Tuesday, September 12, 2017

When Anxiety Takes Over and Becomes Something More


Let's start when my anxiety was first diagnosed. Initially it was a relief: I finally had a name for it. I began taking medication, which helped temper my anxious feelings and kept me from snapping at people as much. It didn't go away, and I knew it wouldn't, but I was feeling much better.

Fast forward to today.

It may not be as bad as it was prior to meds, but the ugliness of anxiety stares at my face with such disdain daily. It used to just throw me off, make me overly nervous and occasionally panic without warning.

But now? Now it drags me down into a despair I haven't seen since I was a hormonal adolescent. I struggled a bit with depression off and on in my teenage years. I may not have been officially diagnosed, but the symptoms showed up often. I managed to push through it, mostly due to the balancing of hormones once I reached adulthood and my own resolve to break out of my shell.

I'm not fully depressed to a point of no return, but it's there, hanging over me like a cloud. My motivation to do certain things has slowed down. I'll still get things done, there are just certain things I'll push back or ignore or forget to do because my mind is elsewhere. I seem to continually prefer the idea of a nap over cleaning the apartment or I'll binge watch Netflix instead of doing the dishes. Sometimes my desire to do something I love wanes and I don't find as much pleasure or joy in it. One of the worst things is I'll occasionally skip showering because I lack the energy to do it.

Another thing is that financial troubles weigh me down. I've been working a part-time slightly above minimum wage job for the last two and a half years. I switched to it because working in pharmacy was causing too much stress, plus I was being overworked and underpaid for the job duties I had. So I picked my current job because I needed one and I had to be somewhere with far less stress, even if the pay and hours were less. Unfortunately, it hasn't covered the bills as well as I needed them to and I'm now struggling to stay afloat.

Also, my creativity isn't what it used to be. Other than publishing my poetry compilation, my last published fiction book was in February of last year. That's a year and a half ago. Given the fact that I used to be able to publish one book after another (max of about six months in between), it's not normal. Once I wrote one, I was at least dabbling in the next one after it releases. While I have been writing when I'm inspired, it isn't remotely close to what it was doing before. And it's not just my writing--it's also almost any other creative outlet I once had. I put my bottle cap charm sales on hiatus on Etsy; I haven't used my adult coloring books in months; and I can't remember the last time I really danced. Plus, I stopped learning German every day and haven't gotten back to it for the last four months.

But...

I'm still happy. I still laugh. I still go to work on time. I'm not sad. I'm not wishing I was dead. I pay my bills on time. I don't gorge on junk food or starve myself. I don't sleep all the time.

However...

I know it's depression. It may not manifest in the most perfect way to indicate I must have it, but everything negative I've been feeling and dealing with point to it. Bold face. Underline. Highlighted.

I have anxiety and depression.

I never wanted to admit to either, and the only reason I admitted to the former is because it had started to affect my friendships and family. I didn't want the anxiety to take over and cause more problems than it already had. But depression? Really? A doctor once tried to diagnose me with it, but I knew I didn't have it.

At least, I thought I didn't have it. Looking back, I can see that I was a bit in denial, not to mention a bit afraid of the stigma. It's hard to avoid the stigma, even if you know in your heart of hearts that mental illness is real. It's when other people who don't get it are present that you fear the stigma.

I feared it back then, not only because I was afraid of what people would think, but also due to the fact that someone close to me didn't trust psychology. They were worried any therapist I would potentially talk to would manipulate me, make me believe things I shouldn't. Like, for example, place blame on my religion or convince me my troubles stem from how I was being raised.

Looking back I can see the folly in that. A good therapist won't tell you to leave your religion or place undue blame on someone or something without weighing all the facts. For teenage Jessica, though, she didn't trust therapy… but she did find psychology fascinating. Maybe because my subconscious was trying to get me to view it in an unbiased way and make me open enough to understand it and understand myself.

I wish I could've gotten help sooner, that I could've seen my mental illnesses for what they are and not be ashamed of them. Now here I am, coming to terms with my feelings and fighting battles that could've been prevented had I known better when I was younger. I should've trusted my instincts, realized the hurt and guilt I was pushing down was something I could face head on and move past.

But here's the thing: I can't beat myself up over the past. That's essentially making things worse. I have to forgive myself and forgive those who have hurt me, whether it was intentionally or unknowingly. It's all I can do. I can't go back and change anything, nor would I want to. Regardless of the pain I've experienced, I would not be me and I would not have the life I have now. Maybe some things could be better, but it would be at the expense of the beautiful life I'm living right this minute.

What it comes down to is reaching out for help and being brave enough to make the changes I need to improve myself. Some days I doubt my ability to do more, to get out of bed or off the couch, but I know I'm capable of so much more. I can't allow negativity to seep in and destroy my happiness or my dreams. And right now, anxiety and depression are tampering with my dreams, and I've been allowing it.

No more.

It's not going to be easy. It will be difficult, I will struggle. I may hit roadblocks and possibly crash... but I can't give up. I can't relinquish my control and let everything fall apart because it's hard. Life is hard. That's a given. We can't give up when life gets tough, we have to keep going, keep pressing forward.

I have so many dreams and future plans. Beautiful ones. I want to be ready for them. I want to accomplish them. I need to.

I'm writing this post because I can't keep running away from the facts. I need to face the anxiety, face the depression, and find my way again.



Thank you for reading and always know that I'm here to talk if you're struggling, too.

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