Sometimes life beats us up. We experience a trauma or a series of traumas: a divorce, abandonment, neglect, abuse, loss, etc.
Sometimes we simply feel beat up by life and we have nothing really to blame it on. This is me.
Anxiety. It’s real. It’s overwhelming. It can be all consuming. I hate it.
I am thankful I haven’t yet experienced any major traumas in my life, but in some ways I think it would help me understand my anxiety more. Instead I’m left not having a reason other than my genetic makeup. My family has a long history of anxiety and depression. I’ve always been very sensitive, intense, and have other perfectionistic qualities, so unfortunately I was likely more prone from the beginning to eventually develop one or both of these.
I wasn't an overly anxious child, but I did spend a lot of time thinking…about EVERYTHING! Sometimes these thoughts came out as worries and sometimes simply as observations or theories. For the most part, as a child I only had moments here and there where these thoughts became too much and I needed support to work through them.
The anxieties I faced in early adulthood were fairly typical and none of them were really inhibiting; however, they were present.
Two years ago these anxieties seemed to change. My agitation over little things had gradually been building and it suddenly felt like more than was typical. I wasn’t just agitated, but I was actually quite sad and I easily felt defeated. I felt beat up. I’m a pretty confident, happy, and energetic person. To be feeling so defeated over things that weren’t even really defeating situations started to feel like too much. I even started to notice that I was losing interest in things I typically loved: family time and being with my kids were the most noticeable. This was when I knew I needed to make some changes.
I thought I was being strong by fighting through my anxiety without medication. Even as a young child I hated taking medications for illnesses. I wanted to fight things off on my own or find natural remedies. I didn’t want something to enter my system that wasn’t supposed to be there. As I spoke to a dear friend about this concern when she suggested I look into meds she said, “The toxins in your body from your stress and anxiety aren’t supposed to be there either and are likely more harmful to your body long term than any meds that could help you with this.” She was right and it was the first time I was actually open to medications for myself to help control my anxiety, this new overwhelming sadness and these feelings of defeat.
The reality was, I had so many tools that I was using to cope with my anxiety and some of these worked great. I know my anxiety would’ve been so much worse without these, but I needed more.
Beyond starting some meds I made some other changes. I dug deep with support to try to make sense of some of my anxieties and what they might stem from. Of course I can find things that may have accentuated these through the years and these were helpful to acknowledge, but still no major traumas. I had to accept that this is simply a part of who I am. I acknowledged various triggers and made adjustments where I could. I also decided to go back to teaching preschool, something that I didn’t realize I missed as much as I did until I did this soul searching.
With these changes, those beat up feelings gradually started to fade and I started to feel like myself again. I had missed myself!!!
This past fall I was feeling so good I wondered if perhaps I could start to cut down on my meds. I spoke with my doctor and she helped me make a plan on how to best do this. Mid-November I started cutting back. I felt totally fine. I actually felt pretty great. In fact, I felt great all the way through the end of January. February hit and I gradually started feeling that agitation coming back. It’s normal to feel agitated every once in a while. I get that. However, this was over small things and it was over the top at times. I was starting to snap at those that I’m closest to and I was totally catching them off guard. This wasn’t me. It felt awful. I had been so proud that I had been able to cut down on my meds. I was feeling like I could control my anxiety on my own and suddenly I was facing that I just can’t.
I was feeling beat up again. Luckily, I was totally fine when I was teaching and in sessions…I’m always fine then. However, as soon as I was done with my teaching day or with sessions the agitation would start again and those darn feelings of defeat would creep back in.
A couple of weeks ago I finally accepted that these feelings are not worth it. No matter how many tools I had, my level of agitation was too much and not healthy for me or for those around me. I needed my full dose of meds again. I chose to be honest with myself and acknowledge that my brain and body need something different right now. I needed to put my own oxygen mask on so I could be the mom, wife, friend, co-worker, teacher and coach I need and want to be.
Even after just a couple weeks back on my full dose I’m gradually getting back to myself. My soul is starting to feel settled again rather than agitated and defeated. That beat up feeling is starting to go away.
I’ve hesitated to share my experience beyond friends and family. I’ve wondered what my current or future clients might think of me if they knew I struggle with this. I think we all worry about being judged. Unfortunately there still seems to be a stigma in our society when it comes to mental health issues. This stigma may be what actually prevents people from getting the help they need. By sharing my experience I hope you will know I’m a safe person to share your story with. My anxiety is only a small part of who I am, although some days it feels like more. I know I will continue to tweak and navigate necessary changes as they may be needed through the years. I’ll be ready to be honest with myself and to continue to ask for help when I need it.