Unrealized to this post: but I’m giving away a pair of running socks, you have until Wednesday at midnight to enter – so go here and enter!
I originally hesitated to post this series around the holidays because it’s a bit of a downer, but I know the holidays are a bit of a struggle for some people, so I hope that by sharing my story, I can help others to realize they aren’t alone in dealing with anxiety and that seeking help is a good thing!
Click here to see other posts about anxiety.
Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor or a therapist. If you’re struggling with depression or anxiety, or just life in general, please speak with your doctor, therapist or a friend. Heck, if you need to email me (cowgirlruns[at]gmail[dot]com) and I will make a call for you if you need that. I know how difficult that first call can be to make and I promise I always respond to my emails!
My three weeks spent in Yellowknife last winter were some of the hardest weeks I’ve ever had to get through. My personal struggles certainly acted as a trigger for my anxiety and I was glad to have the Ativan there when I felt like life was getting out of control, but throughout my time there, it became increasingly evident that having an “as needed” helper wasn’t enough for me.
I’m happy to say I survived three weeks in the snow and cold and limited sunlight. In addition to helping me realize my shortcomings in relation to my anxiety, it was also a personal growth experience for me, although, at the time, I would have paid a ridiculous amount of money to not have been up there. Hindsight….
A few days after returning from Yellowknife I had my first appointment with my doctor to talk about a daily anxiety medication. I. Was. Terrified. I felt like taking medication was failing. I truly believed this was something I should be able to deal with without medication. I thought I, again, needed to suck it up and just figure out how to deal.
I’m very thankful for the people I have in my life who encouraged me to actually go to the appointment and start on the medication to see if it made a difference in my life.
(An aside, I find when it comes to medication and mental health, it can be harder to wrap our heads around the need for medication. While I’m not advocating using medication in lieu of coping techniques, I know many people don’t bat an eye when given antibiotics for an infection, or, to use a more extreme example, chemo or radiation for cancer. Infections and other sickness is something we see as tangible because we can see the effect of this on our body; tired, fever, etc, but we can’t actually see the effects of mental illness on our bodies and so we’re hesitant to take the medication because, at least for me, it felt like it meant I wasn’t good enough).
I wish I could say I took the took the medication, went through the initial period of getting used to taking the medication and then all was good, but, sadly, that’s not quite how it went.
Just a few days after that initial appointment, I was unemployed.
Since I had (incorrectly) attributed a significant portion of my anxiety to my job situation, I thought it would be okay if I just stopped taking the medication, because, you know, people who need medication for mental illness always make stellar decisions.
In hindsight, this was obviously not one of my finest decisions.
I consider myself blessed in that I was able to find a job in a matter of weeks, but during that job search I did a lot of thinking and soul-searching and decided I didn’t want to risk my job or my career because of my anxiety, so a week before starting my job I decided to give the meds another shot.
Thankfully, this time it stuck.
As the days and weeks went by I could see that I was coping better and better. I was able to face situations that would have previously sent me into an anxiety spiral like, well, like a “normal” person would.
I had been so used to being anxious that it had never really crossed my mind that there was another way. I just thought people were better at handling the elephant sitting on their chest – I had no clue that some people didn’t have an elephant on their chest!
This was such a huge realization for me.
If you’re one of the lucky people in the world who requires glasses to see, I liken it to those first pair of glasses. When you put them on you could see. You could see before, but now you could see details. Trees! They have leaves! People on TV! They aren’t fuzzy! Amazing!
That’s what life has been like for me.
Not being anxious all day every day has allowed me to be a better me. I’m now more confident in who I am and what I stand for because I no longer have a crushing fear of disappointing people because I know who I am and I know their opinions and judgement no longer define who I am.
While this isn’t directly linked to my anxiety, it certainly was a byproduct of it.
I am far happier now than I was just a year ago.
In part 4 I want to talk about triggers, management and how I’ve decided to structure and manage my life.