I saw the demon. Got a glimpse of it when it attacked. Now it’s infecting my mind space. It’s digging in its talons. Icy tendrils of adrenaline wrap around my organs. Eyes widen. My heart rate spikes. My breathing becomes quick and shallow. Every fiber of my body tells me I’m under attack. “Flee or fight!” it screams! And I do the only thing I can do. I fight.
I’m frozen in physical terror but I fight with my thoughts. Stop! This is not real. Everything is okay. Everything is going to BE okay.
My subconscious hates me. Every fear I could possibly have attacks me in the semi-conscious realm as I begin to fall asleep. I’m not alert and able to ignore, defy or repress them. Liquid fear jolts me back to alert in an instant and concentrating on making the terror go away is the only thing I can do. Breathe. Relax. It’s not real. You are fine. The kids are fine. Dear God, make this stop! I refuse to be afraid! Do you hear that body?? You are fine! Breathe! Relax!
In the morning I wake. The battle is over for the moment. The remnants of adrenaline and the fatigue from the mental and physical battle with Anxiety knot my stomach, but it’s a brand new day. While I’m awake I resolve to do better. To be proactive. To fight back. I skip the coffee and drink my water. I make time to exercise. Exercise is my Xanax. I know this and yet it’s easy to forget and stop “taking my medicine” when I feel well.
The above was an unfinished blog post I wrote the morning after an anxiety attack in November. I’ve been told by people who don’t understand what Anxiety is like that it’s hard to imagine so I wanted to try to capture it with words. I found wrapping words around it to be cathartic, but I knew I couldn’t post it then, because it wasn’t finished and I needed to get through that war first. I needed to know I was going to be okay before I put it out there for the world to see. And honestly, even though that war with Anxiety started in August, November was still the beginning, and I think I knew that.
By the end of December, I felt like I was teetering on the edge of insanity, and surely my friends and family thought I already had at least one toe in. I decided I needed real help. I’d been down this road before and handled it on my own, so seeking help this time seemed a bit like admitting defeat. However, I also realized it takes a certain kind of strength to admit when you can’t handle something on your own and I obstinately refused to be shamed into not getting the help I needed, because I know a secret: I know that shame is like a shadow. By exposing a shadow to light you make it smaller and effectively take away its power to terrorize you, and so it is with shame too. Bring it into the light, talk about it, and it shrinks away unable to hold power over you.
In January I started the new year with the resolution to get well and do whatever it took, which meant throwing the curtains open to the darkened rooms that contained my thoughts and fears by seeing my doctor and a therapist.
The following is a FaceBook post I made to celebrate feeling whole again in May, ten long months after this “demon” found me again and tried to destroy me.
Everyone’s graduating from high school and college and I just graduated from therapy! Okay, that’s not really a thing, but I’m now on an “as needed” basis. After a few months of EMDR for post traumatic stress I FINALLY feel back to “normal.” It’s like the switch that activated the faulty wiring of my personal emergency response system has finally been switched off and I feel SANE again! Well, as sane as I ever was. I may even be better off than I was to start!
The first time I went to my therapist months ago she told me she’d like to try EMDR but that it might sound a little weird. My response, “You could tell me you wanted to try voodoo and I’d say, ‘Sure, why not?!'” I’d hit a rock bottom after months of trying to fix it on my own and still waking up with anxiety attacks. I knew I needed help, and was willing to try just about anything to feel better. One of the friends I confided in at the time knew exactly how I was feeling. She’d told her doctor when she felt similarly, “If you tell me I need to wrap my head in a cow uterus and stand on my head to fix this, I’ll do it.”
If you suffer from Post Traumatic Stress or Anxiety (the kind with attacks and a capital A) I can’t say enough about EMDR. It gave me my life back. I’m so thankful feeling better didn’t require a cow uterus, headstands or voodoo. This has been THE hardest year of my life (and I’ve had some doozies) but after months of barely keeping my eyes above the waves, I’m finally back on solid ground.
Some of you may wonder why I’m sharing this super personal information? Because I believe that we have to talk about uncomfortable things in order to take away the taboo, and mental health is one of those things. Talking about Anxiety, Depression, PTSD, Bipolar Disorder, etc. takes the shame away, and when we’re not so ashamed that we’re trying to hide it, we can heal it and help others heal.
I doubt I’m done with therapy. In fact, I’ll probably continue semi-regularly for touch ups and prevention, because my faulty wiring is biological and I’m sure life will continue to have stressors. But today I feel great! Accomplished, successful, confident, whole! Like a graduate! 🙂