**Trigger Warning: This post will discuss mental health issues related to my journey through counselling sessions for anxiety related symptoms and experiences.**
A few months ago I wrote about taking a step toward getting help: reaching out. I’ve been going to weekly sessions for the past 3 months, and here’s an update.
I was in a place where my anxiety was consuming my time, energy and spirit, and I felt like every time I tried to climb out, I just kept digging myself into a deeper hole. I describe my anxiety as akin to riding a bike that has no chain – you’re fighting and sweating and cramping; knees jerking, calves burning, pedaling with all your might, and the bike goes nowhere.
Anxiety according to my experiences looks like everything and nothing all at once. It feels like I’m drowning while floating, like I’m suffocating while breathing.
A few posts ago I said that my anxiety was chronic, not terminal but honestly, two months ago, few sessions in, I sat in a haze of worry and panic and fear and paranoia and just thought “I think, I could die”.
First I wasn’t sleeping.
Then when I slept my dreams were waves crashing down on my while I stood frozen and ghosts of the past screaming at me that I’m useless, I’m weak, I’m pathetic while I begged and grovelled on the ground.
Shaken awake I’d be fighting off invisible spiders and grasshoppers and centipedes crawling all over me, scratching and peeling, my arms flailing in the air.
During the day at least I’d be awake, but I’d sit and worry for hours, my heart pumping adrenaline non-stop while my jaw clenched gritting teeth. After weeks I just wanted it to end, I just wanted silence and stillness.
I wanted peace.
So instead waiting for death, which was far too dramatic even for an anxious wreck like myself, I started seeing a psychologist and it has been nothing less a roller coaster since then. I’ve been so exhausted that I’ve been losing the motivation to write about it. If I’m being honest about it I’ve also not written because I’ve been scared, for the first time, about the judgement I might face from others, and of appearing weak and…human. But I want to fight past that today, because I’d like to share my ongoing journey, hoping that it’ll help at least one person feel less alone. Christmas is a time filled with happiness and faux family fun, but its also a time when people feel the most isolated.
So here are two hurdles I’ve been trying over cross at therapy – I can’t say I hope you enjoy reading, but I want to thank everyone in advance for their compassion and openness to discussing mental health issues. Please share if you know anyone who could use a little bit of “oh, someone else is going through this too…”.
After my first few sessions I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). In a state of verbal diarrhea for about two or three sessions I was feeling like a failure, and quite frankly like I was wasting time talking about all these problems I was facing, risking panic attacks and depression to no end.
Then my psychologist gave me a paragraph to read about GAD, and what those who suffer from it go through. I read it and I immediately felt like a fool.
It was me, on paper, in eight sentences. My entire demeanor, my personality, my experiences in no more than 200 words. I was in a textbook. I was unremarkable, unoriginal; predictable.
I felt both relieved an betrayed. I felt like I finally had an answer, but it meant that everything I thought was me might actually be this “disorder”. How then, do I pry the “me” from the “it”? I felt like I didn’t know myself at all and it was heartbreaking.
I felt the oh so familiar pang of depression. I was reevaluating, replaying moments in my mind, wondering who or what was really in control. I sought the counsel of others (mistake), I mumbled to myself, I read articles, I swear my forehead was in a state of crinkle for at least a week.
Then I thought to myself that this can go two ways, I could either listen to what others were telling me about “labels putting you in a box” and all that “fight the system”, “are you really talking to a stranger about your problems?” ignorance. Or I could take the diagnosis, and the paragraph for what it was: clarity. The place from which I’d start, in my journey to learn more about myself, to learn to appreciate myself and a point at which self-care could being.
2. Calling It What It Is.
I’m just going to say what I feel. I grew up in what I would describe as an unhealthy environment. Even now it’s hard for me to call it what it is. It was neither emotionally nor psychologically nurturing for me, as a child growing up, wanting care and love from both my siblings and parents.
As a result, my first 21 years left me with psychological scars that I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to truly eliminate. Some of these that I was able to identify is excessive self-blame and unhealthy self-sacrifice. The catch is, that these unhealthy labels were not too long ago disguised as pretty, fluffy ones like “selfless”, “responsible”, “reliable”, “strong”, “mature” – the list goes on.
As I unearthed bad habits and reasoned with behaviors and thought patterns that I perceived to be “right” and “dutiful” and “good”, I realized how many of them were developed as a result of abusive relationships, self-loathing and an external indicators of self-worth. I felt betrayed by myself, by my own anxiety. And week after week and I stripped my actions, thoughts, feelings down to the very core I realized how flawed I was. This has been especially difficult for me because of how long it has taken me to break away from these unhealthy patterns of living.
I’ve always felt that I should be and act better than those around me who cause others hurt and pain. As a result I placed a heavy burden on myself: never forget, never forgive. Never forget how you felt, never forget what they did, and never let it happen to anyone else. “Noble” I guess would be the fluffy label. Strip that down and it looks a lot more like “martyr”.
These are just two elements over the past few months that have shaken my sense of self to the very core. These are just some products of my journey through counselling; the result of taking an hour every week to sit in front of an objective entity, forced to confront, relive, reveal all the experiences I thought I was over, and I thought I had conquered.
They are particularly difficult to write about and even as I am writing I can feel the adrenaline levels starting to rise at the thought of pressing “publish”. What will people say? What will they not say? Who will understand? Who will think they understand? This is the hardest post I’ve had to write because it is so much more personal than the rest. There are no jokes, no sarcastic comments, no wit.
Thank you for reading. I appreciate your continued support throughout this journey.