It took me a long time to ask my doctor for a prescription for my anxiety.
It wasn’t necessarily that I thought being on anxiety meds was bad, but it was that I thought my anxiety wasn’t bad enough.
When people talked about their anxiety symptoms, I could sympathize but not necessarily relate.
I don’t get stressed out easily and when I am stressed out, it doesn’t make me panicky. I don’t have panic attacks every day. I’ve always been a good sleeper and I’m not a very restless person.
And yet… there were other signs. The way it felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest as I drove into work, not because my job was super stressful or that I hated the work I did (just the opposite, actually!), but because I was overwhelmed at the thought of spending my next 9.5 hours in a cubicle, interacting with people.
There were all the times I woke up in the middle of the night and convinced myself that I woke up because something awful had just happened in my family, like I’m omniscient or something. And then it would take me up to an hour to fall back asleep because I was panicked about my family.
There were the meltdowns. Oh, the meltdowns. One little thing would happen and I would fall completely apart and realize everything in my life was terrible. Those were the more scary moments because they were the moments when I felt the most hopeless about my life.
There was the constant worry about every single thing that could go wrong in my life. My mom dying, my brother dying, my nephews dying. My mom getting paralyzed in a car accident, my brother crashing his truck at work. Something happening to Dutch. My apartment burning down because I left my straightener on. Getting fired. And on and on and on it went. Worry after worry after worry. It never stopped.
And let’s not forget the social aspect of my anxiety, though I’ve talked about that already. But it’s something that’s affected me for years and until I had a name for it, I didn’t realize it wasn’t a normal way to live.
I didn’t realize that none of this wasn’t normal. I didn’t realize that I could feel better, that I didn’t have to live in a constant state of worry and on the verge of collapse every single day.
My anxiety did not look like the anxiety I saw from other people who opened up about their struggles, so I thought that maybe because it didn’t affect my life in the same way that I didn’t deserve medication. Most days I was okay! Perfectly happy, even. And then, out of the blue, everything would fall apart and I’d feel as if my world was crashing down on me and I was swimming underwater and didn’t know how to reach the air. But then I’d fight my way out of it and be okay and convince myself that I didn’t really need meds. It didn’t affect me “enough.”
Which is bullshit. The fact that it affected me a little is “enough.” The fact that I had days or weeks when I felt trapped in my own mind is “enough.”
A podcast I recently listened to put it this way: “We don’t feel as if we have to deserve antibiotics when we have an ear infection. Why would we feel we have to deserve medication when we have a mental disorder?” (I’m paraphrasing here, but that was the gist of what he said.)
On a previous post, I mentioned how life-changing it has been to be on medication for my anxiety. I feel more stable, more in control of my emotions. I feel the happiest I have felt in months. I can’t remember the last time I’ve had a meltdown and I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve woken up with a panic attack. I didn’t even realize how bad my anxiety was and how much I let it hold me back until I started feeling better.
This is not even the post I meant to write. I wanted to write about how my anxiety affects the way I travel (a post I still plan to write!), but this is what has come out of me instead. There’s a reason I needed to write this post, and I’m not exactly sure why. But maybe it’s because someone needs to hear these words.
So to those reading…
If your anxiety doesn’t look like the anxiety you see displayed on TV commercials or in movies, you still deserve to get help. You deserve to feel better.
If you think that being on medication for your anxiety means you’re giving up or not strong enough, that is a lie you should never believe. Seeking help is the action only a warrior can take. It’s a scary step to bring your struggle out in the open and to let someone know that you are not okay and you want to be okay. It’s not about being strong enough; it’s about a chemical imbalance in your brain and you deserve to fix that imbalance.
If you think that a doctor might blow you off when you mention your anxiety or just tell you to eat better and get more exercise, find a new doctor. I worried for a long time that a doctor wouldn’t believe me when I told her/him about what I was dealing with, so with every appointment, I never brought it up. Until one day I did and I fumbled over my words and couldn’t exactly articulate what my anxiety looked like, but this doctor looked at me with compassion and wrote me the prescription I needed. Find the doctor who will take you seriously – there’s nothing more important than that.
If you don’t think you are worthy of feeling better, as if you somehow deserve this anxiety, I want you to know that none of that is true. Nobody deserves to feel like an elephant is sitting on his or her chest or to have constant panic attacks. As a human being, you are worthy of feeling like your best self. You are worthy of getting help. You are worthy of living life at its utmost pleasure.