10 Things (Finally) Being Treated For Anxiety Taught Me

Being someone who has suffered from chronic anxiety for well over a decade and who is writing a humor book about anxiety is a bizarre experience. So much of what I’ve gone through has been decidedly less-than-funny, but now, as part of the writing process, I’ve been scrolling back through old posts I’ve written on the topic with a new perspective. I mean, I hallucinated tiny banana-shaped people sitting in my linen closet and telling me they could help me sleep. (True story.)

Come on. That’s funny.

But re-reading these posts is doing something else: it’s making me remember just how rough that (extremely long) time period was, because it’s easy for me – a person who is now capable of sleeping through the night without bolting straight up in bed at 3AM, wide-awake and sobbing because DEATH IS REAL – to forget how out of control my life used to feel, because I simply couldn’t rely on my own brain to do what I wanted it to do.

It was bad. And now it’s better. Not perfect, of course – I’m still too tired, too stressed, too short with my kids, too worried about the future, too fixated on controlling every tiny iota of my life – but the difference between then and now is bigger than I could have ever imagined way back when I first turned to Kendrick and said to him, “I need help.” So I thought it was worth revisiting the journey – just to remind myself where I used to be, and how far I’ve come.


You Actually Do Go Crazy If You Don't Sleep

It can’t be overstated, how dramatic the effects of extreme insomnia are on your brain. Forget about “focus” and “emotional stability”; for me, it went way beyond that and – honestly? – made me feel full-on out of my mind. I remember, so many mornings, trying to avoid interacting with people because I knew that my face wouldn’t register the “correct” emotion. I remember tripping over my words during conversations, being unsure of what to say even during the smallest of small talk, because I simply couldn’t make my mouth and my brain work in sync.

I had completely underestimated just how much re-learning how to sleep would re-introduce me to myself – not the “getting through the day” me; the real me.


Anxiety And Control Are Very Best Friends

My need for control is a living thing; it’s been coursing through my veins for as long as I can remember, and emerges to make itself known in ways that are constantly changing. First it revealed itself as perfectionism; later as anorexia; and finally as a need to hold on to the reins of my career and my family with an iron fist.

It’s all part of the same thing.


Sometimes You Just Have To Be Gentle With Yourself

There are days when what you put out into the world falls short of your expectations – whether you spent less time with your kids than you wanted to, or wrote 200 not-so-great words rather than the 500 brilliant ones you intended, or cooked a shitty meal, whatever – and when that happens? You have to respond to yourself the way you’d respond to a friend who came to you saying that they felt that they’d failed: with compassion, and with love. Gently.


You May Not Even "Want" To Get Better

Part of the reason it took me so long to seek treatment for my anxiety was that I believe it protected me, somehow. Like it was a penance I could pre-pay to ensure my family’s safe passage into wherever it is that we were going. I thought that maybe, just maybe, it was my vigilance that was holding it all together, and if I relaxed my guard for even a second…boom.


It's Brave To Ask For Help

I spent the bulk of my life thinking that psychological issues were something you could just “get over,” if you were strong enough – and was terrified of labeling myself as “someone with problems.”

Except I finally did. And it was without question one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life – if not the best decision, because it was what changed all the rest.


There's No Shame In Trying Medication

Similarly, I spent ten years sidestepping the idea of medication, because I felt so strongly that I should be able to manage my anxiety without it, and also because I feared turning into some hollow-eyed shell of a mother, absent of any “real” emotions.

What happened once I found the medication that worked for me was that I felt like I woke up, and returned to the person I remember being all those years ago.


Whatever Your Personal Form Of Meditation Is, Do It

I’ve meditated on and off for a couple of years – and even saw a meditation coach for a few months. The coaching was great. Meditation is great. I still have a hard time sticking with it in the long-term, though, so I’ve looked for other ways to access that kind of calm.

For me, it’s driving.

So, every once awhile, I give myself the permission to get in my car, and just drive.


Feeling "Better" Doesn't Mean Never Feeling Bad

I still feel sad. I still feel anxious. All the time. But what treatment has done for me, more than anything, is given me the ability to understand what’s “normal” (I hate that word, but what I mean is normal for me) and what’s not. It’s also given me the tools I need to handle my emotions when they threaten to get the better of me.


Finding Your Village Helps

Choosing to be positive, to seek out interaction, to keep trying to forge relationships in a world where true friendship can sometimes feel in short supply . . . it’s not only worth the work, it actually takes far less energy than wading through it all on your own.


Parent Anxiety Is Its Own Kind Of Beast

Self-care takes time, and it takes energy – and when you have small children, those are in seriously short supply. There were nights that I lay sleepless, absolutely consumed with the fear that every moment I spent working or doing things I loved to do or needed to do – for myself – I was missing out on my child. Missing us. It was too much guilt to take for very long.

So I decided that something needed to change.

Thanks to all of you who’ve been reading here over the years for letting me – encouraging me, even – to be open about things I never thought I’d be able to say out loud. It helped more than you know.

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