medication iteration…

When I finally gave in nearly two years ago and asked my doctor for help with my anxiety, being medicated was the most terrifying thing in the world to me. I didn’t want to do it but I could no longer continue with the status quo I’d been living.

I wanted my anxiety to abate, but I also didn’t know how much it would change me as a person to have that part of me dulled or cut out. If you believe, as I do, that your entire lifetime of experiences make you who are are at any specific moment. Both the good and the bad. Then you might understand why, as a person who loved much of her life, I would be terrified to change something the size of a mountain.

Also anxiety has a funny way of preserving itself. It feeds lies. It feeds panic. It does everything it can to keep itself safe within you so it can live and grow and thrive. Like a parasite eating away at the rest of you.

The hardest time was the first few weeks when my new medications weren’t yet taking hold and every morning taking a pill that was making me tired, stupid, and dizzy seemed like the worst idea ever. When my anxiety told me I was killing something good with every swallow.

I don’t want to drone on about things I’ve already said but…

I will repeat, that I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder and also Panic Disorder. And it’s no walk in the park. I’ve heard anxiety scoffed at as the socially acceptable hip version of depression. I’ve heard people with anxiety and panic mocked for as just being too tightly wound. Or chided for not being able to get their shit together. I assure you, it’s none of that.

So, as is probably no surprise to anyone, my anxiety has risen to a new level during the recent global pandemic (starting in the months leading up to it). Not just because of the Coronavirus situation itself, but because of how humanity in general is responding. Or not responding in many cases.

It started as a low whisper, grew to a constant white noise, and before I knew it I was back in the wind tunnel of full blown anxiety. My anxiety meds not really keeping anything at bay. My body tingling with stress and fear from the moment I opened my eyes, if I was lucky enough to sleep. My panic attacks coming in clusters more and more often.

And so I told myself it would be fine. It will get better soon. I’ll get used to this new normal. I’ll adjust. I’ll adapt. I’ll cope.

And I started using my coping methods more and more frequently. I started taking my panic medication more frequently. My tells started to show more and more. And then last week some sauce packets we didn’t need or want were delivered with our takeout. And instead of tossing them, which yes I know is wasteful, I dug through a cabinet looking for an empty canister to store them in. You know, in case we need them. For later.

I was a sauce packet hoarder my entire life. Because I was afraid to throw them out. Because we might need them. For something. Someday. But we never used them. Ever. Never ever.

With that in mind, and with the knowledge that I had once again started exhibiting other tells, and also knowing that my panic prescription was almost out I called my doctor and once again did the really hard work of saying “Help me.”

Are my meds losing efficacy for me? Did I adjust? Or is the world just too much to bear right now? I’m not sure, but I was sure I was backsliding. I could feel the soft sucking quicksand of my illness sucking me back in.

So for the first time in a while I’m in the midst of making some changes to my meds. I feel exhausted. I feel dizzy. I feel like thoughts are trying to work their way out of my head as though they’re moving through cooled pudding.

This time I want to take them. My meds. I want to get back to what was my new normal 6 months ago. But my anxiety still has other ideas.

Featured photo by am JD on Unsplash

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If you are struggling with depression, anxiety, feelings of isolation, anger or any combination thereof please reach out for help. To a friend, to your family, a doctor, clergy member, or a counselor. You can call 1-877-726-4727 (Monday – Friday 8am to 8pm) for help locating mental health services available to you in your area.

If you feel overwhelmed and like you may harm yourself you can find local resources to help you here: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org or call the National Suicide prevention hotline 1-800-273-8255 (24 hours a day 7 days a week).

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Note: medication isn’t the answer for everyone. It hasn’t always been the answer for me. It may not always be the answer for me. I hope it isn’t. I’m just sharing my story as it is. Right now.

anxiety contagion factor…

When other little girls were dreaming up their perfect weddings or playing MASH I was coming up with elaborate plans for apocalypse survival. Since there were any number of possible apocalypse scenarios, there were, of course, any number of apocalypse causes. Therefore, I needed a number of plans to ensure I would not only survive, but thrive. To some this may seem morose, but it’s one of the coping mechanisms that helped me through some of the most challenging times in my life.

It also made me a natural planner.

My drive to evaluate the worst case scenario—and be both emotionally and tangibly prepared for it—has made me a force to be reckoned with in both scheduled happenings and unscheduled emergencies. It has also, admittedly, driven some of my dearest humans a bit nuts as they watched me spiral into any number of dark scenarios and listened to me talk for days on end about the same topic until I had exhausted all possibilities and then repeated a few.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

It’s frantic. And to some it may seem nonsensical. But it’s who I am and have always been. And this was, for whatever reason, one of the things I most feared losing when I started taking anti-anxiety meds two years ago. I was afraid that my anxiety contributed so heavily to anything that made me special. Made me unique. Who I am. That made me, me.

Enter the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Respectful pause.

I’m not going to talk much about COVID-19 except to say that my rational mind sees that this is something that needs to be seriously gauged and considered. That we should do all that we reasonably can to stem the tide of infection. With more than 119,000 confirmed cases worldwide and no way to know what un-identified infection numbers are like this is nothing to be taken lightly.

My emotional mind isn’t in a panic, but it is in apocalypse preparation mode. No, I’m not one of those folx who gutted the stores of water, toilet paper, and hand sanitizer. But I did add a few necessary items to our emergency kit and stocked up on frozen vegetables, fresh fruit with a long shelf life, dried beans, coffee, protein, and grains. And some candy because sometimes you just need chocolate. (Apocalypse be damned!) Plus cat food (because they can’t be expected to fend on their own), medications, tampons, acetaminophen, and shit. Well, not technically “shit.” But proverbially shit. Because those all go great with chocolate. I mean, wait. Shit doesn’t got well with chocolate.

Oh shit. You know what I mean.

My daughter would like never to hear about coronavirus, contagion, or event cancellations ever ever again. My partner is most assuredly hoping I stop asking him if there’s anything he’d like me to pick up in case we need it and can’t go get it. My browser is certainly prepared to crash if I refresh the global infection map one more time today.

From that one time I had pneumonia and bronchitis and was sick for more than a month and the doctors asked me to wear a mask so I didn’t get other people sick.
Seriously cover your mouth when you cough. Because my ear is permanently fucked now.

But the more I read and the more I know the less I feel that I’m acting from a place of panic and the more I feel I am finally approaching things with a level head. You see, Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Panic Disorder aren’t the only things wrong with me. In addition to those super fun issues I have Hypertension. Which means that, although I am no more likely to contract novel coronavirus, I am in a group more likely to suffer complications (you know, like death) if I am infected.

She’s overreacting – you say

Maybe. Maybe a little. But I’ve helped multiple organizers on multiple contents cancel multiple events over the last month. I’ve watched as cities, counties, states, and countries declare themselves in a state of emergency. I’ve sat tense reading along as Italy places the entire country on lockdown. Cancelling weddings. Cancelling funerals. Cancelling little kids’ birthday parties. And movies. NO MOVIE THEATER MOVIES.

So right now my biggest anxiety is trying to figure out if my need to have my home and family ready for a COVID-19 novel coronavirus pandemic is smart or crazy. And more importantly, am I doing anything to increase anxiety in others or just annoyingly babbling at my loved ones in a harmless way?

Either way… I hope I have enough chocolate and bourbon.

Featured image by Dale Nibbe on Unsplash

knows no reason…

This morning I got up early because my brain was buzzing when I woke up at 5am. Buzzing with all the things I didn’t have time for yesterday, all of the things I’m afraid I won’t have time for today. And the anticipation of social interaction later.

Which I will enjoy, but find draining.

I started working early. Making lists. Completing tasks. Checking calendars.

I ate breakfast and chatted with friends. I packed up my bag and hopped in the shower. Got dressed. Put on a favorite pair of earrings. My bracelets. My rings. Threw on blush, mascara, and lip balm. Put on my shoes. Picked up a grocery bag full of solo cups and headed out the door.

Suddenly what started as a brain buzz this morning had traveled deep into my stomach and chest. Tight. Tension. Stiffness. Something in my throat. That familiar fight or flight moment inching into my personal space.

It occurred to me as I stepped onto the train that I wouldn’t have this level of anxiety if I were stepping on a plane to fly across the country. Or across an ocean. Where was this coming from? Why was taking a train into an office I’m familiar with cause me want to run for it. Or more accurately to take off my shoes and pants and climb into bed with a cup of tea?

Anxiety doesn’t make sense. There is no rhyme or reason to it. It just does as it will and has its way with us.

I’ve been on medication for my anxiety (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) for nearly two years. Life is different now. It’s better. But this ghost never really goes away. Just tags along in silence waiting to show it’s shadowy figure and turn me inside out.