“Anxiety” and “anxious” are words that get thrown around a lot. Some people are just anxious, others have some form of anxiety disorder. For a lot of us who suffer from some form of anxiety, a common way of coping is to joke about it. At least 5 times a day, I see some type of meme about anxiety, and I’ll admit it, I laugh. Some people get offended, and that’s fair. It’s essentially making fun of a sickness. But not me. I’m fine with joking about it, because it lightens the seriousness of it (not that I don’t think it’s serious, but it’s manageable!).
When I look back, I was always a worrier. However, I was never really anxious until my mid-twenties, after graduating college. During college, I had routine and order. After graduation, I had no clear direction as to what I was going to do next, and became really anxious. Despite knowing something was up, I did not go see my doctor about my feelings until my late twenties. I was anxious about officially being diagnosed with anxiety.
When I was in high school, I suffered with some mild bouts of depression. To deal, I saw a therapist for a brief time, but I didn’t feel that it was helping me. I was concerned that therapy would be the proposed solution again. I was nervous about medication, too. So I waited until my anxiety became debilitating. Not smart!
Everyone manifests their anxiety differently. For me, it began to manifest as back pain, worse than I had ever had before. It is what kick started my insomnia. It caused me to become really unhealthy. Occasionally, when I get stressed out, I break out in hives…nothing I do seems to help that! But overall, it was getting to be too much for me. So, I finally talked to my doctor about it, and I’m so glad I did.
Even with the treatments and remedies I have in place, my anxiety can still get the best of me. For me, it can get really bad at night, and if I let it, feeds into my insomnia, causing me to be miserable all night and all the next day. I have two metaphors that I use to explain what is going in my brain to those who ask. The first is a browser…let’s say Google Chrome. And it starts with one tab open. Then another. And another, and another, until so many tabs are open that the computer starts to bug out. Fun times!
The other metaphor is a pinball machine, where the ball just ricochets and bounces all over, and I cannot keep up with it. Literally, my thoughts will go from worrying about work and the future, to thinking about something that happened in the seventh grade, to singing song lyrics in my head. The worst part is that the song lyrics in my head are always going too fast, like a song being sped up and I can’t keep up. It’s so frustrating. Okay, sorry. That’s three metaphors.
So, now that I’ve explained what it’s like, I’ll tell you how I manage it. I’m by no means cured. I’m not sure anyone can be cured of a disorder like anxiety. But, I’m managing it. For starters, my doctor put me on a low dose of Lexapro. What does it do? It stops me from worrying like a crazy person, for the most part. I used to panic and worry about every little thing. Now, I feel like I worry normal amounts, about things like work, saving for a house, etc. You know…grown up stuff. My doctor also prescribed me a low dose of Ambien for the nights when my anxiety leads to insomnia. I don’t take it often, and my doctor and I check in every few months about it. I’m not ashamed to say that the medication I’m on has helped to make me better.
That being said, those who know me know that I do not like to rely on just Western medicine, and I seek balance in all my remedies. Eastern medicine also has it’s benefits and can really help with anxiety, depression, and other disorders. I do not feel that either, on their own, is enough for me. So, in addition to the medication that my doctor knows is best for me, I also rely on the things I’ve told you about before: essential oils, acupuncture, massage, yoga, self-care, etc. If I’ve read that something can help manage anxiety, especially stress induced, I’ve tried it. As I’ve mentioned, I started this blog as a way to deal with my anxious feelings and the thoughts that pop into my head when I am trying to fall asleep.
At times, my anxiety lays low, and at other times, I’m a mess. I know that this will be a life-long journey for me. Since I am still trying to figure out how to close all the browser tabs or get a handle on the pinball game, I am thinking of seeing a cognitive therapist. Cognitive therapy helps people change the way they think and the way they behave in response to those thoughts. It’s just something that my doctor has mentioned, that other people have told me helps, and that I am considering. We’ll see!
So why am I telling you all this? Well, selfishly, it’s to help get a bunch of thoughts from my brain to the keyboard, so I won’t have to recite it in my head tonight (one less browser tab). It’s also to continue to shine light on mental health issues and help to remove the stigma around them, because everybody’s got something, so we shouldn’t judge! I’ve been meaning to write a post about this for so long, but never did. Not sure why. But, I’m recently inspired by two of my favorites…Mariah Carey and Carson Daly, for sharing their stories. So, now you’ve got the Cliff Notes version of mine!
If you’re feeling anxious, depressed, stressed, or just not yourself, I encourage you to seek help! If you’re also actively working through something like this, I’d love for you to share what works for you in the comments, but only if you’re willing to!