Ok, I’m stepping out. I’m going to start trying to post unprompted things in addition to my year of discovery stuff. I’m traveling next week and I want to talk about that here. I might even share the blog with my book of face contacts. We’ll see. It’s a big step sharing my thoughts, but as I said in an earlier post, I tend to overshare and under-share in cycles. I’m still in the under-share place right now but I’m thinking wanting to tell people about my trip will push me to overshare again.
So let’s talk about anxiety. The topic came up with my oldest daughter last night. In this conversation I realized and said out loud that anxiety started at a really early age for me. I should probably unpack this with my therapist. Instead, I think I’ll talk about it here.
I remember very little before about my 11th birthday. The memories I do have feel like out of body experiences. I can’t really tell what I actually remember and what was a story someone told me. For example, I don’t think I actually remember swim lessons when I was 3, but the story was told over and over. Apparently, my mother took me several days and every day I’d get sick to the point of vomiting when I got there. She finally gave up. My entire life I have had these type of experiences. When I’m extremely uncomfortable or nervous, I get a response from my gut. This can last a few hours or a few days.
I do remember my first real panic attack. The girls were babies, both still in diapers. My one time alone was walking to the mailbox, if they both napped at the same time. This was actually pretty uncommon. My oldest didn’t need naps, ever. My youngest fought sleep all times of day and night. I was tired, no doubt. They went to sleep this day though. I walked to the mailbox and found an unexpected bill. Somewhere between the mailbox and my house I started to melt down. I remember sliding into the floor of my kitchen and not being able to breathe or function. Ultimately I called a friend that talked me through it. It scared me to death. Looking back, it seems so silly. Intellectually, it always does. That doesn’t make it any less terrifying and uncontrollable in the moment.
My parents did not believe in drugs for mental health. They didn’t believe in counseling or therapy either. I’m not sure they even believed in “mental health” period. Pretty much their response to anything like that was “suck it up” or pray about it, but mostly the first one. It’s not their fault. I’m pretty sure it is their generation, their own background and the stigma of mental health issues that we’re really only just now starting to deal with as a society. While a lot of emotion was expressed in my childhood, it was controlled and limited, if that makes sense. We talked about love a lot but never acknowledge anxiety or anger or a lot of other things. It’s fair to say I didn’t learn good coping mechanisms.
The fact that I survived my 20’s and 30’s, including a cancer battle, without some kind of intervention is a an absolute miracle. My desire to “look” okay probably pulled me through a lot. I think in general people think I have it all together. I put on a great show.
I melted down at 37. I don’t think I want to talk about why. It doesn’t matter. There was a breaking point. I asked a friend about counseling and got a recommendation. I tried out 2 or 3 before landing with someone that worked. It helped. A lot.
I melted down again at 39. Again, I know why, but don’t want to talk about it. It was then that I said to my GP that I thought I was losing it and she suggested medication. I’ve been on that same medication and dose for 10 years. I don’t know what would happen if I stopped taking it and I have no intention of finding out. About once a year the GP asks how I’m doing and if I need to increase or if I think I could decrease. I don’t.
So life, therapy, medication, self awareness have decreased the anxiety that for many years was truly crippling. I cope now. I can’t remember when I’ve had a break/meltdown/attack. This is good. Oh, I still worry. I have sleep issues and stomach issues on the regular, but I’m so much better than I was.
I wish we could get past the stigma of mental health issues. We wouldn’t make fun or ignore a physical issue… although maybe we do sometimes. We are definitely less likely to though. I think literally everyone could benefit from therapy and whole lot of people could benefit from a prescription.