My anxiety went through the roof this past Thursday. We (the royal “we”) started the day so well – had my coffee, went through my morning routine, got to work just fine – but then my general mental health took a nosedive that afternoon. I couldn’t pinpoint the cause at the time, and I still can’t tell you exactly what it was that had shifted. A couple of coworkers who I can safely call friends came through with ice cream (that I ate at my desk a bit like a squirrel, and was partially a bribe to get me to play D&D), and understood when I begged off plans and went to my apartment to cocoon myself and eat a corn dog and potato chips.
The next morning was a “cheddar and sour cream-flavored potato chips and coffee for breakfast” kind of morning as I worked through the mental hangover.
Unfortunately, that’s a messy part of mental health that nobody really addresses. It can just… shift.
My Mental Health Journey
I feel as though I’m in a weird position, mentally. There is a history of medicated mental illness in my family, and I have dealt with anxiety and panic attacks for most of my adulthood. My father also had panic attacks, and his looked different from mine. Everyone has their own mental health journey, and mine happens to be in this space between “normal” functioning levels and “need-to-take-a-daily-pill” functioning levels. (I apologize to those I may offend; I’m struggling to find the correct language for what society deems to be the “correct” levels of brain functionality.)
I have medication for the times where I feel I need it for my panic attacks. I used to take a daily, low-dose “happy pill” in my senior year of college to help me cope. My mom, at the time, told me that I seemed happier. Frankly, I couldn’t notice a difference outside of my lack of panic attacks after I started taking it. Once my prescription ended, I did not renew it. I had graduated from college; my problems were done. Right? (Spoiler: Wrong.)
I won’t lie; taking medication makes me feel like a failure at times. I’m not fully okay with the idea of relying on medication for my illness. I’m coping, and I recognize that it’s a terrible dichotomy and problematic thought process that I have, where I’m eschewing medication in favor of “just dealing” with it. And yet, here we are.
There are those who absolutely need their medication – please, please listen to your doctor.
I’ve thought about seeing a therapist. Maybe I will.
My family used to talk about taking “crazy pills”. Now I’m writing a blog focused on mental health and wellness. I’m hoping I can call this growth.
Control is My Drug
My family will be the first to rat me out in this instance. I am a bit of a control freak. There are certain ways that I like to do things. If I’m in a car, for example, I tend to take over the music, regardless of whether I’m the driver or not. Sometimes when my family has come to visit, I have not been the most understanding of their tourist status. In my brain, I live here, and weekends are sacred. If you don’t know what you want to do, I don’t want to have to decide. (Patience has never been a strength of mine.)
The flip side to that is that if I know I’m right, I don’t like to be challenged on it. It falls somewhere in between arrogance and the need for control.
Part of this I am working on. Part of getting older is recognizing your faults, big and small, and doing better.
But boy, letting things go is hard.
Help Incoming: The Need For Routine
I like to go to the gym, grocery shop, and meal prep on Sundays. Sometimes I throw laundry in there, depending on my plans for Saturday. If I can’t do those things, my whole week can get thrown off and I don’t feel prepared.
Going to the gym is an essential part of my routine that I neglected for a while late last year and into this year. It led not just to my general stress levels going up, but also to developing a skin condition, which caused a vicious cycle of anxious thoughts that led into near attacks. (I was not fun to be around for the first half of 2018.)
Mental health is tricky. As I have tried to emphasize, everyone is different and everyone’s path is different. What works for me may not work for you, but I’m hoping it will help. For me, the biggest pillar on which my mental health resides is routine. If my routine is off, my brain starts to take the slide back on down. My anxiety goes up. I get more signals from my body that panic attacks are incoming. This stems partially, I’m sure, from the need for control referenced above, but frankly, the routine gives me something to focus on.
Writing this was hard. It’s hard to articulate something that is this personal and individualized, but it helped me wrap my thoughts around where I currently stand in my journey. So, thank you for allowing me to do so and reading along.
If you are comfortable, please share with me what helps you, and what you feel needs to be talked about more in the world of mental health. Share this with others you think may need it. Xx