It's been stormy in my brain lately. Full of fear. Full of anxiety. As you probably noticed, I didn't write last week, and that was because I was so engulfed in the storms of my brain that nothing would come out. I could barely come out of my shell and make it to my therapy program. On my one day off of therapy last week (last Thursday, when I usually publish my blog posts) I spent the day sleeping...all day. I would wake up and eat a meal and then go back to sleep. It didn't feel like any sort of human existence that I would recommend.
You see, my therapy sessions themselves started triggering panic attacks. I'd get to our group session in the morning and be a ball of anxiety. I wanted to run straight out of there and find somewhere to hide forever. I tried the the self-soothing exercises we had practiced in our sessions, but nothing seemed to help. It was clear I needed to meet with my doctor (who I see regularly through the program). Something was just not right. I was worried it was a side-effect of a new medication, but it was more than that.
Luckily, I have an amazing doctor, and she was able to pinpoint what was going on: that I was becoming afraid of therapy itself. I have agoraphobia, and for some reason, the group sessions stopped feeling safe. At the same time, I knew I needed to be there. I knew that this is my ticket to wellness: to sit through the sessions and let the people around me help me by engaging with them...no matter how scary that may be.
So, my doctor ended up adding a medication to the mixture that I currently take right now to keep me functioning. And, slowly, I started to feel more alive again. My anxiety has subsided finally. I don't feel quite where I want to be yet, but I have the most hope that I've had thus far that I'm getting there. The mere fact that I'm writing again is a testament to that.
Which makes me want to pause for a second and just acknowledge how important medication can be in the balance of mental health, when you're struggling with mental illness. I say this because I know there's a lot of stigma around taking medication for mental illnesses. It can be seen as weak, a crutch, a push by big pharma, or even an imaginary fix. And, let me tell you, while my experiences with medication for my depression and anxiety haven't always been successful, they've been such an important factor in my ability to exist each day, that I can't imagine surviving with out them...just as much as I can't imagine surviving without food.
In our therapy program we talk about the basics:
- good food
- good sleep
- meds & vitamins
- affirmations/positive self talk
- reaching out
And each of them is equally important. Just like anything, it's about balance. Exercising alone won't cure you from depression; neither will medications. But if I'm working on all of the above together, I just might have a chance at living a life that makes me want to get up in the morning; that fulfills me; that gets me through the storms.