This isn’t a recent thought but I have been skeptical to share it and finally just got up enough courage to do so. I’ve been living with anxiety for most of my life but I was formally diagnosed a little over ago.
While I was younger I was always a stressed out and nervous kid, I can remember my anxiousness about being somewhere on time, forgetting something, a test coming up, the list goes on. It’s no joke when I say that I was voted in our high school senior polls as “most likely to get an ulcer”, who gets that?!?! Me, that’s who! My heart would race, I would get panicky, I couldn’t speak and I was extremely emotional. I would get upset and cry over some of the smallest issues, but it was more because of things not going the way I expected them to and my anxiousness arising due to not controlling an outcome. Honestly, I thought everyone felt the way I did, no one seemed to point out the obvious and I didn’t talk about it because I hadn’t known that I felt differently than others.
My life in high school and college were so extremely busy; numerous activities and jobs at the same time along with school kept my mind busy enough to ignore what was underlying inside of me. My anxiety would, and still does, get heightened when I have too much down time or too much going on. When I don’t have enough items to keep my mind occupied that’s when anxiety would rip through my brain. With the opposite, if I had too much on my plate it would bring a different anxiety through stress. When I look back many of those years are a complete blur, which maybe I am glad they were because I don’t want to remember how crazy I was.
Fast forward a few years when I was done with college and had a full time job that took over my life (plus a part time job). My position was a perfect job for me at that time because A) it made me grow up and B) it kept me running and working non-stop which I needed to stay stable and sane. Once I quit that job and went back to school for my Masters degree it gave me more time to think and get overwhelmed with my thoughts and anxiety. I remember once being off my birth control pills, because I didn’t have health insurance to pay for them, and visiting with my sister-in-law and telling her how awful I felt mentally and that my emotions were taking over me and I couldn’t keep anything straight. She told me what I knew, I needed to go back on my pill because the hormones were stabilizing my mood but that I also needed to look into the anxiety I was feeling. At the time I wasn’t ready to hear that I had a problem and brushed it off and kept down the same path that I was going but back on my birth control pills. After I finished my Masters degree without a teaching job to go to I went back to my old job that kept me bouncing all over the place and keeping me busy. I had a breaking point though and I could no longer go at that pace, I was trying to do my job at 120% and it was the straw that broke my back. Goodbye job that I was on-call 24 hours a day for, I was trying to overachieve and have my staff call me non-stop instead of having them call the real on-call manager and I hit the stress wall.
Luckily quitting that job brought me to the job I hold today but it brought me a lot of down time in my life. Working 9-5 and not having to bring home work with me and not having a second job made my anxiety soar. I did a good job hiding by my anxiety from others, in social situations I just drank more alcohol, I would bring someone along with me to things so I wouldn’t be the one focused on, I found excuses to bail on plans, when I was home I would organize and reorganize and clean already cleaned things, I would shop a lot, I would take naps (sometimes to turn my brain off but sometimes because I was so anxious at night and couldn’t sleep). My list of my own mechanisms went on and on. Years after I did a lot of these things and I came clean to my friends that I had anxiety, they pieced a lot of it together. My one friend said to me, is that why you ask me the thousands of questions when we would go somewhere and who was going to be there, etc etc, yep that was it. I also had to tell her that all those times I had to leave a place we were at was not because I was tired or sick or I had a work phone call, it was because I would break out in a panic and needed the confines of my own place that I could control.
A little over a year ago I knew I needed help stabilizing my anxiety and mood. When I went to the doctor for my annual physical I had expressed my feelings to her and told her the history of how I felt. Thankfully my doctor listened to me and went step by step through treatments we could try to manage my anxiety. We decided on trying me on a low dose of medication and after a month the doctor increased the medication because I was still experiencing a lot of anxious behaviors. After a couple months of side effects that were less than desirable my doctor suggested I try a different medication. Thankfully my mood seemed to stabilize and my anxiety was non-existent. It was such a relief to go days and weeks without being anxious and emotional. With every medication comes side effects and again this medication was giving me a new side effect of packing on weight. Strangely enough, I cared less about the weight gain because my mental state had a significant change. My doctor and I came up with a new plan to decrease my medication dosage and see if I could try to find other ways to decrease my anxiety. I’m happy to say that I’ve found a lot of strategies to help me daily to keep my anxiety at bay and my emotions in check. Daily I meditate when I get up in the morning, sometimes in the evening if I am having an anxious day and it might hinder my sleep, I make lists when I begin to feel overwhelmed, I practice yoga a couple times a week at least, I drink a magnesium supplement called Calm at night to help me sleep through the night. Those are some of the top ways I help myself.
It took me awhile to tell others about my disorder, I was embarrassed by it. Once I began to talk about what I had been experiencing with others I found that I’m not the only one who lives with this. There are a lot of people who take medication for the same reason I do. Not everyone has the same anxious feeling and behaviors I do but that doesn’t matter, it’s still a debilitating disorder that can affect your life if not treated. I’m sharing my experience with you because I know it might help someone and also to let them know it’s ok to talk to your doctor about what can be done to help treat the anxiety to live a healthier life. I’m much happier and healthier since I focused on treating my symptoms.