freedom from fear.

Monday, January 30, 2012

ok.  now i just feel like i'm making titles for a super crappy sequel.:)
fear 1, fear 2, fear 3. . .
let's skip the whole 'fear' title, shall we?
'cause as we know, the following stories are never as good as the first.
so i'll try a new one on, to distract from the path i was heading down.:)
and WHY am i sharing all of this personal info of my life, you ask?
just to be clear, a few reasons.
#1.  i share (even if it's my own embarrassing, shame-filled stuff.)
i have no shame and nothing's personal in my life.  it's all out there.  clearly.
#2.  because i'm such a big believer in sharing and talking and the idea that by sharing OUR stories with others, we just might inspire, motivate and encourage others to do the same, or to make a change.
and as you well know, if you've been reading, i'm all for change. 
most of which comes for me, riding on the coattails of someone else's story of change, betterment, self-awareness. . .so i will pay it forward by sharing a piece of MY life with you.
moving on. . .
my 'low-level' anxiety (we'll call it,) was always 'manageable.'
i never sought therapy, never took meds. . .although i was always worrying about 
SOMETHING, i was never pummeled with panic attacks, passing out, manic states to deep depression.  just little bouts of adrenaline-fueled haziness, exhaustion, 
and an ever present debbie-downerish-i'm-just-going-to-wait-cautiously-for-the-other-shoe-to-drop-shitty-attitude.
i had small symptoms in between. . .a racing heart, sometimes palpitations, weak/jelly like legs, hands shaking, upset stomach, trouble focusing or that incessant 'foggy' head on days i was overwhelmed and overstressed, but again, nothing i couldn't handle.  and it would come and go so easily, with every passing thought, or when a situation was over or when i became distracted with something else.
HOWEVER, the most notable of symptoms, was my incessant need for sleep. . .and i'm not talking night time sleep.  i get 8-10 hours a night.
this was middle of the day, i just can't stand anymore-i-need-to-lay-down-sleep.
naps.
every day.
my body was so wrought and exhausted from fearful thoughts, the stress and tension from worry, that by 2pm everyday, i was a wreck.  i HAD to sleep.  since my kids were all brand new babies.
and that too, just became a part of the habit. . .a part of the life i was creating.
i had to lay down each afternoon for at least a half hour, sometimes HOURS.
and if i didn't, i was a total bear and even more on edge.
this was easy to do when kids were napping.  it became a magical time for me.
but there was something not right about it too.
i often wondered why i didn't have the energy or stamina to go all day without sleeping.
what's the big deal with taking naps, anyway?  right?
well, hey when your body needs sleep, you sleep.
but this was different.
this was a coping mechanism.
this was something i thought i ABSOLUTELY had to do each day, to get through the rest of the day.
this 'tiredness beyond tired,' ruled my afternoons.  i too, was like the babies i was nurturing, on a strict schedule.
and it was fine and it worked.  but the days where i didn't get to nap or we had something going on and i hadn't slept, caused me great anxiety. . ."well, i'll be a wreck!  i won't make it!  i don't have the energy!  i won't be able to function!"
slowly over the years, i became afraid of the state i was in!  how i felt!  how tired i was and then WHY i was so tired!!!
alongside making these little discoveries, i began to delve in to my diet and how that was impacting my moods, my days, my body. . .and let me tell you, what an eye opening experience that was!
(another blog post for another day,)
but i was 29, 30, 31 years-old.  yes, i'm at home with small children, but this is ridiculous.  i'm so tired all the time and can't figure out why.
so that, too, became a game. . .worrying about WHY i was so tired.  was i sick?  was i dying?  did i have some horrible autoimmune disease?  something just sitting below the surface, waiting to be discovered?
it wasn't until an 'event,' we'll call it,
that i came face to face (way TOO close, i thought,) with what this REALLY was all about.
i'm not going to refer to any people or the place where shit hit the fan, 
as, honestly, this part of my story is for me only.  (well, and maybe 6 other people in my network.)
but it, the beginning of my 'coming undone,' was in the most unlikely of places
where my journey to a life free from fear, really began.
where years and years of suffering, all the anxiety that had settled in to my bones, the great WEIGHT of it all, seemingly starting to crack everything from within.
pushing everything up to the surface to show its ugly face.
lastly, giving me the option to either fight or flee.
i fought, but it was ugly.  really ugly.
and i had one friend there to witness the beginning of my breakdown.  (and am FOREVER indebted to this amazing woman and her inner strength for holding my hand and carrying me through, just by being with me.)  
was it a mental breakdown?  not necessarily.  but it was the beginning of something big for me.
i was a total wreck.  with  symptoms pummeling me like hurricane winds on the shore.
i was sick to my stomach, couldn't sleep, on the toilet every five minutes, shaking, quiet, in a total fog. . .i have never felt so miserable in my entire life.
practically in the fetal position one moment, up on my feet, coaching myself to move forward, the next.
SIMPLY.  FROM.  ANXIETY.
anxious thoughts.
people who've never felt this or experienced this don't realize how terrifying a feeling this is.
it's as if you're trapped inside an alien body and there's no way out.
you just have this intense urge to run, but you don't know where to or how to get out.
and, well, you can't.  it's inside you.
like a labyrinth with no exit.
it is so brutal.  brutal enough, that in those moments, i remember pressing my forehead to the window,  feeling the cool glass against my raging forehead,
staring down at the street below, the cars, the people enjoying their day,
and thinking, 'my God.  if this building were to collapse right now, it'd be ok.  it wouldn't feel nearly as awful as how i feel right now."
in fact, PRAYING for that to happen, so i wouldn't have to face what lie ahead.
i've never been severely depressed, which is ironic, as anxiety and depression are pretty close neighbors who share lots of stories on the front porch of our minds,
and i've never been suicidal. . .EVER in my life.
but this moment.  for a few brief seconds, death sounded better.
DEATH sounded easier.
that is anxiety. 
in its thickest form, it is terrifying.
and again, had it not been for my friend,
i would've run, tried to escape these feelings.
despite the gale-force winds that were rolling through my body, i moved forward,
slowly and unsteadily,
because i had this angel of a woman, by my side.
SURELY thinking i was crazy, but going along with me anyway.
and just having her there, now looking back,
was one of the moments in life that you KNOW was not random luck or a coincidence.
she was there for a reason, for me, to help me get through something i wouldn't otherwise have been able to.
now and even then, in between incessant physical symptoms,
i had some serious 'a ha!' moments in the minutes of stillness,
that i wasn't right.  that i was off, in some way.
that CLEARLY i had an issue that i needed to deal with when i got home.
and at home, i became a desperate woman.
desperate for help, for answers, for. . .anything. 
despite years of anxiety, reflecting and trying to understand what i'd just experienced and how i was taken to a COMPLETELY different level in anxiety,
a state i had NEVER been in before, in all my years of suffering,
was overwhelming and honestly, mindboggling.
SURELY, now after all these years, i'd reached my max.
my body was tapping out after the long fight.
a 'nervous breakdown' to show me, 'hey, you're not ok.  there's something wrong here and you need help.'
i had done it all, i thought, to deal with anxiety.  talking, writing, praying, exercising, googling, eating right. . .but i hadn't tried it all.
i made an appointment with my GP, who like most, describes drugs right off the bat.
and i took them, reluctantly, but at that point, i had no where else to go!
it was my last resort and i was willing to try anything to rid myself of this horrible feeling of being out of control.
CLEARLY i had a chemical imbalance, right!  CLEARLY, after this little episode, i was mentally ill.
the drugs would fix me or for God's sake, take away the emotional pain and suffering so i could move along with my life.
but at the same time, i had so many reservations about 'taking something' to deal with this issue. 
i knew in my heart, drugs would not repair me.  whether a chemical imbalance or not,
i had worrying issues.  nervous thinking issues.
my daily anxious thoughts weren't the product of a flaw in my brain.  it was a habit i'd formed.
but i didn't trust that intuition.  i took the drugs (zoloft,)
and it was the worst 3 days of my life, this far, to date.
and i've experienced some desperate situations before and after, people.
and this tops them all.
i felt so horrible.  part of it was my anxiety about TAKING something to deal with it,
part of it was my fear that there really was something wrong with me.  and FINALLY,
it was here!  like a slow-growing cancer that you don't see until it's too late.
the rest of it was the drug itself.  
it put me in to an even GREATER state.  
i've never felt so light heated, so foggy, so sick, had absolutely no appetite, so BEYOND exhausted.  i started a half dose of the med on a friday, thinking, well?  if it's going to be miserable, at least it will be over the weekend when brian is home.  give my brain the weekend to adjust to what this drug was supposed to do. . .calm my shit down.
but it did just the opposite.  even MORE agitated and distraught.  i don't think i saw my kids once that whole weekend.  i couldn't move my body.  couldn't get out of bed.
it was hell.on.earth.
now knowing what i know, yes.  a lot of that was probably my attitude going in to it.
but i know the other half to be the drug.  
i took 3 days of it, completely non-functional.  and the doc wanted me to stay on it for TWO WEEKS!
F THAT!  i said.  there's no way.  everything in my heart, my mind, my body, was rejecting this idea.
'what are you doing, liz?!  this is making you worse!  it's ok to stop.'
the wise and comforting words of my husband, gave me the motivation to what i believed to be right all along.
so i stopped.  never took any more.  
yet still had this 'state' to contend with.
what was going on?  why am i like this?  why do i feel this way?  why do i THINK this way?
no one could or had ever answered those questions.
and as i know now, a mind with a million questions and no answers,
the mind of a 'nervous sufferer,' causes complete bewilderment.
people like me, we need answers.  we need to know the how's, why's, the what if's.
and because of that, have to practice DAILY, the art of letting go.
it wasn't until one night, a tear-filled and sleepless sunday night after three days of hell,
that i found an answer.
in the wee hours of the morning, by the light of my computer screen, 
DESPERATE to help myself, 
i found a hand to hold on to.  almost a GIFT from God, i still believe, 
to help pull me out of this mess.
again, in the most unlikely of places.
but a place, people, a mentor, that will ALWAYS be a part of my life in some way.
and forever grateful for,
giving me the foundation, the motivation and inspiration,
to PRACTICE and truly LIVE a life free from fear. . .

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