This morning, I did my Yoga with Adriene Yoga Camp Day 11 practice, for which the mantra was, “I release.”
So I thought I’d share something I’ve been working on releasing during this shelter in place period: anxiety — and the stories I tell myself surrounding (and because of) anxious thoughts.
Focus in the Present
I’ve always been an overthinker. I actually came to think of it as being tied to my empathetic nature, because I can imagine and understand so many different perspectives, I’m constantly questioning how this person would respond if I said this, or how that person would react if I did that.
Needless to say, during this COVID quarantine, I’ve had a lot of time alone with my thoughts. From having to sit with them for most of all day every day with decreased distractions, I’ve been realizing just how unhelpful so much of what goes on in my mind is for my well-being.
I’ve felt like I don’t deserve to have anxiety, because my life is pretty wonderful, truly. I have an awesome family I’m close with and a fantastic support system of both family & friends. I found the love of my life at 17. We graduated college debt-free and lived it up in California, building up enough investments and savings from that dual-income-no-kids-and-living-with-roommates life to quit our jobs and travel the country in the RV. And now, I get to work towards becoming financially free with building an income from whatever I want to do with my writing. It’s the American dream, and it’s my real life!
And yet, I’ve been trying to figure out what I want to do with all that opportunity and possibility for the better part of every month since 2018, and I still find myself self-sabotaging and overthinking and getting in my own way. So, I decided to talk to a therapist after our insurance emailed us announcing that video therapy through an app called MDLive is covered under our plan.
In my first session, I talked a lot about how I want to find my writing niche. How I want to write something that only someone with my exact gifts and experiences and lessons learned could share with the world, and to inspire or enlighten or entertain in the way only I could, and to fulfill my unique purpose in how I can help and serve others through words. But, I feel blocked from getting clarity on how or what I’m meant to write, because I always start projects I never finish, or say I’m going to write a novel in November for NaNoWriMo but don’t follow through on that either, and that I’m constantly making and breaking promises to myself where I feel like I’ve lost trust in myself.
My therapist said, “You’re not very nice to yourself, are you?”
I said, “You know, people keep telling me that, but wouldn’t you feel like you needed to be harder on yourself if you were always setting goals and intentions for habits that you never accomplish or stick to?”
After that initial session, she messaged me through the app chat to say, “I would like you to consider making an appointment with your primary care provider or an MD live psychiatrist to talk about addressing your depression and anxiety symptoms. I encourage you to consider this, because I believe this is more than just having problems making decisions or doing tasks.”
So I made a video appointment with a psychiatrist for the following Monday.
The doc talked to me for ten minutes, said I meet the requirements for Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and prescribed a low dose of generic Zoloft to get me started on.
He asked me if I was willing to take medication to help manage my symptoms, and on the call I said I was, but then, guess what? I started having a lot of anxiety around the decision to take anxiety meds the more I thought about it the rest of that day and throughout the week.
I’ll just share a brief selection from my diary that week to give a taste of the full extent of the circles I was thinking and talking in —
Tuesday, March 31, 2020
I’ve had the thought of, “What if I’m not meant to get my anxiety under control?” What if it is my greatest internal struggle, but it’s also what gives me all the good things about me? My overthinking could be my considerate empathetic-ness. My overactive imagination could be my creativity. And my overly emotional-ness could be my vulnerability. What if I become someone who isn’t me without my anxiety?
Not to mention, my worst-case-scenario thinking could actually be my intuition and drive to somehow save the world in my own small way. [Hero complex much? >_< ] Like, when I was worried about Lincoln overheating [on a hike in New Mexico, and we were actually able to stop him overheating by carrying him to the car].
So, right now as I’m worrying about, “What if I try medications for the first time ever while we’re in this weird era and I have a bad reaction or side effects?” I’m thinking, I don’t want to risk a new issue that wouldn’t have put additional strain on doctors dealing with me if I had just waited to start them.
Also, I have no problem with the concept of taking meds in general. For example, you can measure your temperature, then take meds to reduce fever. If you measure your blood sugar levels and they’re off, you can take insulin. This psychiatrist is all, “Here take these mind-chemistry-altering meds,” based on no more than a 10-minute conversation with me and just my verbal reports of how I feel and what I think about, but maybe I’m being overly dramatic! I do love to indulge in emotions naturally!This snippet brought to you by Danielle’s Diary
Back to Therapy
At my next therapy session that Friday, I told my therapist all of the above. I concluded with reminding her of the fact that I don’t get panic attacks or any physical signs of anxiety. So, I had been thinking, “Well it’s not really negatively impacting my life clearly enough to require meds. Maybe I just need to do more yoga or meditate or actually do cardio ever, before I put this chemical in me.”
So then my therapist pulled out this anxiety workbook she recommended I get too, and said, “Let me just read you something real quick.”
She read out the definition of anxiety, and the list of physical symptoms, of which I indeed had none. But then, she read out the equally-long-if-not-longer list of cognitive symptoms. And another same-length list of behavioral symptoms. Of which (from both those latter lists), I probably experience 90% of.
So, I was like, “Huh… Well I’ll be.
I really do have anxiety.”
I started the meds last week. They take about 4-6 weeks to build up effect, so I guess I’ll wait & see how my internal monologue changes.
But, I do know that I already feel better. I think I have a sense of accomplishment just from taking steps to address possibilities and opportunities for personal understanding and growth.
To finish the mantra from yoga, “I release…“
…negative self-talk. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
…trying to control what’s not within my scope of power.
…worry over feeling responsible for managing the emotions of others.
…identifying as a lazy procrastinator.
…self-sabotaging behavioral patterns.
I’m a work in progress every day. I’m learning more about myself and how I want to move through the world all the time. And that’s all I can focus on doing.