"Living with Anxiety"
Trigger Warning: Mental Illness, Sexual Abuse
I wake up.
It takes me a few minutes for my mind to register that I'm in reality, due to my incredibly vivid dreams. It takes me a few extra minutes to actually get up because I tend to feel groggy in the morning. That seems to be a side effect of the Seroquel. Seroquel is a medication often used for treating severe depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. I have none of those things; I was prescribed it for sleep since my anxiety doesn't really give a crap if I'm tired.
After I wake up, I take my Zoloft. Zoloft is an anti-depressant used to treat anxiety disorder as well. I have some water, make a healthy breakfast, and workout (something I've had to do recently due to the weight gain side effect of the Seroquel) soon after.
I never thought I'd end up being the kind of person who had to take medication every day, but here I am.
I've had anxiety all my life, though my friends and family would disagree. Every time I open up to someone about my anxiety for the first time, I get the same reel of responses. "But you're so outgoing!" "You should just drink water and eat healthy and cheer up!" "What do you have to be anxious/sad about?" and my personal favourite, "Everyone feels anxious sometimes. Stop being dramatic (because you know, I act and all that). It can't be as debilitating as you make it out to be."
People really seem to gloss over the disorder part of the phrase Anxiety Disorder.
"A mental disorder (also called a mental illness, psychiatric disorder, or psychological disorder) is a diagnosis, most often by a psychiatrist, of a behavioral or mental pattern that may cause suffering or a poor ability to function in life." -Wikipedia
Just putting that there for reference.
As a whole, others tend to be dismissive about learning about my anxiety even though I'm sure they mean well. The only people who haven't been dismissive about it are people who suffer from mental illness themselves and are aware of it. Anxiety and other mental illnesses are rarely taken seriously from those who don't suffer from it and though the tide is (slowly) but surely changing, there's still a lot of work to be done.
Anxiety has taken a lot from me. It's taken away my sanity, dissolved friendships, enabled me as an easy target for emotional/psychological/sexual abuse, cost me career opportunities and actual employment and has essentially turned me into a recluse. I don't go out nearly as much as I used to and when I get invited places or get coaxed into making plans, my anxiety gets the best of me and I end up either not showing up or cancelling. Then my anxiety gets even worse because of how guilty I feel for doing that. I think I would have been unstoppable if I didn't have anxiety, and that makes me feel terrible. I know that's a lot to blame on a disorder, but I really am trying my best. I'm trying even harder to not feel like my best isn't good enough.
It's been a few months since I've had to leave my previous job due to how bad my anxiety got, and I'm still upset that I had to go. I had such a great time working where I was; I learned so much within such a short time. But that, my friends, is exactly what happens when you have an anxiety disorder that has been left untreated for a little over a decade. Since I was 10. That's what happens when you're a part of a culture that doesn't believe in mental illness, a culture that thinks it's a manifestation of the devil or some other supernatural disturbance instead of a legitimate medical condition. You can only sweep dirt under a rug for so long before somebody trips over the bump, and it all comes seeping out.
You fall apart. The bandages you've strategically placed throughout the years, the same ones you thought were wrapped so tightly around you start peeling off, like layers of an onion. You become worse than you've ever been. A little storm cloud forms above your head and follows you everywhere you go. You start to disassociate. It gets harder and harder to get up in the morning. Harder and harder to put that default smile on your face (especially for customers), harder and harder to make it seem like everything is okay. You might end up in the hospital after a great shift, one that will unknowingly (at the time) be your last. You might then struggle for a little bit trying to get friends and family to understand what you've been saying to them all along in various forms- that you're unwell and that you need help. Only this time it's worse. This time you're afraid you might not see your niece and nephew grow up because your illness has been swallowing you up like a black hole. That feeling might have been gradual over the years but now it's accelerated fivefold. They still may not understand the gravity of the situation and think you're being over dramatic (typical you). It might strain some relationships within your family even more, but especially at a time where it feels like the whole universe is against you, you have to look out for you. As hindering as anxiety is, you have to choose life. Don't let the fog scare you into thinking you are your anxiety. Choose therapy. Choose medication if recommended. Choose yourself.
Just a few months ago I was deemed severely impaired and unfit to work until further notice. I've been on my meds since then and they've helped immensely. I'm now trying my best to regain all of those years I've lost to a disorder I couldn't control. I'm trying to be the person I've always wanted to be but it's hard and it's scary. My anxiety disorder will never go away but now that I have the tools to treat it and make my life livable again, I feel more confident than ever that I can make little Kolleen proud.