My childhood was wonderful. I grew up with two loving parents, a beautiful home, and a great family life. But there’s a snippet of time that wasn’t so good.
It happened when I was nineteen and my mom was in her late forties. I was a self-absorbed teenager, starting my second year of college.
I noticed Mom was getting thinner, but didn’t think much of it. Until one day when I saw her change her clothes. I’d never seen Mom’s arms and legs look so bony. Her face appeared drawn and gaunt. It scared me. I didn’t say anything to her because I didn’t want to make her feel bad.
I didn’t know why my mom lost so much weight. I can’t pretend to know what she was thinking. Mom told me she felt better not eating much. She didn’t mind being hungry. She said she felt in control.
Mom was a dancer when she was young, and she still took weekly ballet classes. The ballet instructor told Mom she was getting too skinny. Mom laughed it off, thinking that was ridiculous. She said when she stood in front of the mirror in her tights and leotard, she thought she looked fat. I couldn’t understand this. How can Mom not see how she really looks?
Mom was hospitalized for depression and anorexia. It seemed like she was always trying different medications. She was discouraged because none of them worked. And they all had bad side effects.
About five years later, when Mom was in her mid fifties, her doctor said there was a new drug that was worth a try. An antidepressant called Prozac.
Within days, Mom felt better. She could function. She felt normal, and not in a daze. She even felt happy, like there was a reason to live.
That medication was Mom’s miracle.
I’ve had panic attacks since I was a child. At the time, I had no idea what was wrong with me. I didn’t know how to explain my frightening symptoms. My heart would race, I’d get dizzy, and feel like I was going to faint. I had an uncontrollable urge to leave the place I was at. I knew it wasn’t normal to feel that way. I never told anyone, not even my parents.
I finally reached out for medical help when I couldn’t take it anymore. I was in my early thirties. The symptoms would inevitably come every time I drove, went to the grocery store, or the mall.
My doctor diagnosed me with agoraphobia. He told me I inherited Mom’s imbalanced serotonin levels, and would need an antidepressant to correct it. The doctor explained that in my mom, it showed up as depression. In me, it was panic attacks.
Unfortunately, the incorrect levels of serotonin were passed on to my daughter. She started to have signs of panic attacks when she was nine years old. She missed several weeks of fourth grade because she was terrified of having panic symptoms at school. She was also prescribed an antidepressant, which helped her return to the classroom.
My mom, my daughter, and I are now healthy and happy. Mom is almost eighty years old, and is beautiful and vibrant. My twenty one year old daughter is successful in college and rarely has panic attacks. She no longer takes medication. I live a rich, full life, and can control my anxiety.
Three generations affected by imbalanced serotonin. It deeply changed each one of us. We felt alone. We thought we were fighting an emotional battle no one else knew.
Now we realize we aren’t alone. Millions of people suffer anxiety, panic attacks, and depression.
We are testaments to the fact that there is hope.
There really is hope.
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