I’ve gotten so increasingly anxious over the past couple of years that I started carrying my “fix it now” anxiety medicine with me wherever I go.
In 2018, I was hospitalized twice after a bit of a breakdown due to stress and relationship issues. I was equipped with pages and pages of coping strategies and emotional regulation worksheets. None of which were news to me, I had been talking to clients about and training practitioners for years on positive coping, trauma and resiliency, thinking errors, grounding techniques, and self care. While in the hospital, I shared space and meals with people who had just gotten out of prison who had mental health issues and no place to go and people who were on mandatory mental health holds. We heated up food that had been frozen since the Ice Age and drowned it in hot sauce. We had structured days, no cell phones, belts, or shoelaces, and lots of resources at our finger tips. I got to sleep for 10 hours straight my first night there. I haven’t sleep for 10 hours straight in years. Staff was caring, approachable, and helpful (you would never have known it was a state-funded program), and I felt at ease knowing that I was responsible for nothing and no one, just simply showing up where I was supposed to be when I was supposed to be there. Would that ever happen again? I’d like to think not.
I would like to say that I’ve made a full recovery and it has been smooth sailing. That I clean my house or take walks or check facts or call a friend or tune into wise mind or ground myself in my senses when I’m anxious. But I don’t. I’m a lazy patient when it comes to preventing anxiety and its attacks. I’m not really qualified to write about anxiety or how to support people with it or what works and what doesn’t work when you or a loved one has it. I haven’t quite processed it to the point that I can provide helpful support like some of my friends can. It interferes with my daily activities and with my relationships. A couple of things that help me when I’m on the brink of disaster are hearing “How can I help?” from someone I trust and when another person shares that they’ve been there, or are there. It makes me feel less alone. It can be especially tough as a single parent. You can’t tap out when your mental health issues hit you the hardest. The best you can do is tell your kids you need a break (if they are old enough), and fall apart behind a closed door, if you can actually make it to a private space in time.
A pandemic, a layoff, starting a new job in a field I know nothing about, watching the world blow up and violent crime increase hasn’t helped. I know it has been hard for lots of people. I rarely go to the grocery store anymore, even though it was a favorite outing for me during COVID lockdowns. The other day I actually had to walk into the store and there was a woman pushing a cart around the aisles aimlessly, wearing only a white bra and shorts (ok, yes, I was in Walmart). Some people drink, some smoke, some meditate or pray, some exercise, some go to the store in their skivvies. We are all finding ways to deal and it’s not easy.