Stress?? Who is she?
Stress?? Who is she?
an appreciation post by your local anxiety sufferer
~~~~ Trigger Warnings: suicide mention, panic attacks ~~~~
In all honesty, I have no idea when my anxiety started. Maybe it was during my early childhood when I would scream and cry and throw up at the thought of having to go to social outings or maybe it was middle school when I would spend my nights overthinking every conversation I had the previous day. In high school, I continue to avoid loud social situations (like, you know, the lunch room) and struggle to make it through a school week without having a complete meltdown. Some nights, I cry and panic in my bed at the thought of having to leave my house in the morning. It is a vicious cycle. Less sleep means more stress which means less sleep. It all spirals downward until I have a complete breakdown, usually in my room at around 2am. I've been seeking treatment for two years now, does it ever get any better?????
Yes. I promise it does.
I move now to share with you a very wise graph that my health teacher, Ms. Stay, showed me. (She is #goals, we love Ms. Stay.) She showed me a graph with a nice linear line from top to bottom and wrote beneath it, "Projected Recovery." She explained to me, "When we start the journey of recovery, we imagine it to be a straight line to the top. We think that if we do all the things it is fool-proof. Take the pills, get better. Do the exercises, get better. Meditate and get good sleep, get better. However, if we continue to think this way, when we encounter hard times, we will blame ourselves for what we view as a 'failure.' Recovery looks more like this-"
And she proceeded to grab a different colored marker and scribble madly all over the graph.
It started at the bottom, and it sure did end at the top and it hit practically every other point on the very basic graph. Hold on??? You mean to tell me that even if I do everything right, things will still go wrong sometimes? I was not happy with this idea. I DID THE THING! NOW GIVE ME MY RESULTS! Unfortunately, no matter how much you scream at your brain, if it decides that it wants to misbehave, it will. Trust me. I've done lots of screaming at myself and my tragically dysfunctional brain.
and that is okay. You will make it through.
You are allowed to have bad days! You need to do what will help you grow healthier. You are allowed to have limits. I had my first home football game of the year about two weeks ago, and even though I was not feeling up to it, I decided (for some reason) I needed to prove to myself I could do it. I got dressed and forced myself to go. I arrived, and stayed as far away from the student section as possible, but that just made me feel pitiful. I thought, "Come on, Chlo. This is pathetic." So against my better judgement, I squeezed into the student section full of very loud classmates and attempted to strike up conversation with people I only half knew. By this point my stomach is in my mouth, my hands are shaking and tears are starting to burn in my throat. There are people on all sides of me, they are all screaming, and I do not really know anyone. Things start to get blurry. It feels like my ribs are crushing my lungs; I cannot take it any longer. I excuse myself from the situation without saying goodbye to any of the people I shared a half-baked hello with moments earlier and bolt back to my mother. I called my dad to pick me up and proceeded to exit the premises at warp speed. This all ended with me standing in the parking lot waiting for my dad while attempting (in vain) to calm my erratic breathing. One of my most common panic attack feelings is wanting to peel my skin off. It feels like I need to physically peel my skin off my body through any means necessary.
I pushed myself too far.
One of my biggest struggles in recovery is that I get way ahead of myself. I feel better for maybe a week and I decide, "I'M CURED!" I stop taking my meds, I stop journaling, I start pushing myself WAY past my comfort zone and then all my progress collapses around me. I go from swimming in the kiddie pool to throwing myself into Hurricane Florence with a weight belt on. You won't get better overnight. Some days will be harder than others. You are allowed to struggle and you are allowed to be sad but what you are not allowed to do is give up. I have been so close to giving up before. There was a time where I sat on my bathroom floor with all my medicine bottles laid out trying to figure out which would make the deadliest cocktail. It was dark. It was scary. I felt simultaneously in pain and yet so utterly numb. I knew that night I needed help. I needed more than face masks and a goodnight's sleep. I knew what was happening was wrong but I did not know how to fix it. I felt lost and hopeless. I called the suicide hotline and they put me on hold for thirty minutes. Thirty minutes . THIRTY MINUTES. That sucked. Before calling I was telling myself that they had better things to deal with and no one wanted to help the poor little girl with the picture perfect life. I had everything, I wasn't allowed to be upset, sad, and hopeless. I finally got up the courage to call, and no one answered. I sat on the line while my body shook on the floor of my bathroom. Eventually, I just hung up. I sat up and thought, "You know people are dying because there aren't enough people managing the suicide hotline! Those people need help!" And somehow I managed to completely forget that I was just thinking about taking my own life and became very distraught that there were other people out there who needed my help. I couldn't help myself, but maybe I could help someone else. I dumped the various painkillers and decongestants back into the medicine cabinet and walked back to my bed. I wrapped myself in a blanket and fell asleep almost instantly. My body was tired, and my brain was exhausted.
Recovery is not easy. I will not sit here and pretend, but the least we can do is try. We try our best, and some days are easier than others. Some days it feels like we are on top of the world and some days it feels like all the progress is gone. We have to have faith in ourselves, in others, and in God. We have to do hard things. I am still alive. It has been almost two years since that one night when I almost took my own life, alone, in a bathroom. I have found things that work for me, and things that don't. I see a counselor, and that helps tremendously. I get acupuncture. I take medication. I still have hard days, but I think back to that one night and think of how far I have come. I am here now! I can have days where I am totally okay and I can go to loud parties and events. I did not do it alone. My mother, despite her apparent hatred of emotional situations, does everything in her power to support me. I do not know how she has managed to raise me thus far given that I am a walking emotional situation. My dad was there to talk to me when my poor mom could not take it anymore. My girl, Cienna was a friend to me when it felt like no one else was, she was there even in the dark times (what a queen honestly, LOVE YOU!!!). Pauline, because even though we did not always talk, it was comforting to know that somewhere in the universe there was someone who totally understood me. I swear we'll be 95 years old and you'll still be able to finish my sentences. I want to give my love to everyone who supported me in my journey, however small your gesture may have been. On top of all that, I want to give a shout out to all the people out there suffering with mental illness. I see you, and I know THIS IS HARD. Truly, I feel for you. I promise if you seek help, and find support it gets better. Cling to all hope. We are in this together, and I genuinely believe in everyone's capacity to recover, to discover the richness of life, and to create a life for themselves. The suicide hotline helped me, even if it was not in the way that you would have expected, so I will include a couple hotlines below. Do not hesitate to call. Your problems are valid, no matter how apparently small. YOU are valid. Never forget that.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
National Domestic Abuse Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 1-800-787-3224 (TTY) Our highly-trained advocates are available 24/7/365 to talk confidentially with anyone experiencing domestic violence, seeking resources or information, or questioning unhealthy aspects of their relationship.