There’s a lot of talk lately about mental health, anxiety, depression and all that goes along with it. ALL that goes along with it because nothing about mental health issues is simple. Times of change can be a huge trigger for anxiety, depressing, and/or PTSD (Aka this global pandemic we are currently living through). I started having anxiety after 9/11. I was an almost 20 year old, living at home, taking classes at the local community college, and working odd jobs. The world has just changed in the heaviest way anyone in my generation had ever seen, and the way of dealing with this change was not something I, nor a lot of people, had ever dealt with.
I remember my first anxiety attack. I was sitting in one of my science classes in my third year of college, still within the first month or so of the school year because 9/11 had just happened. It was my first semester at this particular college (as you may know, I went to three) and the professor was talking about pressure. He was talking about the way it was applied to all things on Earth yada yada, although clearly described in a much more scientific explanation than the one I just gave. It was in that moment I started feeling a way I had never felt. I started hearing his words and, uncontrollably, feeling like the pressure was on me and wouldn’t let up. My breathing got weird and I had to get out of there. I excused myself from class and wandered around outside until I found someone who could tell me where the nurses office was. I was convinced something was happening to me. I couldn’t focus, couldn’t stop fidgeting, and needed someone to tell me I was okay. I found out the nurses office was on the other side of campus. At that point I wasn’t sure I’d make it that far so I found a bench and sat. I’m not sure how I figured out what to do, or what was going on, but I know I ended up back in class just in time to be dismissed (thank goodness!). I went home and after talking about it, realized I was now a panicky, anxious individual who had just experienced the first of MANY anxiety attacks I’d have in my life.
I had a handful of these attacks over the next few years, all feeling relatively the same. Feeling like I was crawling out of my own skin, needing someone to sit with me and tell me I’d be okay, the “typical” panic/anxiety attacks for me at the time. They were never triggered by anything in particular, but they were this new part of my life happening every so often.
And then my son died.
You’d think living through 2 years, 5 months, and 1 day of the life that the Brat1 mutation gave us would cause even more anxiety attacks for me, but it didn’t. My anxiety came full force after he died. I was no longer in the “go go go” mentality of hoping for a cure, hoping for a miracle, doctors appointments, nursing schedules, driving to and from the hospital daily when he was inpatient for over 300 days, suctioning, alarms, feeding schedules, medication refills, administering medicines every couple hours, and trying to keep my son as content as we could while living with this essentially unknown disease. My brain was way too occupied to have any major anxiety be let in. For me, this life I was so consumed by came to a screeching halt and my brain had time to think again. A brain with time to think can be scary.
The rest of my anxiety story kinda goes like this: put off taking meds, saw a counselor, anxiety got worse, finally took meds, realized it helped my anxiety and was nothing to be afraid of, all to bring me here, three and a half years later, still taking my chill pill.
Please don’t get me wrong in thinking that because I take anxiety medication that I’m cured of all anxiety. That will never happen, because, my son died. My brain will always be a bit shaken up after going through something like that (to put it mildly). But, I can say it can be easier to control now and I can feel it coming on, know more of the symptoms, and I’ve allowed it to become a known part of my life. Although it will never be welcome, I’m more accepting that it lives here.
All of that to say, we’re approaching January, my anxiety inducing month of the year. In a year like no other, I’m not too sure how this January will be (and again, that thought of not knowing gives me even more anxiety P.S. grief sucks). But, I know I have my chill pill, a little CBD oil, an amazing support system, and a two year old who’s as good a distraction as any.
So, as much as I’m happy to see 2020 go, as many, many people are, I’m just as anxious to see another January roll around.