If you've been following my blog for awhile, you already know by now I struggle with OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) and GAD (generalized anxiety disorder) that I've had for as long as I can remember. I know this is a blog I originally started for veganism, but I think being mentally healthy and happy is just as important as being physically and emotionally happy, which is some of the things veganism provides. I hoped that sharing my personal stories would help others, even one person, to not feel like they're alone in their anxiety struggles.
If you've been following my story, you know that I've finally started seeing a therapist, and it's been going well so far. I've already learned a few things that I've been working on and I wanted to share those with you. Maybe you'll find them helpful and maybe you won't. But sharing is caring.
1) It's okay to be selfish. What a thought right? You're taught your entire life to share this and that and always help others and to never be selfish. Newsflash: sometimes being selfish is a good thing.
If you're anything like me, you'll do anything for anyone and be there for anyone at the expense of yourself. Like taking off of work makes me feel guilty. I should be working. Even on my drop days at work I feel guilty for being home. Oh you want me to do your job for you? Sure no problem, I'm just drowning in my own work but I'll take on yours too. You gotta knock that off.
You need to put yourself first in a lot of instances. I'm not saying be an asshole and put your happiness above anyone else's, or do things at someone else's expense. But if you're sick, and you're afraid to call out of work or take a half day to go to the doctors, do it. Don't hesitate. Don't worry about them, they'll make it without you. Remember that your happiness and well being is equally as important as the next persons, so don't put those on the back burner. You can't be your best self if you don't take care of yourself.
2) Not everyone's happiness is your responsibility. Another crazy thought right? Responsibility is on all of us. And you can only be responsible for yourself. Everyone else's burdens aren't yours to carry. I know this first hand, because I carry them all. I think it's just in my natural instinct to want to make everyone happy. That's important to me. I want people to be happy. I think most of us do as well. But you shouldn't be breaking yourself to make others happy, especially if those others wouldn't lift a finger to make you happy. Prioritize yourself and your happiness with those who's is important to you as well, but don't leave yourself out!
3) Anxiety is basically overestimating the danger you're in and underestimating your ability to handle said danger. Having anxiety can take one small thing, that's literally not a huge deal, like having a cold for example, and the slippery slope takes you all the way down to, I'm going to die as a result of said cold. You have to look realistically at the "danger" you're in, and remember, you are a STRONG person. Anxiety will always make you underestimate your ability to deal with things. You've gotta work on making your voice stronger than your anxiety's voice.
4) Lastly, and honestly probably the most important one that I've learned.. listen to what your body is telling you. Listen to what your body whispers, so it doesn't have to scream. I'm gonna keep it completely real with you, over the weekend, I had a legit breakdown. My anxiety has been on a steady increase basically for 28 years, and it came to a head over the weekend. I was awake for almost 60 hours straight, my body was internally shaking, my anxiety would not let me sleep, my adrenaline was shooting through my body on repeat over and over again, I was getting Restless Leg Syndrome, I cried my eyes out more times than I could count, headaches, heart palpitations, pains all over.. I mean I was in bad bad bad shape. You don't have to have a major incident in your life to have a breakdown. Anxiety builds, and it builds. And I just lost it. I finally forced myself, with the help of my husband, to go see my doctor, and get some medication.
I've been anti-medicine for pretty much my entire life. I've always been afraid. Afraid of the side effects (I had a bad experience with Zoloft), afraid it wouldn't work, afraid it would change me. I was afraid I would be a different person, and I would lose some of the qualities that made me "me." Anxiety and OCD basically is a big chunk of what makes me "me," and love it or hate it, it's the truth. I don't wanna lose the good effects that OCD has had on my life, like my excellent attention to detail, and my superb organization skills. Fear has held me back from so much, and it clicked in my head, really.. the only thing holding me back from taking anti-anxiety medication, which I have so desperately needed throughout most of my life, was my anxiety. All the tools my therapist is teaching me is all for naught if I keep letting my anxiety run my life.
Talking therapy is fantastic and for some people it's enough, but for me, it isn't. And having my breakdown over the weekend, using every tool I've learned, from deep breaths to meditation, and realizing nothing was calming me down made me see that.
You don't stay awake for 60 hours because you want to. Your body doesn't force a fear of sleep in you so bad that you have to open your eyes every time you're near sleep because you feel like your heads gonna explode if not just because you want to. You don't physically feel shots of adrenaline shoot out from your adrenal glands on repeat over and over again because you want to. And you don't feel like maybe sometimes it would be easier to not be alive anymore just because you want to.
I hit my breaking point and a lightbulb went off and I just decided, screw my fears, I'm going on anxiety medicine. My doctor prescribed me Ativan as needed, and Lexapro daily. I am so grateful for my husband because he was with me through everything. Even though I got the medication, my anxiety REALLY wanted me not to take it. So many what ifs, so much fear. I always joke (but like really it's the truth) that I need anxiety medicine to take anxiety medicine. My husband sat right by my side when I took my first Ativan. And guess what? I was fine. I didn't get sick. I didn't get stupid or loopy. I didn't have an allergic reaction and go into anaphylactic shock (believe it or not that's a real fear I have of taking any medication.) The Ativan took just enough of the edge off to allow me to sleep. I haven't taken the Lexapro yet, since I've got work all week, but I'm going to take it over the weekend, when I have off, and just see how I feel with it. Everything is trial and error. This might be the pill for me, or it might not, but I'll never know until I can try.
I leave you with this quote. Read it. Read it again. Embrace it and love it and really listen to it.