Earlier this year when I was in the throes of a massive amount of overwhelming anxiety, the last thing I wanted to hear was that I brought a lot of it on myself. And I did hear that from a few people, including a therapist. “What can you cut back on? You do realize you signed up for all of this, right?”
You’re being ridiculous! I’m going through some significant personal challenges, including moving to a new place with new people - how did I sign up for this?! Well, yeah I signed up for two college courses because I’m considering a career change and I’m passionate about health and wellness. . . And I agreed to coach junior roller derby one day a week - but it’s only one day, you know? That’s not that bad. . . And of course I’m still playing all-star level roller derby! That’s not something I can give up! I need to stay busy and active and not isolate!
I understand that I’m barely functioning and having troubles concentrating and have decided to go on some anti-anxiety medication to help me manage because clearly I can’t fix this on my own. I really am learning how to say no to things, see? (no, I can’t attend that social event. I definitely need to use sick time for some “me” time and to do homework. I can’t attend as many roller derby practices.)
Oh god . . the side effects are terrible. When I get hungry I get nauseated. My balance is off. I’m extremely sensitive to light. My endurance is gone and it feels twice as hard to work out. I feel less in control of my body in more ways than one. How do people on this stuff do it? Why am I always so sensitive to side effects?
Try to slow down. Try to breathe. Do more yoga. Draw more. Take more pictures. Journal more. Regain control over your eating and eat healthy. Continue to go to the gym. Organize things. Learn how to prioritize. Reach out for help when you need it. Be kind to yourself and others.
Why is prioritizing so hard? Make a list of values. Make a list of things you are doing. Are they in harmony? No? What are you doing that doesn’t align with your values? Why are you still doing that? Can you stop? No? Why not? Does it have anything to do with letting others down? Does that really matter?
I’ve been on this medication for a few months now and am feeling stable again. I think I need to stop taking it because I know I don’t want to be on it for the rest of my life and I know summer will be an easier time to do it than fall/winter when I’m also battling Seasonal Affective Disorder. The ongoing side effects have become tolerable but I don’t want to deal with them forever.
What the hell is going on with my brain? Document the side effects and watch for patterns. Brain fog. Feel sick. Manic. Agitated. Exhausted. Sad. Can’t sleep. Noticed patterns each week when I dropped dosage and each week powered through it knowing it wouldn’t last forever. Had some people tell me, “Maybe you need to stay on it because this is how your personality is.” or “Are you sure you want to stop? You haven’t been on it very long." You know what? After struggling through a couple weeks of insane withdrawal symptoms the one thing I know for damn sure is that I’m NOT going to restart taking the medication and have to go through this again. I honestly don’t think I will ever go back on a medication like this again unless I’m prepared to be on it for the rest of my life.
To people who have been on drugs and have struggled to quit: I feel your pain. Seriously. If withdrawal from any of those substances is as bad as what I went through I can completely understand why some people never quit using drugs. You feel good while you’re on them and terrible coming off, so why stop? Sometimes it’s hard to see past the present to the impact they have on your future.
Off and on since I came off of that medication last July/August I’ve felt anxiety creep up on me but overall I’ve felt really good. I decided to start a program to become a Health Coach in early November and I’m loving it. We talked about self-care one week and I realized I need to spend more time each day taking care of ME. It’s an ongoing thing and I can’t afford to fall behind on it because my mental health is much easier to deal with if I'm treating myself well.
I started listening to an audiobook awhile ago - Wayne Dyer’s “Inner Wisdom - Volume 1 & 2” and it is really resonating with me. I don’t agree with everything he says but a lot of it is so logical. Here are some of my favorite quotes from him:
“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”
“You don’t attract what you want, you attract what you are.”
“Maxim for life: You get treated in life the way you teach people to treat you.”
“If you believe it will work out, you’ll see opportunities. If you believe it won’t you will see obstacles.”
“There is no stress in the world, only people thinking stressful thoughts.”
Which brings me to why I’m even writing this. . . He talks about how we control our thoughts and how our feelings aren’t caused by anything outside of us, they are caused by the way we think about and react to things. It’s something I’ve known for quite awhile but is easy to forget. I think I sometimes use my anxiety as an excuse for not changing my thoughts. I know that once I get in a spiral of anxiety, it’s close to impossible to change the way I’m thinking about things - but what if I change the way I think about things BEFORE it gets to that point? I have already changed my thinking in so many ways and am so much less anxious about things outside of my control, but I'm not done growing.
One thing I still struggle with is allowing the things other people say or do give me anxiety. There have been people from all areas of my life (work, derby, family, friends) in the recent past who I have allowed to “push my buttons” and I cannot believe it has taken me this long to really realize that it’s not at all “their fault” that I react the way I do. It’s my own fault. It’s the way I take what they say and the way I react that is the problem. Sure, maybe they’ve got their own issues, but that isn’t MY problem. Me snapping at them or worrying about something they said or did only makes me feel bad. Yes we all have genetic predispositions to certain ways of thinking but I'm choosing to not be a victim. I don't want to use anxiety as an excuse. I want to take responsibility for my thoughts and the way I react to people. Our brains are incredible machines that we can rewire if we want to badly enough.
“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” ~Dr. Wayne Dyer
Maybe they are getting overly defensive about something because they just found out their parent has cancer. Maybe they are teasing me because that’s the way their parents taught them to show affection. Maybe they have low self-esteem and it makes them feel better about themselves to feel superior to others. Maybe their pet just died. Perhaps they just had a fight with their significant other. The truth is, you don't know unless you ask and you ALWAYS have the option to walk away if you do not like the way you are being treated.
"Be kind; everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” ~source conflicting on different sites.
I’m nowhere near perfect, but I’m happy I’m learning to react in a more healthy way or at least recognize when I could have handled a situation better. I’m thankful for the people who push my buttons because they are teaching me probably the most important lesson I’ll ever learn in life: I can control of my thoughts and it is always a good idea to respond with kindness.
P.S. F^(% you, anxiety! You can't beat me!