I’d like to take a minute to talk about self-care. A good friend of mine recently wrote an article about taking care of yourself in the midst of pre-election ridiculousness. Check it out here.
Her article comes at a convenient time for me. Two night ago, I had my first full blown panic attack in a while. Some background. Almost 7 years ago I was officially diagnosed with general anxiety disorder. I’ve suffered from anxiety my whole life, although I never knew that’s what it was. I like to feel like I’m in control of my life. It makes me feel calm. I know that’s an unrealistic expectation. I’m not unaware (intellectually speaking) of how ridiculous an expectation it is to want control over your whole life. I’ve always like the predictability of repetitive tasks. Sometimes I wonder if I wouldn’t have been content to work on an assembly line.
In 2009 when I came home from Peace Corps, I finally made the decision to attempt chemical medication to regulate my mood and settle the crippling anxiety that had ruled my life for a long time. I started with Sertraline (an off brand of Zoloft). By late 2010, lower doses no longer worked and higher doses gave me horrible shakes. My boyfriend at the time could feel my hands shaking while sitting next to me on the couch. I switched to Lexapro. It made me feel incredibly muted. I spent the better part of two years feeling medicated. I hated it. When I finally found Cymbalta I felt like everything would be ok. I still felt, which was important to me, and my emotionally swings stayed mostly within the normal range. The problem was that if I didn’t take my medicine on time, or if I missed day (either because of insurance issues – thank you Medco, or because I was out of town and dumb), I felt crippling withdrawal symptoms.
Two years ago I decided to stop chemical medication all together. Coupled with intensive psychoanalytic therapy once a week and other “unconventional” methods, I have my anxiety mostly under control. I’ve grown and learned how to express myself, how to ask for what I want and need and how to better take care of myself.
I think one of the most important lessons I’ve learned is to take time for myself. I desperately need me time. It’s essential to my way of life. I need to unplug, ignore my phone, and spend hours not talking to another human. I typically accomplish this by taking myself to breakfast and reading for several hours over a cup of coffee. It’s incredibly recentering.
A beautiful human posted this quote from Horacio Jones the other day –
“I like being alone. I have control over my own shit. Therefore, in order to win me over, your presence has to feel better than my solitude. You’re not competing with another person, you’re competing with my comfort zones.”
There’s no real way to express how much I relate to this.
I called my mom in the midst of my panic attack. She said something that is incredibly important and needs to be shared.
When you are in a poor mental state, or suffering from a large influx of anxiety, or having a panic attack…IT IS THE SAME AS IF YOU ARE SUFFERING FROM A PHYSICAL ILLNESS. When you have a fever of 101, are you going to go to work? No. If you are throwing up, are you going to go to work? No. It’s the same for mental health. If you’re suffering, do what you have to do to take time for yourself. Take a day off from work. Do what makes you feel recentered, happy and healthy. It’s incredibly important to take care of yourself. Reach out to friends and family if you need help. You are not alone. Take care of you.