As you know, I have anxiety.
I had dealt with it for a long time before knowing what it truly was. I always blamed other things for why I was so anxious all the time. I have a lot on my plate. I didn’t sleep well last night. Financial stress. Twins…. need I say more?
I would cycle through phases of my anxiety. I would be okay for a while… surviving… then (almost out of nowhere) would just have a really rough few weeks. I kept having this prompting to see a therapist. But as soon as I would start looking into therapy, my anxiety would cycle back to being easier to handle.
It’s easier to ignore when it is easier to handle.
I went through life like this for… years. Maybe 4 or 5 years? It wasn’t always bad. But it wasn’t easy. I felt like I wasn’t myself. I felt depressed because I couldn’t handle my every day life. Keeping the house clean was impossible. I didn’t enjoy doing the things I had always loved. I stopped cooking and baking. It was hard for me to make plans to hang out with friends. I felt this constant struggle of feeling lonely.
Other people’s stress would seep into my skin. I could FEEL their stress. I lived their stress.
Getting out of the house was a chore. I focused on the negative. It will be too cold. What if there is a lot of traffic today? I would pack and repack the diaper bag but then convince myself that I was going to forget something… so instead I would stay home.
When the boys were a year old I started to really notice something was off. I had major anxiety about leaving the house with the twins. I avoided having to use the car (re: carseats, stroller, diaper bag, etc.). I kept thinking “If I lived in a city where we could walk everywhere then I would be happy.” As I was trying to explain it to my dad one day, it hit me. He was so confused. I was talking in circles about why it was so hard for me to get out. To be honest, there was a small part of me that recognized then that maybe I had anxiety… but the bigger part justified it. He doesn’t understand. He doesn’t have twins. I just didn’t explain it well enough.
It is also important for me to note here that we were dealing with A LOT (aside from having twins). My husband is an entrepreneur and there was a lot of financial insecurity. There was a period of a year when every single job he landed somehow fell through despite our best efforts. We were also navigating vulvodynia. The emotional trauma and friction that caused in our relationship was impossible to ignore. One of our sons has weakened lungs and so we were constantly in and out of urgent cares and doctor’s offices with pneumonia and RSV. Throw in a couple of ER visits and two hospitalizations and it is easy to see how I developed severe anxiety about him getting sick.
In 2017, my brother and sister-in-law came to visit and we had some really powerful conversations about things that were happening. My brother is a doctor and one night he sat me down to express concern about my emotional state. He really encouraged me to go to therapy and see a doctor for possible medication. He helped me see that it wasn’t going to magically get better if I just ___insert life change here___.
So I listened. I went to see my primary care physician. I was shocked at how high I scored on the anxiety and depression questionnaire. I basically ticked every box. I was put on a low dose of Lexapro. I scheduled with a therapist. And I worked to simplify my life at home.
I remember the first time I felt like myself again after getting on Lexapro. I was cleaning and I just thought, “This isn’t hard.” It hit me like a ton of bricks. This isn’t hard. In that moment I fully realized that I had been living with anxiety for a long time. I realized the impact that anxiety really had on my life. I could think more clearly. I wasn’t on the verge of crying or frustration all the time. I actually wanted to be around people and try new things. I felt… lighter. I felt more free.
I attended therapy weekly for a year. That was VITAL. Being able to talk with someone about what I was feeling and experiencing helped me so much. I process things best when I talk (or write) about them. That’s one of the reasons I started this blog. I’ve learned how to set boundaries with my time and emotions. I’ve learned that I am an empath and I’ve been learning how to decouple my emotions with those of other people. I learned how to process some of the events and dynamics of my childhood. I learned to recognize my shame gremlins and not give them power over my thought patterns. I learned a lot.
And I am still working on things. I will go into this more in another post, but I have realized how big of a role depression plays in my life.
I am not healed of my anxiety. I still struggle with it. We moved to a new city and I am reminded constantly about how I perceive other people are perceiving me. I know there are many years worth of work ahead of me to fully process all of the emotions and experiences I have had. And I am okay with that. Because I have better tools to handle that now.