While I have written about this in snip its, I haven't really fully put out there how hellish and difficult things were for me. From early February, 2013 until mid-March, 2013 my life was a total and complete blur.
I spent my days wishing for weekends and my weekdays wishing for 5:30 p.m.. I spent hours worrying about my health and pulse raising between multiple doctor appointments. Looking back, I honestly feel like I almost lost an entire month of my life. My life was a blur.....
I spent so much time consumed by myself, my health and my thoughts, I lost a month out of my life. With all of the anxiety, panic and appointments, I really do not even know what happened during these 4-ish weeks. It is all foggy, it is all a blur.
As I say every year, I hate this time of year...I despise March!
It makes me realize, however, that I spend way too much time future-tripping. I spend way too much time waiting for Friday nights, wishing for the weekends and then dreading the work week once Sunday night rolls around. I have serious Sunday night blues syndrome. I really love what I do and love my co-workers, but I do have anxiety that is tied to work and anxiety, in general, so it is a weekly pattern. So, that is the weekly future-tripping.
Then there comes the cycle of the year future-tripping. I wish away my years, just waiting for the week I got to go to Hampton Beach each year. I holiday-trip, wishing for those big holidays, my b-day, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Some of my most favorite times of year, always wishing for the next thing.
Why do I do this? Why is it so much easier for me to live for the next moment than it is for me to live in the moment. I really try and catch myself when I do this.
Similarly, people keep asking me about the wedding and I keep saying that I am excited, but I will be excited when it is over. Why am I wishing that away too?? Sure, there is a lot to do and I guess all the excitement and planning is anxiety-producing, but why am I wishing this away too.
I am always thinking about my next job, thinking about where Greg and I may move to next, thinking about our kids, thinking about when and if we get more animals (dog/another cat). I am always thinking and wishing and dreaming on big and small scales. Why is it so hard for me to just be. Why does my mind ALWAYS wander to the next thing. Why am I always more consumed by what may be than what is? Why is it so much easier for me to live in the complexities of my own mind than it is for me to be present at East 90th Street at night and weekends and East 22nd during the work week.
It is really difficult for me to reach out. It is really difficult for me to ask for help. It is really difficult for me to feel like a bother to others. My blog has honestly become my way of reaching out and I am so grateful that so many folks have reached back. Through comments and personal messages, e-mails and phone calls. You and your stories are all an inspiration to me. They help remind me that I am not alone and even though I may not see you all regularly, or ever, I do have a support system out there who is empathetic and who is kind. Thank you all for being you!
So, while February and early March was a blur, I am finding my way back. I am starting to get out of my own way and really trying to be present and focusing on the now and the moment. I have slowly started running again and I am hoping that through reading, writing, medication and running that I will begin to be a moment-jumper as opposed to a future-tripper.
It can be very sexy to think of what can be and what could be. It is also dangerous to spend so much time there that you forget to appreciate and savor what you are experiencing, what you have and what you are grateful for.
The blur wasn't just about doctor appointments and living in fear, it was also about starting a new way of life. Life where daily medication was involved. I have been a bit more hesitant about talking about Paxil and my newly acquired anti-anxiety medication routine.
I honestly went back and forth about taking it for so long. It had been suggested to me before by my therapist. I was going to start on it a few years ago and then my anxiety just kind of disappeared. I think this is why my doctor's were thinking it may be my thyroid, but it wasn't. For a good two years, I was doing pretty well. No real panic attacks, or anything. Then, bam, come December 2012, awful, awful panic. When I finally went to the doctor in February, they were initially going to just give me a prescription for "Emergency pills." Pills I could take when I felt a panic attack coming on, or take while having one to help calm me down. While at the doctor's I actually surprised myself by asking if there was something I could take every day? I had been trying to be "strong" for so long. I had been trying to deal with it on my own, through meditation, reading, relaxing, deep breathing etc. I had tried and tried and tried and yet here I was. I then realized what would really prove my strength would be to ask for help. So, I stuck to my guns and I pursued the daily medication route and I walked out with my new prescription for Paxil.
I feel like mental health, in general, is something that needs to be discussed more openly. I feel like people deal with so much and are often afraid to discuss their challenges and their coping methods openly because they are afraid to admit they need help they are afraid of getting labeled. Whether it be counseling, rehabilitation, AA, medication, or what have you. I am hopeful that people will start to become more open about their struggles and their successes. I feel like it is hard enough to be happy and successful. For those of us that have struggled and come out the other side, I feel like it is our duty, as fellow humans, to pass along what has/is working for us in the hopes of encouraging others to speak out and seek help and support, as well.
So, part of the blur has been adjusting to the medication. The first week was rough. I started my medicine on Friday, February 15, 2013. Those first few days were bliss. I felt great, no anxiety. As the week progressed, however, I continued to have severe panic and had one attack that landed me in the hospital. The majority of the time on the medication has been pretty "normal" feeling. I don't really feel any "different." I don't know what I was expecting. I think I was expecting to feel like I was floating and on a natural "high" all the time, or something. That certainly isn't how I feel. The first few weeks I felt like I was in a bit of a haze. It was difficult for me to concentrate and write. It led me to talk to Greg about my biggest fear, not being able to write any more. I was afraid that ideas just wouldn't come to me any more.
If you look at my blog postings you will see a bit of a drop-off early in February, due to my anxiety, but I am happy to see them coming back. It makes me feel happy to know that my mind and body are adjusting to the medication.
So, other than a few days of haze, it has been pretty life-changing. To those around me, I am not sure that any one would notice. As I am probably still "Patty" to them. To me, I am shocked. I guess I never realized how paralyzing my fear was. I guess I never realized how paralyzing my social anxiety could be. I guess I never realized how exhausting it was for me to deal with these situations. Now as I have said many times, my anxiety, in general would come and go. So, it wasn't like I was living for years with this paralyzing anxiety, but when it was strong, it was strong.
Since being on Paxil, I have found myself running again, wanting to go out at night and on the weekends. I have found myself ok being in crowded places and while I will never love the subway, I haven't had any more mild panic attacks on the subway (knock on wood). This has all been pretty miraculous, I have to admit. Now, I don't want to make it seem like too much of a magic pill. This isn't to say that my body doesn't still have anxiety. This isn't to say that I don't still get nervous, it is just no longer paralyzing.
While walking up to Central Park to run, I still have brief thoughts of, "oh no, what if I have a panic attack after", or "what if my heart stops or beats too fast". It is just that I get up there now, I run anyway. I remind myself that I just ran a few days ago and it was fun and I just run anyway. It is still a lot of work, it is still a bit exhausting, as it is almost like retraining and reteaching your mind. It is constantly setting up your own positive reinforcement mini-experiments, where each little victory reminds you, you are ok.
It isn't like I go into social situations now and feel like a confident, sexy, cougar, it is just that I am willing to go into the settings to begin with.
I always hear that my panic/anxiety disorder isn't because there is something "wrong" with me, it is because there is something off in my brain. I am not a bad person, or weak or incapable. My body and mind just deal with stress, fight or flight and social situations different than the average person. My entire life I have been a worry wart. But only during the past few years have I been dealing with outright panic and anxiety. I am still learning how to cope and how to live the best possible life I can. I still consider myself to be an extremely happy, grateful and lucky person, I just now need to manage a level of panic and anxiety I never use to have to deal with.
While I do not know what the future holds, I am going to try and be ok with that, for now. While I have no idea how long I will stay on medication, I am going to just take it one day at a time. As I continue to work on my positive reinforcements, little victories, health and Vitamin D levels, I will continue to be grateful for each step I talk walking, running and for every social situation I am able to enjoy. I will continue to try and find ways to make the subway more enjoyable and find ways to find more of a sense of "ease" in crowds--although it remains an extreme challenge for me.
As fearful as I am for putting this out there and getting some type of label, I think it is important for me to put it out there regardless of label. It is important for me to try and explain that taking medication, for now, is what I have to do. And is no different than someone taking medication for their Cancer, MS, a headache or a sore back. It is important for me to not be embarrassed that I needed help. It is important for people to be more open and honest with their struggles. While people always joke that even when people ask "how are you doing?" they don't really care, I am here to say I do care. I do care how you are doing. I do care how you are feeling.
If you are ever looking for someone to care. Look no further! If I ask you "how are you doing? I do mean it. I am wondering how you are doing. I care about you as a fellow human, I care about you as a fellow person struggling in this life. I care about you because others have cared about me and reached back to help me out when I needed it most. Life is hard enough. Making it in this world is hard.
Don't be embarrassed to ask for help. Don't be embarrassed to take that first step towards living your best life. It may not be perfect, but take that first step. You may stumble, but get back up. You may struggle, ask a friend for help. You may not know what to do, see if you can reach out to a therapist, or a good friend. You may not feel like anyone in this world cares, but trust me they do. And if they don't, I do and I will!
We all have the potential within us to make a difference. We all have the ability to impact someone else's life for the better. I continue to reach my hand out to each of you and please know I am always most happy when you reach back.
"We need to embrace the onenesss of humanity and show concern for everyone--not just my family or my country or my continent"
~H.H. Dalai Lama
And that's all she wrote...