If I checked my list again. If I could mark something else off my list, if I was busy enough to be distracted, if I took care of it rather than letting the kids or my husband . . . then maybe I could outrun the anxious thoughts that filled my head.
For years being busy and control was the drug to my anxiety. If I was in control maybe I wouldn’t be so anxious. And like any drug it’d be a quick fix for a time. But then the spinning out of control would start again. So I’d look for a way to take control and I’d pack our schedule. If I had little time to do anything else besides sleep maybe it’d keep the shadows that stalked the edge of my conscience at bay.
This is just the way I am, I’d keep telling myself. Society didn’t buy mental illness as a chronic or real illness like it did Crohns, diabetes, or even Alzheimer’s, the disease we all recognized that attacked the brain. But the anxiety was like a traffic jam of constant chaotic thoughts that instead of clearing over time were just creating an even longer delay to getting back to living my life the way I wanted.
Just as you sit in traffic, getting more and more irritated as you wait for everything to clear so you can get on with your day, the anxiety mounted my rage and irritation. Any little thing at times could set me off. The rage that comes with anxiety is no joke. You don’t even see if for what it was at first. You’re stuck with nowhere to go just like in that traffic jam you sit in on the way to work, and you have to let the emotions of frustration out—so time and time again, something small or insignificant may set you off to give you a bit of a release of your frustrations for the moment.
At some point, I realized the busyness and control was not helping my anxiety. Though it may help me in the moment for a quick fix, it hurt those around me at times. When the constant anxious thoughts were crowding my mind more and more, leaving me less and less moments of peace, I knew I couldn’t take it any longer. I consented after years of saying nothing was wrong with me to finally giving medicine a try.
I held out for so long because society says, “I don’t have a health problem.” I was influenced to believe mental health struggles were a personal weakness of some kind. To surrender to taking medicine to help would be to acknowledge I was weak or couldn’t manage my own life.
But within a month, I realized taking that medicine was like realizing you didn’t have to make your life more difficult by taking that same traffic-jammed route to work every day. I could choose a different route and different choice to make my life easier. It was like the traffic cleared out of my head. I think the most surprising thing was how much easier I could focus and concentrate on things. I noticed things didn’t set me off as easily. I could relax without feeling like I needed to be doing something every constant moment I was awake. It was like the traffic finally cleared out of my head and the road was wide open with a new clarity of possibilities ahead.