I’ve been dealing with anxiety for as long as I can remember. In high school I would lose sleep over exams, homework, and friendships. In University I lost ten pounds over an exam. My heart was constantly in my throat, my head ached, and I felt nauseous beyond recognition. I went to the doctor and she recommended anti-anxiety medication to help get me through. I was firmly against it; I shouldn’t have to take pills to get through my day or my life. My doctor wrote me a prescription but I never filled it. I was able to self-talk and get through it on my own.
Fast forward seven years, the anxiety still loomed its ugly head but never to the extent it had during university. I could control it, handle it, and even forget about it from time to time. Writing helped, falling in love helped, talking to my family helped; I was on the right path. Until my life completely changed; I went from two part time jobs and writing to a full-fledge office job, purchasing a condo, and getting engaged in less than five months.
To most people these would be considered good things, in fact, that should have been the best time of my life. Those five months were the hardest months of my life. I struggled immensely at my new job. Training was simple: dive in with the sink or swim mentality, which I see now is necessary for the line of work I’m in. It weighed me down though; every single day I failed. I became anxious every time the phone rang, I made so many mistakes, I received lectures that would eventually teach me something, and I spent the better part of two months crying. I’d sob in the bathroom or on the way to work, I’d tear up on the way home or even in my boss’s office. I felt like a failure. I was broken.
I was upset that the job I had wasn’t in my field of study, that I didn’t have time to write, that the job itself was demanding and stressful. I would wake up every morning with a pain in my chest and bouts of nausea. I’d come home from work with a headache and a poor attitude.
After I got engaged I thought I would be better, allow myself to be happy, make the most of my job. But I didn’t. I began to stress about wedding plans, finances, and who would be offended by what. My family became worried, my fiancé didn’t know what to do. He got frustrated and offended. I didn’t feel like kissing let alone having sex, I was upset, anxious, and depressed. We got into many heated arguments over it. I am not spending the rest of my life like this. This is supposed to be the happiest time in our lives, he said to me. I agreed but couldn’t get the darkness out of my soul. Every morning was a battle, every evening a war-zone.
It was around the time of my third week at the new job that my mom suggested I go see the doctor. She wanted me to start taking anxiety medication. Both my mother and father had been on anxiety medication and swore by it. I, however, needed a little bit more convincing. After work one Thursday evening I went to see my family doctor. It was dark, dreary, and pouring; a reflection of my heart. After melting down in front of my doctor, she prescribed a pill that I could take when I felt the anxiety coming. It was a bandaid that could help get me through the morning.
Three weeks later I was out of pills and more anxious than ever. This pill didn’t heal or help, it just made me feel like a partial-zombie for an hour. The next time I saw her she prescribed something a little different. It would be a six-month stint, where I would take one pill a day, upping my dosage in increments, then weaning myself off it in six months.
In spite of the side effects – nausea and dizziness – I felt like a completely different person. I was more calm and less irritable, my anxiety a mere whisper as oppose to a deafening roar, I felt happier more often, and I got tonnes of uninterrupted sleep. I had simply become myself again; my fiancé and I were back to having fun and being in love, I could sit outside with my family without itching for a fight or longing to be alone, I hadn’t cried at work or to work since I started taking my medication, and I found the work load more manageable.
Just to be clear, I’m not a pill-pusher. I’m not telling you that you need medication to be happy or that it’s the only way. What I’m trying to say is that it’s worked for me. Pride can kill you in more ways than asking for help can. My help came in the form of a yellow and white pill; yours might be therapy or jogging or self-talking or reading or screaming or a simple conversation with a friend. Anxiety is awful and we all experience it on some level but we can fight it together. Asking for help saved my relationship, my family life, and my job.
I stopped taking my medication before the six months were up. I stopped taking them before Alex’s surgery and my dad’s but the amazing thing is that I handled the anxiety better than ever. Everything that has happened put life into perspective. Instead of needing the pills I take every day one at a time, I don’t take on more than I can handle, and I remind myself that I have one life, and it’s up to ME to make it great.