Just a Little Unwell

Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. The stages of grief. The way I see it, I'm somewhere in between bargaining and depression over a loss, only it's not the loss of a friend or a family member it's the loss of me. It's really the only way I can explain how I'm feeling these days.

It's like I'm a version of myself. Even when I feel "good" it's as if I'm using a different scale. Every time I compare "me now" to the person I feel I used to be I end up feeling depressed, and lonely, and I scare myself with thoughts that this is how the rest of my life is going to be. I can't help it.

My physical issues have mostly dissipated. I still experience weird muscle sensations in my arms and legs, and the heat still seems to bother me; but otherwise I've been able to gradually erase my bulleted list of physical concerns that invaded my life over the summer because of those stupid pills I was taking. I'm eating and sleeping and exercising and functioning day to day just like I would normally. Undeniable progress.

Except for my head.

My head aches more days than it doesn't. Sharp pains. Dull pains. Overall heaviness. I muddle through whole days feeling as though my brain is in some sort of shroud. Have you ever used that spray foam insulation? Well, it's as if I drilled a hole and used the spray to fill in all of the nooks and crannies and crevices within the folds of my brain...perfectly insulating all of my thoughts and goals and dreams. My determination and drive that I once prided myself on has diminished...my pursuits minimized...my desire muffled.

It's hard not to think that something is really wrong with me.

And then these thoughts that something is physically wrong become deafening; and they either lure me into a panic attack or they're just enough to bring me to the edge and leave me teetering for hours and days before I recognize what has come to be my life with anxiety, and anxiety's best friend, depression.

It is nearly impossible to avoid questioning why I can't just go back to being myself, and I just feel even shittier because I feel trapped in this version of me.

It's been whole months. I'm putting in the "work" as they say. Every day I think about the things in life that I'm grateful for. I meditate. I walk the pups. I exercise. I read. I study and I go to school (even though I find it extremely hard to focus). I clean the house and do chores in the yard. I seek out "fun" events to keep me doing stuff in general. I keep myself busy and I try not to be an emotional mess for every moment my husband is home. I cry a lot. I mean I've always been emotional, but it's pretty ridiculous right now. I keep just going through the motions hoping that this either just goes away as quickly as it started or I learn how to gain the acceptance I need to move forward. I will accept either of these options. I am not curled up in a ball refusing to leave my bed...though at times the prospect seems pretty damn appealing.

I remember when I used to understand why I might feel the way I do. Last spring I threw my back out playing basketball with Tyler. I tried to block him, twisted funny, and by the next night he was helping me get on and off the toilet. It was like foreshadowing for when I'm 90 and he's 80. It was a clear cut case. My back hurt because I hurt it with some activity.

Now everything that happens in my body seems so foreign, like I have no say in how I physically feel nor how I actually perceive it. One of the hardest parts I've encountered dealing with anxiety is the idea that I can't trust myself. I've always believed in "going with your gut" and "listening to your instincts". In all my years I've entrusted my safety to these words...these ideas; because instinctually I believe there should be nothing more I have faith in over my own thoughts.

I remember the time I was in downtown Olympia and needed money from the cash machine. It was after hours and no one was in the parking lot. As I pulled in I observed a group of three adults (late teens, early twenties) walking just below the parking area. They had backpacks and wore multiple layers. I'm sure they were part of Olympia's then growing transient population. I was just about to get out of my car when I acknowledged that I didn't see them pass just below me as they would have if they continued with the route they were originally walking. I opened my car door and then I closed it, started my car back up, and drove out of the parking lot. It was one of the instances where a situation just didn't feel right. As I exited the parking lot, I looked in my rear view mirror, and there they were...all three of them, crouched behind one of the larger bushes that I would have had to walk directly past to reach the machine. My instincts led me away that night.

And then there was the night I was life-guarding at the Y. I was talking to a guy who was in training for the Ironman in Hawaii. I absolutely respected this guy. He had reorganized his career so that he could work from home just so he could train the way he wanted for the competition. I was about to embark on a brand new journey. It was 2002 and I was two weeks away from leaving for Japan. I was telling him about the program I had signed on for. He began asking me questions about where I would be living, whether someone was going to meet me at the airport, did I speak any Japanese, what the current exchange rate was...all totally reasonable questions. I told him I didn't speak Japanese. I told him I had no idea about the exchange rate (I hadn't actually even considered the whole different money thing until he mentioned it). I told him I wasn't sure where exactly I'd be staying other than the town name. And I told him that I was pretty sure someone was supposed to meet me at the airport. I remember the look on his face. Absolute concern. He asked if I was worried about all of the unknown. I wasn't. Naive, definitely, but not scared. Ultimately, it ended up being one of the best decisions I ever made. And I made that decision by listening to my instincts and knowing what I wanted.

Historically, my instincts have been reliable, but I don't know if they are anymore; because if my instincts are right then something is wrong with me. If I listen to my thoughts, I would hear them explain how absolutely sure they are that something is going on inside me fucking up the integrity of my body and mind.

But because it's not something physical (or so my inconclusive doctor visits and tests have confirmed), then it must be mental. And if it is mental then it's not really a problem that is looked at in our society in the same way. Someone can be morbidly obese and continue to eat in an extreme manner and we say things like, "that person needs to eat less and exercise more". We don't acknowledge the underlying issues that so obviously are dictating their behaviors.

Mental health has this crazy stigma attached to it. (Wording intended.) I don't want to feel this way. I didn't choose to completely derail my life. I don't want to have to seek out arbitration to find solace in my thoughts. But it's happening.

I'm fortunate really. I know that. I've spent years doing whatever I've wanted to do whenever I've wanted to do it. I haven't dealt with traumas, severe health issues, nor loss like others have.

But everyone has their own battles. And this is mine. I've always wrote about what I'm going through in life and that's why you all know what I've been dealing with. A lot of times we have no idea what other people are going through. I don't know what the statistics are for those working through issues with anxiety and/or depression; but I guarantee that people you know...people you are close to...are trying to deal. And most likely they are not sharing how much they are struggling because they are embarrassed or they feel like no one understands what they are going through.

I looked back at my fb over the weeks when I was at my shittiest. No one would have known that anything was wrong. We live in a culture that prefers a facade over reality. Understandably, we choose to plug our best moments when it comes to social media; but maybe that's why so many of us are struggling. Maybe we all feel this need to "keep up" these perfect personas because that is what we think everyone expects. But sometimes stuff happens in life and it's not fun or perfect or comfortable, and it most certainly doesn't "fit" in a picture with some witty caption attached.

When I shared my last post some friends reached out to me to offer empathy. And so to my little anxiety support group that formed because you are all so wonderful, this song is for you.

And because I'm just a little unwell...


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