If you don’t already know, let me give you a brief history about my mental health battles. I have had severe anxiety as long as I can remember. I don’t what what it feels like to not be anxious. I don’t know what it feels like to have any sort of pain and my first thought not be, “this is serious, I’m going to die.” I honestly know nothing else.
I’ve tried so hard to understand how other people live “normal” lives. If my husband is late coming home, even by just a few minutes, I immediately panic and think a) he’s dead on the side of the road or b) he’s dying on the side of the road. How do other people not worry when their spouse/girlfriend/boyfriend/mother/father/whoever comes home late?
I know it sounds terrible, but I feel like I’m almost lucky that I’ve known nothing else. I know people who have developed anxiety later in life and I can’t imagine how it must feeling know that there is a “normal” you out there. I don’t even even think a non-anxious version of myself exists.
But it must.
Because anxiety and depression are not natural states. No matter how natural this feels to me, I know this is an illness…and there is a treatment. Well, there are many treatments. Boy, do I know how many treatments there are.
When I was 9, I saw a psychiatrist for the first time. I was so uncomfortable with him, I refused to go back.
I saw a paediatrician right up until I was 16 years old. Because of my emetophobia (fear of vomiting), I basically didn’t eat for 7 years straight.
I’ve seen counsellors, I’ve seen a psychologist, I’ve talked to family, mentors, and pastors. I’ve read self-help books. I’ve sought help online. I’ve done cognitive behavioural therapy, deep breathing, and grounding. I’ve tried countless techniques to squelch the beast in my brain.
But none of it worked.
On the anxiety scale, I was recently categorized as severe. Almost as bad as it can possibly be. On top of that, I’ve also developed mild depression.
I am not, and have never been against medication. Still, I always saw it as a last resort. The possible side effects terrified me more than my anxiety ever did. When people asked if I was on medication, I would say, “No, I won’t go on that until I can’t function anymore.”
I’ve reach that point. I am almost non-functional. If you met me out at the mall or came to my house or saw me at school, you have no idea. I am still functioning. I can still get my homework done and I can still cook dinner, and I still enjoy going out to the movies and walking or jogging around my neighbourhood. But I am not really functional.
All those things take so much more effort than they ever have before. At least three days a week, I spend hours crying so hard I can barely breath. This has been going on for at least six months now. And it’s getting worse.
In the last month, I have been at the doctors office four times. Because I was terrified I have a brain tumour (I still am, by the way). Even after the doctors told me I have nothing to worry about, I still panic on a daily basis about this probably imaginary but oh-so-real tumour.
In the last six months, my relationships have been affected, my health has been affected (more headaches, shoulder/neck pain, feeling exhausted/groggy, etc.), my body has been affected (weight gain for the first time in my ENTIRE life), my mental health has been affected (extremely high levels of anxiety leading to depression), my mood has been affected (I am in a constant state of anger/sadness/fear) and my overall quality of life has been greatly affected.
With all this in mind, after 24 years, I decided to try medication.
I haven’t taken my first dose yet, because I have a quiz tomorrow and a side effect of this medication is vomiting (oh great, my biggest fear!) and difficulty concentrating.
I have no idea if it will be effective. It might make things worse. But at this point, it’s worth a shot. I’m tired of fighting against my own mind.
In the (amazing) book How to Live in Fear: Mastering the Art of Freaking Out by Pastor Lance Hahn, Lance talks about his own experience dealing with severe anxiety. In the chapter Meds: Magic or Mess? he talks about medication as a (valid) option. Here is my favourite quote that addresses some of the criticism he’s received from other Christians when he decided to go on medication:
Is Medication a Crutch?
Of course it is a crutch! A person with a broken leg needs a crutch for forward motion. It’s what a crutch does – gives support for an infirmity. Clearly, an uninjured person using a crutch would make us all question his lazy motives. But when we see someone with a disability using one, we fully understand the need and are grateful the person has help to move about. The concept should be no different with medication.
I’m tired of limping my way through life. I’m ready for my crutch.