Anxiety is an easy word to toss around. Everyone has felt anxious. It’s a good mental illness to have. You’re not crazy. A little neurotic. Cute even. Being depressed is boring. Bi-polar can be a bit much. But a generalized anxiety disorder can be the life of the party. If you can make it out of your house. You’re good conversation and if you’ve self medicated yourself just right, pretty darn funny.
I have been anxious my whole life. It’s easy to anchor it to specific events…growing up in an alcoholic home, growing up in a sober home, being a middle child (which should be it’s own classification in the DSM-V) moving, graduating, having a fast thyroid, having a slow thyroid, finding a job, grad school, marriage, infertility, parenthood, but the truth is it’s just how my brain is wired.
I’ve exercised. Drank too much. Drank too little. Used herbs and supplements. Thought about therapy…did an internet search or two on past life regressions. Took long walks. Journaled. Then a few years ago a woman I hardly new but who was kind and someone I respected suggested I get on medication.
Huh? I can do that? Just start taking a pill and feel better?
For some reason when this nice person asked me about my day as we passed in the hall, I answered honestly. Something about feeling overwhelmed…but then I’m always overwhelmed so HA HA HA HA HA.
She then in under forty five seconds opened up about her brain difference. Having kids and working full time while trying to have a life and keep everyone a float was too much. What could maybe be managed when she just had one brain to talk off the ledge was impossible once there were many brains to care for.
This brief casual exchange changed everything. It put the idea of a pharmaceutical intervention in my head but more importantly made it seem normal to not feel normal.
I started answering more people honestly when they asked “how are you?” And I got honest answers back.
Some people might not like the idea of medicating yet another problem. Is it an easy way out? Should we be more weary of labeling ourselves with chronic conditions that require popping pills? Should I be working harder on changing my thinking, burn through my deductible, and sit down with a therapist?
Maybe. But over the last few years popping a Zoloft every morning seems like a better decision than smoking, drinking a bottle of Riesling by myself, alienating and annoying everyone with my constant apologies, worry, and crankiness, being on an Ibuprofen drip to tame my headaches…clenched jaw…sore shoulders…aching back. And sleeping more than four hours a night has been helpful.
It’s amazing how much my anxiety was affecting me physically. Experiencing the mind body connection first hand has completely sold me on the importance of medically tending to your mental health. You wouldn’t tell someone with Diabetes to try yoga to fix their insulin problem. Why should I feel solely responsible to solve my serotonin issues?
Because I am an idiot, I’ll go through phases where I don’t take my meds. Oh life is good now, I don’t need to make that long three minute drive to the pharmacy. I’m a rock. I’m Yoda. I am in tune with my body, mind, and universe and ready to spread my non medicated wisdom to the masses.
Here is what life quickly reverts back to.
Nobody likes me. I’m an email away from being hauled into the principal’s office. I have a headache. I don’t bother with make up. I look like shit anyways. Everyone around me is an idiot. I’m terrible at everything I do.
My husband will find someone better. Someone who is less work and who lost the baby weight. My children will grow up to be meth addicts who don’t call their mother on Thanksgiving.
My brother, sister and parents are vacationing without me. (This is probably happening, I am the middle child on or off medication.) People barely tolerate me.
I’m in the upside down world. I know how much I love my life and how many people love me but I’m now on the other side. I can see it but can’t feel it.
What I feel is dread. Constant dread. Something terrible happening would be a relief. Yes. Take it all away from me. It was never really mine anyways.
This will be the last snuggle. The last inside joke at the dinner table. The last “I love you.” I know we’re all safe and warm in our nice house, but the spark that starts the electrical fire is moments away. Cancer cells are multiplying. A murderer waits in the bushes. I’m the only one that knows this and I have to keep it to myself. I don’t need the rest of my family to worry. Ignorance is bliss.
I self diagnose myself with multiple mental disorders. None of them being anxiety of course.
I’m going to wake up in the hospital. This life has all been another life happening while I slept. I have a husband and children but they aren’t my husband and children. I’ll never be able to shake the feeling that my kids are somewhere without me. Are they cold? Are they hurt? Do they know how much I love them?
Rationally I know that I am not currently in a coma. But my chest will tighten and my hands will tingle. I’ll hide being weepy at bedtime. I’ll tell myself that I’m just being crazy and believe it, but I’ll still feel like this is the last time I’ll tuck my children in.
So much energy is spent to not completely cave in on myself. To breathe. To function.
I don’t think this little yellow pill changes who I am. If it does, I’m grateful. How long can you live arguing with yourself that you may or may not be in a coma? How many moments will I miss while I’m checking behind us?
I am normal and loved and whole with or without Zoloft. So are you. But gosh darn it, life is better.