Struggle, Anxiety, Meds

shutterstock_315610883.jpg

 

The last several months the struggle with anxiety has been all too real. I’ve suffered from and dealt with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety, and panic attacks for over half of my life at this point. I’ve been on and off medication, mostly on, since I was 23 years old. Despite the fact it helps I also hate medication. I hate the side effects. I hate being tired all of the time. I hate sweating. However, I’ve come to the conclusion, I need to be on medication.

In the past when I’ve gone off of medication I was reckless and stubborn. I went off meds before cold turkey, not once, but twice. I suffered withdrawals. I was miserable. I made my family miserable.

This time had to be different. This time, I felt like I was in a really solid place in life. Good job, house, meditating, had seen a therapist, etc. I felt ready to tackle life without medication. This time I reached out to my doctor to wean off properly and I even got the info at least a month in advance.

I weaned off, slowly and carefully as prescribed and man… I felt great. I wasn’t tired all the time. On my days off I was actually making plans to be social rather than hide in my house and nap and be lazy. I had energy! My sleep was great! The annoying and ridiculous sweating stopped. Life was lovely for maybe a month.

Slowly though, impatience started creeping in. Anger started seeping out the seams. Frustration was being aimed at my dogs and my parents and my aunt. Work has been kind of messed up since June 2017 and just kept getting worse, more overwhelming. By November I had a massive panic attack. Every day I was questioning myself if I was doing the right thing by being off of medication. I was constantly analyzing how I felt and trying to determine if I needed medication again.

By December it was abundantly clear with the never ending tension in my neck and shoulders. I reached out to my doctor and set up an appointment. Thankfully, unlike my last primary care physician, my current one listens to me. We discussed options and came up with a plan. We started me on the lowest dose of the original medication I went on years ago with the plan of increasing if needed after a week or two.

At the end of close to two weeks and there still being significant anxiety and even the intrusive thought of, “I’d rather be dead than deal with this.” I increased to the higher dosage. Slowly the medication started working in my system. Slowly things were getting more manageable.

Sadly though, it only took me so far. My doctor and I discussed the possibly of increasing the dose or changing meds and we ultimately decided to change meds. During the next couple weeks there were some ups and downs with the adjustment. I’ve also been back in therapy as well.  My physical revealed that I am very low on Vitamin D which can be a contributing factor to anxiety and depression.

While I made so much progress I also struggled in that I was beating myself up. It never took me this long to get back on track when going back on meds. I had not been so low in such a long time, if ever. I’ve been hard on myself thinking how much of a burden I’ve been to my friends and family. I’ve been analyzing every thought and feeling. Judging or grading my progress. Any time I felt even a little anxious I went into over drive, trying to figure out why and lamenting that I was still having anxiety. After all, I’m on meds, I’m on prescription strength Vitamin D, I’m in therapy, I cut out caffeine and alcohol.

I expressed this to my therapist who told me, “Stop beating yourself up. Focus on the positives. You’re stressing yourself out more and making it worse.” Well… that was a novel idea. To not focus on the struggle and instead focus on the good? Focus on all the hard fought battles I’d won? It definitely helped to shift things.

At this point, I’m still not entirely where I want to be. Sometimes interacting with others takes more energy than I have but I get through. My mind still goes into over drive here and there. But… I’m getting there. Sometimes, it’s a journey and I’m having to finally slow down and accept it for what it is.

Advertisements

Progress Made

It’s a funny place I find myself in, sitting comfortably in my mid-thirties, rid of all the angst of my late teens to mid-twenties. I still recall the emotional turmoil I was in, the loneliness, the anger- so much anger! Despite the ability to recall it all, in vivid detail, it also feels like a lifetime ago. The suffering definitely helped to shape who I am, but that person, that version of myself seems foreign to me now.

I remember… staying up all night, watching tv and chatting over AIM with 5 people at once and writing two pieces at a time. I remember all the pent up rage over my (perceived) inability to live a normal life. I remember the feelings of isolation, desperation, and loneliness that overwhelmed me. I remember having my first full blown panic attack one night around 1am, while watching Vanilla Sky, wondering if I should wake my parents to take me to the hospital or let them sleep and maybe find me dead on the couch in the morning. I let them sleep and hoped and prayed I wasn’t having a heart attack and dying like I thought I was, like I felt I was.

I remember… writing dark and twisted poetry about the fury, the sorrow, and romanticizing suicide. I never truly considered it but it felt like such a tempting escape from the misery I was in.

I think back to all the crazy that I attracted to my life during that time. The drama filled people who seemed to find me like I was a magnet and truth be told, I probably was. It seemed like one friend after another was in crisis. My friendship circle consisted of self-harmers, pill poppers, and the like. It was also filled with people who had been dealt some really shitty hands in life but year after year they continued to be the victim rather than become the heroine of their own life. I remember one often repeating, “I don’t know what I did in a past life to deserve all of this.”

I remember… finding solace in the darkness of depression, the depression that anxiety drove me into. Misery does love company and I found my tribe. I remember feeling so liberated being able to share the chaos and storms that were swirling within me. I was no longer alone in my looney tribe of misfits. We were all wounded in our own ways and suffering but we had each other and that made it less lonely.

I remember… the clouds starting to lift in my life. The poetry dried up and I feared I was losing my creativity. I remember that the down moments came less frequently, the mood swings not as severe. I remember feeling at odds with myself because I didn’t recognize myself anymore without turmoil. Sometimes, even now, a little part of me misses it. For the creativity that is. There is something about angst and writing that go hand in hand, at least in my twisted mind.

Yet, I wouldn’t go back to it. I like being in a happy place now. That’s not to say my life is perfect but I am more appreciative now. I understand my anxiety better and have a better handle on it. I’m thankful for my struggles because there are somethings one cannot fully understand without experiencing them, mental health issues being one of them. Yes, I remember my battle and I’m grateful for it but I am so content to be exactly where I am right now. 100_0291_2.jpg

The Flyer

A couple of weeks ago I came home from work and saw a rather loud looking flyer on my kitchen table. My sister had brought the mail in. Typically all flyers and advertisements get filed immediately, in the recycle bin. For some reason I looked this one over. It had a little scratch off deal like a lottery ticket. I grabbed a coin and went to town. It said I won. Three little piles of cash had been revealed by my efforts. Despite being a “winner” normally I would still file it away but since the dealership was close to my home I thought, I really didn’t have anything to lose. Clearly they already had my name and address so it wouldn’t result in any more junk mail. The smallest prizes were lottery tickets or ten dollars cash. The grand prize was ten thousand dollars, which would have been nice.

My next day off I headed up to the dealership, flyer in hand. A group of car salesmen were loitering outside, probably enjoying temps above freezing. The parking lot was horribly small and made me uncomfortable. As I got out of my car one man stepped forward asking what he could do to help and I held up my flyer saying I was there to collect my prize. He was cute. Really cute. He made a comment about my ripped up jeans, asking if I had bought them that way, if they were my holy jeans that I wore to church. We had a nice banter going and I was thinking, “man, he’s cute, and he is flirting with me.” We went to the board where the prizes were listed. I won… A lottery ticket. He went in the back, got me my ticket, and walked me out. I scratched it off on the way home while I was at a red light. It was a loser. 

When I got home, the cute guy was still on my mind. Something about him had intrigued me. I had recently given up on internet dating and was focusing on self improvement rather than finding a life partner. I debated as to what I should do about this cute guy and ultimately I called up to the dealership and asked him out for coffee. I figured I was never going to visit that dealership again so I had nothing to lose. He gave me his number promptly after my invite and told me lived out of state. I commented what a commute that must be and he told me to call him later and he would tell me all about it. 

Turns out he was leaving the next day for a week, to go to his home state. He is here three weeks of the month but goes home for a week. That week he was away we texted, talked on the phone, even video chat. We communicated every day. There was a definite connection between us, one I had not felt in a long time. I was excited and ready to be vulnerable and let someone in. Was this the ideal situation? A guy on his second divorce, with a kid, and a smoker, plus living out of state? Probably not… But when you meet someone and have that spark, well, it is worth exploring. 

Last Sunday A got back into town. I was so excited. I couldn’t wait to see him. Being a Sunday, of course, I had dinner with the family. On top of that we finally moved the gas stove from my uncle’s house to mine and replaced his with the electric one from my house. My sisters’ boyfriends were used for their muscles during this endeavor. I wanted to thank them for their kindness so after family dinner my sisters, their boyfriends, and I went out for drinks. I invited A to meet us. There was some back and forth as to whether or not he was going to come up to the bar. Finally he did. 

In case there was any doubt… First dates + meeting the family = disaster. My sisters decided to pull the protective vibe. Questions were asked of A that were not really appropriate for them to ask. While they had been planning on leaving and letting him drive me home, suddenly they were not leaving. Our first date and the only time A and I had just the two of us was when I walked him out to his car. He was mad. I felt horrible. The night had not gone how I had planned at all. We chatted for a few minutes before he took off. I rode home with my sis. 

A and I talked on the phone after I got home. He explained where he was coming from on things and I thought all was ironed out. His next free day was Friday (Valentine’s Day). We agreed we would go out, just him and I. When I went to bed that night I thought that things may be all right despite a horrible first date. The next few days I text A and would get brief responses if any. My gut was telling me this romance was done before it had really had a chance to start. The last I had heard from him was one sentence on Wednesday, replying to a text I sent him Tuesday night. Valentine’s day came and went without so much as a word from him. 

Last night however, he text and called as if nothing was wrong. Which means now I have a choice to make. Do I give him a shot yet? After being ignored all week? After him bailing on our plans or not acknowledging them? Do I let him in still? Or do I walk away? The magic has faded already as I have begun building walls around my heart in an effort of self preservation. There were a few things he said and did that were small red flags. He is a smoker, which is a disgusting habit that I cannot stand. He has a complicated life. Then again, no one is perfect and all relationships come with their challenges. So here I stand, at the fork in the road…