Am I the only one that feels this way?
Having mental health issues is no joke. Some of us are lucky enough to not rely heavily on medications to help us stay emotionally stable, and some of us aren’t. I have been on both sides of the wall.
I have struggled with anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and a few other mental health challenges over the years. I was medicated for almost two years until I finally became tired of feeling like a robotic zombie. It has been about 3 months of living medication free, and so far, I am dealing with it well. I took a chance, after a huge life change, and stopped swallowing the tiny white mind-melters on my own accord. I wouldn’t recommend this for everyone, but it seemed like the best solution for me.
Good Days and Bad Days
I will be honest and say that I still have rough days. I become overwhelmed, stressed out, and often withdrawn from people. I also have days when I feel fine. I have more up days than down, and I believe it’s because of my new lifestyle and the people I allow to surround me.
On a good day, I rise out of bed, enjoy my coffee, and get dressed for work. My job fulfills me, and as I race home I have a plan in mind for how to spend my evening. “Good days” for me, are what people without mental challenges would call “normal”.
On my “not so good days”, I fight with myself to rise out of bed then stumble downstairs to the kitchen to glare at the coffee maker. It seems to take too long to brew my dark roast, and I just “feel” differently. I feel sad. I feel grouchy and often exhausted.
After I sip my first few tastes of brew, I sit at the table and stare out the window, hoping that the bitchiness will simply pass. I know I am fooling myself, but it’s worth a shot. I try and shake it off, but in the end, I know it’s not worth the fight. I try and make a conscious decision to “just do it”. I tell myself to get off my ass and shower, and that will help my lack of motivation. On mornings when my guy is home, he wakes up and kisses me, which helps my funk, but I still feel the stirring of panic and stress in the core of my soul.
I contemplate what my day will look like, and what I need to accomplish in order to be productive.
And THAT’S when it strikes.
Hello Anxiety, My Old Friend
There are so many levels of anxiety and depression. I believe that every human being, at some point in their lifetime, experiences anxiety. You would be hard-pressed to find anyone who hasn’t felt apprehension or worry about life situations. It’s all in the manner we handle it. It’s also about how your brain functions when it is under the pressures of the unknown, or from past experiences.
The root of anxiety is your brain. The hippocampus is the part of your grey matter that triggers when we feel threatened. The central part of the amygdala is where fear comes from. If BOTH of these parts of your brain are activated, anxiety creeps in and takes over. It is a powerful occurrence and can be debilitating. Some people cope well, others don’t.
The medication that is prescribed affects those two parts of your brain, and numbs the triggering, making us feel less, worry less, and relax further when we feel afraid or threatened. Imagine that. One little pill can make your brain respond in a different way than you would, “normally.” It’s like a tiny lobotomy that helps you cope. Again, I understand why people need the regulation of their stress and fears. I just choose to deal with it on my own.
Lately, I have been struggling with a whole new level of anxiety. I have “anxiety about getting anxiety”.
If you have any kind of experiences with high anxiety, you understand what it is like to not be able to face challenges or leave your comfort zone. On bad days, lying in bed and staring at the wall is all you can manage. On better days, you may function in your day to day living, but every little thing puts you on edge. I have ridden the anxiety pony for so long that I feel like I have experienced the whole spectrum. I have had times of stifling it and just powering through my day, and I have had days when the light switch on my bedroom wall was the only thing I saw from morning until the sweet relief of darkness. It sucks, to say the least.
Anxiety snuffs out the joy in your life. It stalks you from the inside and tells you that you are incapable. Some days it feels like it wraps it’s grip around your face and takes away your voice and your breath. It becomes a second voice in your head telling you to be wary and that you won’t like what is about to happen. It convinces you that you are better off just avoiding everything to be safe. The message inside you becomes loud and clear, and every noise, every face, and every possibility in the unknowns of your day feel like they are too much to handle. The struggle is all too real.
And, I KNOW THIS.
So, my old friend, anxiety, tells me that I WILL get anxiety. There is no reasoning with it. There is no sense arguing, as it is the truth. I could very well get anxiety over small things, or significant things, and the brakes come on.
Anxiety is very “Experience-driven”, in that you feel stress or fears, based on what has happened in similar experiences from your past. Perhaps you left your comfort zone and attended a function that made you feel threatened. Maybe you have been in a place that triggered fear or worry before, and you don’t want to trigger it again. Either way, you know what the previous results were and it now has become a stressor in your mind. You tell yourself that anxiety was with you the last time, and it will most likely occur again. That has been my dilemma lately. I literally FEAR anxiety itself. I know what a threat it can be, based on my experiences. I don’t want to hide in bed and avoid the day, and I fight the enveloping monster, while it tries to take over.
I hear it’s dark voice, “You know you can’t do this today. We have been here before, haven’t we?”
This is the nonsense that I struggle with. I argue that this time will be different and that I can do it now. I am new and improved. I have a new outlook and a new life. I tell the voice to shut the hell up, and that I am in control now. And, I power through, just to prove it wrong.
I extend my comfort zone, and try new things, even while the darkness whispers in my ear. It is often exhausting. It is often exhilarating. Some days are easier than others, and some days I lay in bed wondering if I have the strength to tackle the next day.
I always do. I always face the following day as it comes.
Because I made the choice to not be medicated, I know that there will be times when I am challenged, and that’s okay. Even while I was on the pills, there were days when I still struggled. Fear is fear. Discomfort is discomfort. Everyone experiences those feelings at various points in their lives. Some people cope better than others, and that is what makes the difference.
I have to find a way to embrace my anxiety and thank it for keeping me challenged. It is the warning light within me that keeps me aware of my surroundings and my triggers. Anxiety is also the reason that I have a different perspective on life and the ups and downs within it. Having anxiety and depression reminds me to enjoy every happy moment, and to feel every emotion deeply. While I was medicated, it was difficult to have those deep, inner feelings, so now when I do feel, I embrace and hang onto the feeling for as long as I can.
The experiences that I have shared with anxiety have been heightened, and in some ways, I am grateful for that. Anxiety-driven feelings are emotionally charged, and that is not always a negative. So, I have learned to try and embrace who anxiety has made me. I am not saying it’s always easy, but I try.
Today, anxiety whispered in my ear and told me, “Just stay home. It’s scary and hard out there. You don’t need to go to work. Go back to bed and rest. You know we are exhausted.”
Today, I am giving anxiety the finger, and getting dressed for work. I will head out into the sunshine and stifle my apprehensions and fears of other people’s judgment. No one will be the wiser, as I get through the day, minute by minute. No one, that is, except the old voice in my head that doesn’t seem to shut up. It reminds me of past anxious moments and warns me to just give in.
But, I won’t.
Today, I will persevere.
Today, as I sip my coffee and argue with my old friend, I feel like it is a good day. It is a day of productivity and small successes.
Today, I rise up and embrace the day and all it has to offer.
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