It’s no secret that I struggle with anxiety. I’ve struggled with anxiety for my ENTIRE LIFE – and I mean my entire life. I was born colicky and spent the first six months of my life screaming nonstop (no, really, NON STOP) and continued in that direction. It took me until middle school to realize that no, most people DON’T feel the way I do. Most seven-year-old girls didn’t worry that they’d never be good at anything. Most ten-year-old girls didn’t worry that no boy would ever like them because they aren’t pretty enough or skinny enough or smart enough. At thirteen, I thought it was depression because the anxiety manifested itself as this epic sadness that rendered me incapable of doing much more than lying dramatically on my bedroom floor crying to emo music.
It became this Big Secret that I kept from everyone. I didn’t want my parents to worry, or think I was suicidal (I wasn’t), or judge me for whatever was “wrong” with me. It took until halfway through college for me to come clean about my crazy: I was dating a great but totally-wrong-for-me guy and starting to realize he was not (and would never be) The One. It turned into a soul-crushing, body-destroying anxiety (the kind where you feel sick all the time, can’t stop mulling over the SAME DAMN THING in your head, and want to sleep and sleep just so you don’t have to think or feel anything), and I finally couldn’t take it anymore. Telling my parents resulted in finally gaining the knowledge that, oh hey, the crazy runs in the family! I started seeking out a therapist. I saw my general practitioner for some crazy meds.
Within a few years, that wrong-for-me relationship had ended. A little while after that, I found a new counselor (who I still see). I upped my crazy med dosage and then six months later tapered off of them for good.
I’m doing quite well, nowadays. I often say I’m happier than I’ve ever been: I love my job, I love my apartment, I love my boyfriend, and sometimes I feel like I have a decent social life. I don’t have these huge, major freak-outs like I used to, and I (usually) don’t spend my time feeling inadequate, directionless, and sad. However, a friend recently confronted me about my still-ever-present anxiety. It was a little bit of an eye-opener. On one hand, I was able to explain to her that I’m mostly normal now, I’m really not THAT crazy, but on the other hand, it made me realize that perhaps my low-level anxiety is something I don’t actually need.
Counseling has worked, to a point. But I still find myself spending inordinate amounts of time worrying about things so far in the future they’re not on anyone else’s radar – what will I do when the bridge I take to work has a $7/day toll? What if my apartment complex raises my rent? What will I do when my boyfriend deploys in over a year? What happens if I really don’t want children? (That one’s a story for another blog post, by the way.) I don’t just briefly think of these things and let them go – I stress and I dwell and I obsess. It’s ALL I can think about.
Meds might help. I went off of them because my boyfriend at the time didn’t like the idea of ingesting chemicals. I avoided going back on them because of weight gain and side effects and the fact that I don’t think I’m crazy enough to need drugs. I know so many people whose mission is to get OFF of them, and the idea that if I go back on meds, I might need them forever is terrifying.
It just really raises some questions for me. I can function with constant, low-level anxiety – but should I HAVE to? Would I be happier, would I be more fun, would I accomplish more if I were medicated? Is it worth the side effects, the unwanted changes to my appearance, the hassle of trying to remember to take pills every day? Is it more important to be Who I Am, or is it more important to be a better, yet not quite authentic, version of myself if I’m a little happier and a little more relaxed?
I’m not really sure how to answer any of those questions yet.