Being Not Ok

September 17, 2017

My son and I have an ongoing dialogue about my sense of humor.  We both love it when he makes me laugh, which he does very well and very often.   He is also quick to tell me when my sense of humor is conspicuously absent.

“Mom, I think when you lose your sense of humor, it means you need to go away and take care of yourself.”  This he tells me the other night.  Out of the mouth of a babe,  or a very tall thirteen-year-old.

These last few months I have been struggling with pretty nasty anxiety.  It may have been longer, I can’t really say when it took hold.  Those of you who have spent any time with me in person may have noticed how tightly wound I tend to be.   But this was WAY worse.  Over several months my neck and shoulders gradually became so tense and tight, that when people who love me hugged me, it hurt.  My jaw was stuck in a clenched state.  At the worst of it, my heart raced and I had to focus to return my breath to normal.

It had been an extended period of professional anxiety and change, plus normal stresses of working full time and mothering three kids.   But no big crisis.  No health scare.  No sudden loss.  None of the biggies.

I tried to exercise more often.  I started meditating more often.  I looked long and hard at stressors in my life, made adjustments where I could.  But I still felt like a mess.  I felt like I didn’t have a handle on anything.   The heart racing and breathing issue was happening frequently enough to scare me, and it was becoming harder to settle it down.  All this escalated into a two day episode of intermittent, uncontrollable crying.  So I finally broke down and asked my doctor for medication. More, actually, as I was already on a low dose of anti-depressant, anti-anxiety medication.

This last week I had a profound realization:  I feel much better.  I thought back to when I didn’t, and how helpless I felt.  It bothered me that day to day life was hitting me so hard.  It felt like failure.   I felt like a failure.

I look back on those months and see how I gradually sank downward.  Feeling out of control, feeling anxious about that, and then feeling bad about my feeling out of control.  Shame kicked in aninspiration_or_desperation__by_aki355-d384x1rd festered.

When you see the statistic that 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness in a given year, this is but one example.  Sometimes our minds get off track, and sometimes outright betray us.  My own history leads me to believe in the combination of therapy and medication, if appropriate.  The tending of the mind is a critical endeavor, and there is no shame in seeking help.  There is no shame in pharmaceutical support.

None of this can be done alone.  I had a couple of friends I felt like I could share this with, and they helped me get out of my isolated thinking.  Knowing they cared and supported me helped.

None of this is a magic fix, either.  The anxiety is still here.  I still watch closely how I manage stress, and adjust my tactics as needed.  I still meditate, and find it enormously helpful.  And today, I share this with my world, because I know I am not alone, and public discourse is a great reminder of that fact.