My Anxiety Story: Part 2 - Coming to Grips with Anxiety
I’m so glad that Part 1 of my anxiety story has related with so many of you. Well, I’m not glad if that means you have or have had anxiety, but I do hope that sharing it brought you some level of comfort, support, or understanding in whatever season you find yourself in.
That initial anxiety attack was rough, but as I mentioned in Part 1, I thought it was a one-off thing. I felt SO much better after that concert was over that I thought it was a just an unusually intense bout of performance anxiety, and all would be well again.
Back at home in Kentucky, I couldn’t shake the feeling of nausea. I didn’t want to eat very much because I was afraid of getting sick again. This went on for weeks. I started dropping weight.
In addition to teaching music, I’m fortunate to have a relaxed and stress-free part-time job, so I knew something deeper was happening when I felt nervous, “woozy,” and worried on my first day back at work. Driving in, I kept reminding myself that I could leave if I got sick, that no one would be upset with me if I had to leave, and that I knew where the restroom was if I needed to vomit.
Determined to “nip it in the bud,” I made appointments with a doctor, a counselor, and a massage therapist right away.
During the massage, I felt uncomfortable in my body and continued to worry about being sick, so it wasn’t very beneficial.
The counselor I had seen in the past was on maternity leave, so I had to start over with a new person. If you’ve never been to counseling or therapy, the initial appointment tends to be a “get to know you” type of thing, and I don’t remember walking away from that first session with actionable advice other than to try distracting myself when I feel anxious and to do some progressive relaxation exercises. This counselor was also booked solid, so my next appointment wasn’t for another THREE weeks.
The doctor was very quick to prescribe an anti-anxiety medication. I didn’t like the idea of taking medication, but I had taken low-dosage anti-depressants briefly in my undergraduate days and knew that sometimes you just need a little help in order to help yourself.
After I left the doctor’s office I looked at the visit summary..
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
I was crushed. I felt so disappointed in myself for not being able to handle it and get over it on my own.
The doctor told me that it would take a couple weeks for the medicine to fully kick in, but, unfortunately, she did not warn me that this medication would be one of those “it gets worse before it gets better” type of situations.
Cue the worst week of my life.
It always started the same way. My eyes would ping open early in the morning, and a wave of jitters and a feeling of dis-ease would ripple over my body. I had feelings of intense worry that I was sick, that something was wrong with me.
I would get out of bed and pace the apartment doing breathing exercises to try to settle down, sometimes for a half hour straight. My husband would ask me to describe how I was feeling, and I could barely articulate it. I was fearful to go to schools and teach my flute students. The mornings were the absolute worst. I would crumple in tears every day, overwhelmed with fear of how the day would turn out.
Some of the schools I teach at are 40-50 minutes away, and I would spend the ENTIRE drive doing breathing exercises. One time I even thought to myself how I should probably stay in far lane in case I needed to pull over.
Anytime I switched to a new activity – which as a freelancer, I’m constantly switching activities – I would get nervous all over again in anticipation. The feelings would linger anywhere from 10 minutes to two hours into whatever I was doing but would eventually go away. All the while, NO ONE, except for a select few friends and family members knew what was going on.
I googled my brains out looking for solutions. I attended webinars, listened to podcasts, and read dozens of articles and blog posts.
I did breathing exercises, went on walks/jogs, listened to music, repeated affirmations to myself on a loop, started writing gratitude lists, started journaling, tried tapping (Emotional Freedom Technique) …
Anything I could find that seemed doable, I would try, but I was on information overload. I was trying so many different things to see what would stick that nothing seemed to be sticking, and the anxiety kept intensifying.
I called the counseling center and was adamant that I needed to see someone right away. When I finally got to see the counselor again, she suggested that I make another appointment with my doctor and discuss a different medication, which I did the next day. I just couldn’t handle the way I was feeling anymore.
Desperate for solutions, I also booked an appointment with an alternative health practitioner. This individual was highly rated and reviewed, and I thought maybe she could advise specific health protocols (diet, supplements, etc.) tailored to my body to give me the best chance to overcome the anxiety.
Cue anxiety attack #2.
I’m not against holistic or alternative medicine by any means, but I had a particularly bad experience with this practitioner, so I’m devoting an entire blog post to this experience next week.
In the meantime, I’d like to reiterate that just because someone seems fine DOES NOT MEAN THEY ARE FINE.
I’m not saying you need to walk on eggshells around people in fear of triggering or upsetting them.
Just be kind.
Always be kind.
With peace & compassion,