Yesterday I did something I’ve been pondering for years . . . literally years. I got a prescription for anti-anxiety medication & started taking it. I’ve considered doing this for YEARS now but every time prior to yesterday I’ve backed out due to fear: fear of what others might think, fear of how my opinion of myself might change, fear of side effects, fear of “giving up,” & just basic fear of the unknown. Growing up in a society that quite literally tells people with anxiety, depression, & other mental health issues that they “just aren’t thankful enough for God’s blessings” & other such nonsense coupled with my own perfectionist personality makes admitting that I might need medication for my anxiety incredibly hard to accept. But yesterday I finally said “Screw you!” to the fear & admitted that, for right now anyway, I need more help than I’ve been able to give myself.
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while or if you know me in real life, then you probably know that I’ve been struggling with anxiety issues practically since birth. I can be pretty good at hiding it because outwardly I am so “put-together.” In reality my life really IS quite together. It’s just that my brain is always on “overdrive” which makes it very difficult for me to truly relax because my mind is always thinking, thinking, thinking about a million things. It’s a blessing & a curse as I’ve detailed on this blog in various posts from time to time (see: https://athicketofmusingsblog.com/2014/07/28/shut-up-brain-part-2/ & https://athicketofmusingsblog.com/2014/02/06/shut-up-brain/ & https://athicketofmusingsblog.com/2013/08/17/inexplicable-anxiety/). But lately due to a variety of external factors in my life, it’s been more of a curse than a blessing, & my usual coping mechanisms have not been enough to keep my head fully above water. I’ve been drowning myself in music & essential oils & all the other things that normally help me . . . and they just haven’t been enough. It’s not that these things haven’t been helpful at all . . . but the anxiety has not receded significantly like it normally does in response to these coping mechanisms. If anything my anxiety has continued to grow steadily over the past month or so.
I really can’t describe to you how hard it is to admit this. I’ve been seeing a therapist for just over a year now & this is honestly the first time in that year that I’ve felt like my anxiety has truly taken a turn for the worse. I’ve had a few bad weeks here & there but nothing like this. Until the past month I’ve felt like I’ve been steadily climbing upwards, steadily improving. But somewhere around the end of June I feel like I hit a brick wall, tripped over a boulder, & slid all the way down the mountain. After all the progress I’ve made over the past year, having my anxiety overwhelm me again is incredibly devastating. I really felt like for a while I’d slayed the beast that is my anxiety. But I guess the reality is that I had just put it to rest for a while. And the truth of the matter is I should be rejoicing over how well I did for so long. Instead of berating myself for struggling with this issue, I need to remember that like most chronic health conditions, either mental or physical, unfortunately anxiety rarely goes away forever, despite preventative measures & the best treatment. The sad reality is that no matter how many times you fight the anxiety monster, every new battle is still frightening & sometimes overwhelming.
I know there are some people who will say I’m “giving up & taking the easy way out” by taking medication for my anxiety. But the truth of the matter is I’ve tried everything in my power to control this on my own for YEARS now . . . basically my whole life. I also REALLY don’t want people to think that I’m saying therapy isn’t helpful because I literally cannot express to you how incredibly helpful it has been for me. Finding my current therapist was one of the greatest decisions of my life. And the essential oils I’ve been using are also amazingly useful & have helped me tremendously as well. And music has been my lifeline for most of my life; there is no question about that. There is no doubt in my mind that for many people these kinds of coping mechanisms are more than enough to manage their anxiety or other mental health concerns. But unfortunately I’ve just reached a point where these things aren’t enough for me anymore. I sincerely hope to get back to the point at which these normal coping mechanisms are sufficient for me. But the fact of the matter is I’m not there right now, & I shouldn’t feel the need to apologize or explain myself for that. If I had any other type of health condition, almost no one would question my need to take medication for it. But if you have mental health concerns, far too many people, even well-meaning people, expect you to just “get over it.” Would that it were that easy! Trust me, if I could just will myself out of my anxiety, I’d have done it a long, long time ago!!
I’m going to end today’s post with the incredibly eloquent words of a very dear friend of mine who has provided so much encouragement to me over the past few years. In fact she is the person who encouraged me to find my therapist last year. I have so much to thank her for. This message she sent me yesterday describes her own experiences with mental health over the past few years & was a courageous (& very effective) effort to assuage the guilt & fear I had regarding “giving up & taking medication” for my anxiety.
“What I have learnt over the last six years of this bullshit is that it matters less & less what people think or what box you fit into: bipolar, depression, anxiety . . . We are all damaged in one way or another. We just have to survive. And maybe that sounds cynical, but to me it makes me want to find balance even more, because I’m determined to find the joy that remains somewhere & live it. And all this is just part of getting there.”
My anxiety might make my life a bit harder at times, but it also means that I appreciate the good times all the more because I know how it feels to be really down. I may never truly slay the anxiety monster, but I CAN find ways to keep it in hibernation for as long as possible. And as my friend expressed in her message yesterday, fighting the anxiety monster makes me all the more determined to enjoy every second of this precious life, “to find the joy that remains somewhere & live it.” And if taking a medication is part of getting there, so be it . . . Hopefully it won’t be forever, but for right now it’s worth a try.