Sixty Minutes and a Little White Pill
Seven years. It’s been seven years since I sat on that cushioned table, giving voice to the thoughts that had, so far, only existed in my head.
That day changed the trajectory of my life. The doctor was kind and matter of fact. I was trying to hold myself together, speaking with as much confidence as I could, even though I knew my voice was quivering. She turned her computer screen to face me and I saw the little dot in the red zone. The little dot was supposed to be me. The red zone indicated severe anxiety. That’s where I lived my life until that point – in the land of severe anxiety. I left the clinic that day with a prescription in hand and hope for the future. Life got better after that.
The last six weeks of my life felt a whole lot like those days before the clinic visit.
Once again, I found myself sitting on my bed thinking, “something is wrong with me”. Once again, I suffered from panic attacks. Once again, anxiety was dominating my life.
After seven years on medication, I paid another visit to the doctor this week to review the prescription. Together, we decided to double what I was taking. As I filled the prescription and took my first pill, I felt nothing but relief.
No shame. Not failure. Not disappointment or frustration or fear; I felt relief. I felt proud of myself for fighting for myself. I could have allowed anxiety to continue dominating my life, slowly eating away at my self-esteem, my marriage, my hope, and my identity. I could have allowed it to win… but in the battle for my mind, I chose to fight back. And I continue to fight back each day.
Every time I take a little white pill, I get to feel something other than anxiety. Instead of feeling my heartbeat in my entire body, I get to relax and release. Instead of waking in the morning, panicked that I’ve lost time and have already disappointed myself, I get to look at my husband and feel gratitude. Instead of holding back tears, I get to shake off stress and move through my day.
During one of my most challenging days, I was sitting behind the wheel of my car thinking, “If this is how it always feels, what’s the point in living?” The question felt like doom. It felt like I was living on the edge of a cliff, waiting to convince myself to jump. That is what I refer to as darkness. It’s a space filled with pain, fear, shame, and judgment. It is miserable at best and life-threatening at worst. The darkness scares the you-know-what out of me.
I’m fortunate to live a life I am deeply grateful for. I have a wonderful Husband, a beautiful new home, deep love and support from family, food to eat, water to drink, and fulfilling work. Anxiety doesn’t take a look at my life and back away because it’s all good. Anxiety finds a way to tell me every reason why I’m not good enough to live this life, every reason I should be ashamed of who I am, and every reason why I should be scared of breathing. Anxiety bangs the “I’m not good enough” drum relentlessly, planting itself in my head and taking root in every way possible. No matter how beautiful life may look, struggling with anxiety distorts the image.
Last week, I shared with my therapist that I’d gone 4 days without crying. Four whole days without a single tear shed. That was a huge win, considering one week before our session I was on my kitchen floor listening to my Mom talk me through a panic attack. I texted her the same. Last week I won a battle for my mind… and I continue to win because of the medication that is my weapon.
February is the coldest month of the Winter. As a Minnesota woman, I know this month is freaking hard. It feels like it’s dark all the time, it is too cold, and, the cherry on top, Omicron has made social interaction something to be feared yet again. We’re all usually sick right now, but this year, in particular, everyone is sick. 2022 came in strong with Omicron and it has yet to let up. It sucks.
While seasonal depression is a struggle for many, I hope you’re differentiating between the winter blues and a serious struggle with mental health. There is no reason to be ashamed or embarrassed. Mental health is just as important as physical health. You are not alone. I am on a journey with severe anxiety and I know, intimately, that mental health is not linear. I did not see the last six weeks coming. I did not expect to have an anxiety attack in the middle of a movie theater or a panic attack in the middle of a workday. It was not predictable, but it is possible to make it better.
I’m writing this to you from the other side of the struggle. Life can feel better.
You deserve better.