I’ve written about anxiety and mental health in other places but not here. I suppose you could say I was anxious to share too much of myself here, because after all, I’m a writer, therefore I should be writing about writery things, right? (Yes, the ridiculousness of the last sentence is not lost on me, haha!)
Anyway, I struggle with anxiety.
I haven’t been officially diagnosed by a clinician or anything, but I do have a psych degree and I know a thing or two.
The irony is that I never knew I had anxiety until recently, but I look back over my life and a whole bunch of things start to make sense when I plug anxiety into the equation. Many of the terrible decisions I’ve made have stemmed from anxiety – being anxious that people don’t like me or won’t like me or are pretending to like me. That they don’t actually want me around. That they wish I’d go away. That I’d never amount to anything so maybe it wasn’t really worth trying. Things of that nature.
Now, though, I’ve decided it’s time to talk about it here.
When I first realized it, it was a bit overwhelming. I talked to my husband. Then I opened up to my doctor at my regularly scheduled physical. She talked about options I had. I opted to continue self-management and promised to check in with her if things changed.
I made a commitment to talk about it. To talk about things. To share my life with other people instead of always living inside my head. I started meditating. I set up some goals that I would track to ensure I was doing them. I started trying to build more discipline. I opened up to other people about how I was feeling precisely when I was feeling the big stuff. The irony is that talking about it made me feel more anxious. I didn’t really know what to do with that, but for the most part, it was manageable.
Then, April came.
On Easter, my pastor talked about doubt in faith and that gave voice to some things I’d been feeling, but hadn’t really known. Then we thought my dog was dying from a brain tumor. Then we visited a house church, where I basically had an anxiety attack for an hour and a half. It was rough.
I realized that what I had started doing wasn’t enough. It helped as long as I was at home, in my safest space. Out in public, though, my coping strategies were ineffective. I realized that I needed more. I needed some extra help.
I emailed my doctor and she got me in touch with the integrated therapist on her medical team. We talked for a bit. She said she couldn’t bill to my insurance. I’d have to pay out of pocket to see her. She offered to refer me somewhere. She talked about the cost of the initial diagnostic assessment and talked about therapy.
As she talked, I could feel the barriers rising. I didn’t want therapy, I just wanted to talk through a couple public coping strategies. A referral? How many weeks would I have to wait to see someone? Who knows? I told her I’d have to think on it and discuss with my husband and then I’d let her know what I wanted to do.
My husband I talked that night. We both agreed that what she was talking about was far more than I was interested in, and probably more than someone like me needs. (I have opinions on this, but I’ll save them for another time) So, instead, we came up with our own plan. We came up with a communication plan for the next time I felt anxious like that. It involves him asking questions, me answering honestly, and interjecting some reality and truth into the anxious spiral I get into.
Let’s be real, I have no idea if this is going to work. We’ll only know the next time I feel anxious and start talking about it. And if it doesn’t, we’ll have to try something else.
The important thing, I believe, is that I’m finally talking about it and being honest. As a fairly cerebral person, I spend most of my life inside my own head. This gets me out of my head. Even opening up to you is getting me out of my head.
Life hasn’t been easy since I realized I have anxiety, but I haven’t died either, so that has to count for something. I’m excited to open up a bit more, to talk about this, to muse about our system, and to brainstorm some solutions. Clearly, the U.S. (obviously, my musing will be U.S. centric since that’s where I live) has a LONG way to go in providing adequate mental health services. Something has to change to get people the kind of help they need when they need it.
Have you ever dealt with this kind of anxiety? How do you manage and cope?
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