It has been about two years since I came off my anti-anxiety medication. Well, it’s more like I was forced off. When you become homeless, you lose all of the benefits of a home and parents, including health insurance. But, that’s another story. This is the story of my severe anxiety and how I’ve managed it.
A few days after I didn’t have my pills, I suddenly remembered how much I needed them. There were so many things that sent my thoughts through the roof, and I swore I was going to die. It was an absolute nightmare of a sensory overload.
I had to check my shoes to make sure they were double-knotted because, if I didn’t, I would trip crossing the street and get run over. I had to make sure when I plugged something into an outlet that it was in all the way, otherwise I would start an electrical fire and die. I had to make sure every single zipper on my book bag was closed, otherwise everything would fall out when I was crossing the street, and everything would fall down the sewer drain. Honestly, I thought I could relate to Aunt Josephine from Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.
I almost went back to the abusive home I had been thrown from, because at least there I would be medicated. And it was with that thought – going back to being abused just so I could get medication – that I realized I needed to reevaluate a lot of things about myself.
A few days turned into a few weeks. I was still wired with fear of any and everything going wrong at any and every moment. But, nothing ever did.
My behavior was still a little on the obsessive. It’s probably the main reason why my stomach and chest always felt tight. Back then (and now) I would get hours from my job, and I would calculate exactly how much I would be getting paid for that week and the next, and I would write out a list of things I needed to spend on three checks at a time. It created (and still creates) a lot of unneeded pressure on myself, because I am always in fear that one week something will happen and I won’t be able to work. You get the idea.
The weeks turned into months, and, would you believe it, nothing happened. I wasn’t falling in the streets, I wasn’t burning to death, and, you guessed it, I wasn’t losing everything in my book bag while crossing the street.
But, the anxiety of it possibly happening was always there. By now, I had gotten really good about deflecting the tight stomach and chest feeling by entertaining something else.
I would sing. I would whip out my phone and play a game. I would read something. I’d listen to the grossest, mushiest, and lovey-dovey-iest song I had on my music playlist, and I’d find a way to giggle about it. Holy shit, I was gonna be fine.
I was so embarrassed when I told him that I had a mental illness, but he couldn’t connect the pieces as to why I felt that way. He just didn’t get it. I was embarrassed because I wanted to fit that unattainable image of “perfect girl,” and “perfect girls” don’t have anxiety. He made me realize that I was already perfect with all of my quirks.
Once I got my life back in working order, there were many times where I could have afforded the anti-anxiety medication I needed. But, I thought it was weak to go running back to the pills because it would make me feel better. I’m also extremely stubborn, and I told myself I could fight off the feeling I got without the pills.
My fiancé has become so tuned to my responses that he knows I’m getting overwhelmed long before I do. Sometimes, I’ll be writing at the dinner table and he’ll come and take my hands away from whatever it is I’m doing, and put them on his chest and breathe.
That’s it. I’ll copy his breathing, and realize that my own had been shallow before. I’ll feel his heart thumping, and, holy shit, is that a soothing feeling. He’ll let go after 20 seconds, say, “there,” give me a forehead kiss, and go back to what he was doing. And it works. Every. Single. Time.
I’ve realized that I was right about not running back to taking pills because it was easy. There are so many other alternatives to anti-anxiety medication, and I never thought I’d be marrying the best one.