Does anyone really choose anxiety? I hope not – It’s a real bitch. I suffer from anxiety due to PTSD. So I’ve really only been dealing with anxiety for about four years. I’m still pretty new to it, but I’ve learned a lot already.
A little background info:
I was in a shooting in 2015. It was just before the last semester of college, and I was working at Arby’s to pay the bills. Let me tell you, loud noises in a confined space under unexpected circumstances does not make an ideal situation. Sadly, one person, my boss, did not make it out alive.
This, coupled with the fact that my flight instincts kicked in, still haunt me. I went through a depression, which caused me to lose sleep and develop paranoia. I became irritable, forgetful, and reserved. Compare me now, to me five years ago, and you would be surprised by the difference.
But this isn’t for a pity party. Since it’s the fourth anniversary, I’m going to share the four things I’ve learned to help deal with my anxiety.
Talking about it is ok.
I was never good at talking about myself. And I’m just now seeing how ironic this blog is. But I swear when someone asks me to write a bit about myself, I forget every single thing that’s happened in my life. So being in this situation made me clam up. I didn’t want people to think I was trying to get attention, or sympathy, or whatever else my anxiety told me I was vying for. But you know what? IT WAS MY ANXIETY TELLING ME THAT. I was stuck in a vicious catch 22; I need to talk to someone because I’m trapped in my head but I can’t because my head is telling me that no one wants to listen.
Find a way to express yourself. Whether it means drawing, writing, working out, whatever – it needs to happen. One reason I decided to start this blog was to talk about my anxiety. I felt this was a good compromise between my need to express my feelings and my guilt of burdening people with my problems.
Counseling is the best thing that could’ve happened to me.
I wasn’t ready for the after-effects of the shooting. Paranoia skyrocketed, as did my restlessness during sleep. Every night I would come home and open every single door in my apartment to make sure no one was hiding there. This happened even if my roommates were back. I would also think that someone broke into my car and was waiting in the backseat, even if I had been in the car for an hour, knowing there was no one in there but me.
Counseling gave me the ability to look at my situation from a third person point of view. Though I still get paranoid daily, it’s easily half the amount it was four years ago. I was lucky enough to have free counseling through my university, but I’ve been out of school for four years now, and counseling is expensive. I suggest asking your primary care doctor to provide a list of counselors for you. I also looked at Psychology Today, an extensive list of therapists that you can sort by insurance, location, and issues they specialize in.
Medication is a friend, not an enemy.
Society has always had the impression that medication is the enemy. Heck, my own family member didn’t want me to get medicine because she feared it would turn me into a zombie. But I had to do something. I couldn’t recognize myself anymore. So I bit the bullet (too soon?) and asked my doctor about them. Apparently, she had the same concerns as well, because she started me off on Zoloft, which is an anti-depressant that also helps anxiety, and it was a low dose. We then adjusted it after my medication ran out and I got used to how I felt on it. And you know what? I’m beginning to recognize myself again.
There is no harm in asking your doctor about medication. That is their job. They literally want you to get better. And they know you’re nervous and need answers. Doctors aren’t there to judge, and what you say will stay between the two of you. Because that’s the law.
This is something I’m going to have to live with for the rest of my life.
“I have anxiety. Anxiety is not me.” This was by far the hardest thing to accept. But as soon as I realized that, I started looking at my anxiety differently. Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I started thinking about how I could help myself. Sure, I got the short end of the stick, and sure, it sucks, but it’s not going to change anything by feeling sorry for myself (which I still do sometimes). The least I could do is try to regain some resemblance of a normal life.
I’m not going to lie, it’s easier said than done. It’s taken me four years to get to this point. But craving a “normal” life has helped me fight my anxiety, which I didn’t think was possible. I’m now able to talk myself down from an anxiety attack, I’ve learned how to communicate my feelings, and I’ve learned when to step away from a situation that could trigger. I don’t have it totally under control yet, but the point is, I’m learning.
I can’t tell you this is going to be easy, nor can I tell you that one day you’ll wake up and the anxiety will be gone. I think about the shooting every day. It’s always in the back of my mind: Should I have done something more? Is it going to happen again? I can’t answer these questions. But I can start moving forward, and start regaining my life.
I hope that you can too.