I’m winning at anxiety.
I’m not going to declare I’ve won. I don’t even know if that’s possible.
But I do know that I’m feeling…normal? normal-er? better? Let’s stick to better.
It’s been about three years since I was diagnosed.
I would describe the six months before diagnosis and the six months after diagnosis as an intermittent Hell. I spent my life on the verge of panic, or in panic, or the worst one, waiting for panic.
When I started trying to heal, I had ritualistic duties and obligations to myself. That was hard: I actually had to accept that I had this great life, which I deserved, and on top of it, I had to believe I was entitled to rest and relaxation.
No, I don’t know why I thought I didn’t deserve it, I’m just glad I believe I do now.
It started with therapy and Ativan.
I joined an online support group. I bought a book. Then I bought a workbook.
I lavender’d my entire house.
I drank chamomile tea like it was my job.
I vowed to eat protein, and did my level best.
I walked and yoga’d and swam.
I took lavender baths, covered myself in lavender lotion and went to sleep with lavender essential oil smeared across my neck.
I talked about my anxiety, and wrote about it.
I rescued a nervous dog who needed a calm leader.
I still get bouts of anxiety. I still get them every day. But now, I recognize them as anxiety instead of panicking about what it might be. I just say, “Oh, hmm, I’m having anxiety.” I do not ask why. I do not seek to understand what’s happening. I continue.
I get hungry, I get tired, I get anxiety.
It’s hard to explain to someone who doesn’t experience it, but pretty much anything can be an anxiety symptom. Once you’re checked out by a doctor (or two) and find you’ve got no heart problems, no blood sugar issues, and no brain tumors, you can safely assume your doctors are not conspiring against you, and you really do have the Anxiety Disorder they say you do.
Stabbing pain in my neck, shooting down my arm? Anxiety.
Zapping brain sensations? Anxiety.
Sore shoulders? Anxiety.
Heavy stomach? Anxiety.
Rapid heart rate? Anxiety.
The list. It is long.
I went more than a month, maybe closer to two, without taking so much as one Ativan. I consider that a success, but at the same time, I no longer consider taking one as a failure. Sometimes I need a Tylenol or a Zyrtec, and I don’t consider myself weak for having a headache or an itchy throat, either.
I recently took the girls to a skating party at the roller rink. The roller rink plays loud music. Hundreds of children can drown out that music with their own level of happy noise. Roller rinks have flashing lights and strobe lights. I began to feel unwell as soon as we entered, and within ten minutes, I reasoned that if I wanted to enjoy the experience, I would need to take a pill. I was shaking, unable to focus, and feeling like my throat would close up. I took a half of an Ativan, and I was fine within minutes.
That’s it. That’s the worst episode I can report since cooking in “not my kitchen” last Spring.
I don’t know if I will finish my bottle of Ativan before it expires.
— This is a much kinder experience than hoping my prescription lasts through a long holiday weekend.
A few weeks ago, I gave my anxiety bible to a friend.
I don’t need it anymore.
I didn’t open it for six months, so I must not need it.
Dr. Claire Weekes, although she’s passed, still helps thousands of people cope with anxiety every day.
I have Dr. Weekes on audio, which I haven’t listened to in more than a year, but I feel less anxious knowing she’s there for me if I need her.
I have come to view my anxiety like any recovery process: One day at a time. There is no cure. Some days are better than others.
My hope is that I have so many better days, one night, I may go to bed with the realization that I didn’t have a single anxious moment all day.