As May is Mental Health Awareness Month, I thought it would be a fitting time to explain my absence.
In August, I had a health issue pop up. It required oral surgery, which included the removal of my wisdom teeth. Now, that doesn’t sound like a big ordeal, but I had a dental phobia, so it was huge for me. The stress I was experiencing with the anticipation of the surgery, and the fear in general, kick started my Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) that I had under control. Even after my health problems were sorted out, though, my anxiety did not dissipate…
I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder when I was 20 years old. Growing up, I was always “the shy one” or “the quiet one.” I stuck to my mom like glue at social events, and I always made sure I had classes with friends as I got older. I always knew other people seemed more relaxed, but I didn’t realize the level of fear I was experiencing wasn’t quite “normal.” I thought all “shy” people were so nervous to be in a room with strangers that they were shaking and holding back from vomiting. I assumed all “quiet” people were thinking of all the worst-case scenarios that could happen, and assuming they were about to actually happen. It wasn’t until I was in college and thought I was having a heart attack that I finally sought help.
I was overwhelmed by college life, but once I went to the doctor, things got better. I was prescribed a short-term medication for the anxiety and began therapy sessions. After a few months, I felt life had gotten to a point where I didn’t need medication. I had acquired techniques to help with the everyday fear. For the most part, everything was great….except I started developing strange habits. Like needing to lock the door 3 times before bed, or counting everything, including tooth brush strokes.
But this summer, my anxiety became unmanageable on its own. I was having panic attacks multiple times each day. I was having ruminating thoughts, obsessively thinking about negative “what if’s.” I spent my days constantly nauseous and struggling to breathe, and my nights were filled with tossing and turning, afraid to fall asleep and having anxiety-laden nightmares. One morning, I woke up at 5am crying but ready to finally seek help.
Unlike my first encounter with medication, I did not have a good experience. What people don’t often talk about is how tiring the process can be. Most treatments for mental health disorders do not work instantly. You have to wait 4-6 weeks to see if the medicine is working, and if it needs to be adjusted. Not only that, the medications are not a one-size-fits-all item. What works for one person might not work for another. That was my luck.
The first medication I was given was the medication I was on the first time. After 2 weeks, I was down to 2-3 hours of sleep each night. By the 1 month mark, I was barely sleeping and my anxiety was actually worse than ever. Thankfully, a friend suggested different medication and after another month, I was finally feeling somewhat back to normal. I did have an extreme loss of appetite and weight at first, but that was tolerable compared to the anxiety. I also started therapy again with a funny, helpful woman.
It has been nearly four months now on this wonderful medication, and I feel almost 100%. I still have my moments where I want to curl up and cry, but that’s not as often now. I’ve started reading again, which is a huge relief. Reading was always one of my favorite things, and I sure missed it during my down months.
Anyway, if you read this whole story, thank you. I wanted to share where I’ve been, why I disappeared.
1 in 5 adults experience mental health conditions each year, and nearly 40 million adults in the US have an anxiety disorder. You are not alone!