A is for Anxiety

Do you ever hold your breath doing a completely innocuous thing? Do you find your shoulders scrunched up by your ears while relaxing? Do you feel like you have a pound of bricks sitting on your chest regardless of the task at hand? Do you find yourself periodically taking really deep breaths because you don’t have any air in your lungs? Is your heart racing? Do you feel like you’re watching a reel that keeps getting faster and faster?

Perhaps you’re not cleaning the house on overdrive so you think you’re okay. You’re not obsessing about one thing. There are so many things to remember, right? That’s all this is. You’re trying to manage everyone’s schedule during a hectic time. Everyone feels like this really. It’s a symptom of our times.

But you feel out of control.

And it’s not stopping.

If you’re honest… it’s getting worse.

You’ve started avoiding things. You can get away with it for a while because people know you’re stressed. They want to give you a break and it’s not like you’re avoiding all of your responsibilities. You’re still functioning. You’ll bounce back in a second and you’re so good at managing those bricks weighing down your chest that most people don’t even know you’re struggling. You’ll be fine.

You just need a few more minutes to yourself each day. To reset. To relax. You’re so tired in the mornings. You can’t get that relaxation time in before the sun comes up so you’ll take it after the sun goes down. It used to take a half hour to wind down. Now it takes hours. It’s after midnight and you’re tired. You’re so tired. But you can’t sleep. You hold out for that deep breath to fill your lungs. It doesn’t come. Eventually you wake up on the couch and drag yourself to bed. You’ll have dark circles under your eyes come morning.

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Last month I made a call to my PCP (primary care physician) and told her I wanted to start on anxiety meds. I’ve always been type A but this last year has thrown me for a loop that I can’t seem to get out of on my own. I’ve tried. I’ve mediated. I’ve tried yoga. I’ve eaten better and exercised and eliminated as much from my plate as I could. I’ve increased water. Taken my vitamins. But on my birthday a few weeks ago I canceled a casual evening with friends last minute because I couldn’t handle it. I love birthdays. I celebrate as much as I can. But this year I tried to isolate (and I would’ve outside of my immediate family if not for my kick-ass coworker and brother-in-law who refused to let me take my lunch alone).

Last weekend I had to RSVP to two events and the decisions had me in tears. When Fred suggested we bring guacamole to one of them, I immediately started panicking about how hard it would be to find avocados. First world problems, am I right?

They tell me it takes 4 weeks to find out whether or not a medication helps or not and I’m lucky enough to have had a very good friend point out to me the following warning:

They said, “You know… the thing about medication that I didn’t realize is that it doesn’t fix you. You won’t suddenly go back to doing all of the things you pulled away from when the anxiety got too bad. You have to push yourself. You have to start doing the things that cause anxiety to see that that the anxiety isn’t there anymore.”

Another friend told me:

“Change is hard. We get used to sitting in this space even when it’s bad for us. We get comfortable. Our coping mechanisms are comfortable. This won’t be easy.”

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