*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events as told to me by a family member, who experienced them firsthand; used with permission.
My mother has suffered from lifelong anxiety. During all the decades that she has been anxious, she has spoken with only two doctors about her issue.
The first doctor told her if she wanted anxiety medication, then she would have to see a psychiatrist who could prescribe it. The second doctor told her to sit in a corner and pray.
My mother was incredulous. "Can you believe he told me that?" she asked me. "He told me to sit in a corner with my rosary beads, put a shawl on my head, and pray as my mother did." She paused. "He never even knew my mother."
We come from a culture where many older women do sit with their rosary beads, cover their heads with a shawl, and pray for hours. Since my mother's physician never met my grandmother, it seems he was stereotyping my mother based on her background. The fact that he was spot on about my grandmother doesn't make it right. My mother doesn't even own a pair of rosary beads or a shawl.
When I was a child, I remember her talking to her friends about how "nervous" she felt all the time. But she never told her doctor how she felt. Instead, she just asked for a mild sedative to help her sleep at night. He said, "No."
In recent years, my mother has finally started to talk more openly about her anxiety.
We often see mental health as a taboo topic and one that we should all just be able to deal with on our own. But the reality is that mental health is just as important as physical health, and we should all be taking care of our mental well-being just as much as our physical well-being.
If you're struggling with anxiety, don't suffer in silence. Reach out to a doctor or mental health professional who can help you manage your symptoms. Don't let anyone tell you that your anxiety is unfounded or that you should just be able to deal with it on your own and definitely don't accept the advice of anyone who tells you to pray your anxiety away. Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way.
I can understand why my mother was hesitant to talk to her doctor about her anxiety. For many years, anxiety was seen as a sign of weakness. People were told to just "suck it up" and deal with their problems. Thankfully, attitudes have changed and anxiety is now seen as a real medical condition that needs to be treated.
If you suffer from anxiety, I urge you to speak to your doctor. It can be a tough conversation, but it is worth it. Your doctor can help you find the treatment that is right for you. Don't suffer in silence like my mother. And don't sit in a corner and try to pray away your anxiety unless that's what you want to do.