.

  16. Tracy says:

    Been there. Often still am there. Lot of people don’t understand that it really is an illness. Your brain chemistry goes awry, and the same set of circumstances that were merely challenging the day before become overwhelming to the point of absolute despair.

    I’ve been working my ass off to find good treatment, but without insurance it’s been tough. Actually, even with insurance it’s often tough. But I’m hanging in there, and I’m so glad you are too.

    I’m also glad that you opened up about this, which is so helpful in breaking the feeling of isolation. And grateful, since each time we speak up, the stigma gets challenged. Sending hugs.

  17. Lee says:

    You are definitely not alone. I also battle depression and anxiety. Like you, it comes and goes, but it’s definitely real and a struggle.

  18. Kali says:

    Hun, you have no idea how much of the same person we are. I am so proud of you for sharing this! You are an amazing and inspiring person 🙂 and we need to hang out ASAP, for coffee, yoga, anything, since I’m in your neck of the woods almost every day now!!

  19. Dawn says:

    A, I love this post. Especially the part with the social anxiety- it rang really true to my experiences. It really captures what it feels like to be depressed and dealing with anxiety issues. I hope someone stumbles on this and gains some insight, comfort, or motivation from it.

    I’m so proud of you!
    Love you always 🙂

  20. Kendra @ Embrace Self Love says:

    Thank you so much for being so open, honest and full of insight for your experience, as well as giving recommendations for those who struggle. The biggest lesson and awareness we need to get out about mental health struggles is that there is absolutely NO shame in strugging, and we can and do have a voice and the ability to seek help. Thank you for sharing your voice.

  21. Alana says:

    Sending you an internet hug and giving you kudos for posting this – you’re helping someone out there whether they tell you or not!

  22. Tina @ Faith Fitness Fun says:

    It pains me to know of your struggles because I know you are such a giving, loving, wonderful person. Depression is pure evil and sucks the life out of a person. You deserve the fullest life out there. I’m glad to hear you’re taking the steps to make that happen and to feel better. Love you!

  23. Bess says:

    If I haven’t already told you this, I admire your courage and authenticity tremendously and am so lucky to have you as an “in real life” friend. You possess a rare gift to inspire others to strive for a healthy and happy outlook on life even via the bumps in the road you have faced in recent months.

    As someone who used to be obsessed with planning out every minute detail of my life (hello former event planner) and always wanting to know the outcome, I can definitely attest to the fact that I’ve become much more calm and at peace with myself once I in your words realized that “I am THANKFUL to not have a plan for every single little part of my being.”

    You know how to reach me if you ever need to vent 🙂

  24. Kasie says:

    Alicia, I give you so much credit for being able to talk about these issues. I struggled with depression after the birth of my daughter & hate that people don’t talk about it. At the time, I wasn’t able to talk about it. I felt weak & guilty for not being utterly happy to have a beautiful healthy child. When I got better (through a combination of things, including therapy) I realized of course that weakness has nothing to do with it. We need to talk more openly about these issues so people know they are not alone. Thank you for sharing your story. I wish you all the best. p.s. yoga has been a great help too!

  25. AlexandraFunFit says:

    One of the reasons I got my MA in counseling was because in my fitness classes I had so many students who were struggling with their self-esteem, anxiety, depression and other issues that I wasn’t able to help alleviate. I feel so happy for you that you’re doing what you need to do to make yourself your best. It’s so obvious from your brave, open words that you are a winner!

  26. Crystal W. (@EatDrinkClev) says:

    Alicia, this took a lot of guts and I’m so proud of you for writing this. We all have our bad times but recognizing (and admitting to) a larger issue is key to helping you be well. So many times people are ashamed and afraid to seek help.

    One of my dearest friends struggles with depression so I know how hard it is – but I also know that there are all sorts of treatments to help you out there. She is a stress eater and struggles tremendously with her weight as well as some pretty severe depression. I’m glad that you have been able to maintain your healthy lifestyle while feeling crappy inside. It really helps.

    She found that seeking professional help was the key for her. She tried a bunch of different meds and finally found one that works for her as well. Not everything works for everybody so don’t give up if it takes awhile.

    I didn’t realize that your parents were so newly divorced. Mine have been divorced since I was 11 and it’s been so long and I was so young that I really don’t miss having that family unit intact. I can imagine that experiencing this as an adult is terrible, especially since you can understand the pain that your parents go through as well as feeling your own loss.

    If you EVER need to talk please don’t hesitate to call. I think you are a fabulous woman and I’m so glad I know you.

  27. Heather says:

    I’m a little late to the party on this one, but I had it saved because I wanted to think about it some. I admire you for being so honest. And I’m SO GLAD that you take the steps to improve your health and well-being. The first step’s always the hardest.

  28. Rachel says:

    I just googled ‘i’m terrified of my depression coming back’ in a fit of panic, and this was just what I needed back. Thank you so much – you’re touching people’s lives and I hope you keep it up.

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