I know; it's been a long time. Here is part of my story.
Now that mental health conversation is viewed in a more mainstream way, I feel like it is time to acknowledge how challenging and scary the past few years have been for me.
This. This is the biggest fear I have ever faced. Putting it all out there. I hope it is met with compassion and understanding, as biochemical differences in the brain DO NOT mean that someone is incapable or weird or frightening to be around. I am still sweet, kind and funny, or so those who love me would say.
Facing one's fears in the midst of massive and life-altering change isn't for the faint of heart. There are times when I feel excited about change, especially when it is positive.
For those of us who are blessed with anxiety or panic disorder, even if we love change, sometimes it can be downright excruciating. As a teacher, I want to believe that I always have things under control- but in the last couple years, it sure didn't feel that way. I had been striving to succeed- it was all that mattered to me. All I wanted was that contract and a mortgage.
I had finally bought my first home and was thrilled about it. I had just received the contract that seemed like a fun endeavor. I was excited for the challenge of teaching a combined class. Yes, anxiety was a part of my life, but I believed I knew everything about it and had it under control.
Suddenly, everything crashed down upon me. Panic attacks were becoming a normal part of my day as I was doing my best to manage my two grades (one of which was brand-new to me), a teenager, a mortgage, a shift-worker commuter husband, a commute myself and a new naughty puppy. Anxiety gripped its cold grey hands around my throat every.single.day. School became a place I was terrified of.
I wound up on a medical leave and began treatment for anxiety and panic disorder, as well as some OCD. It was unbelievable to me how much of my past had been unresolved. It was even more amazing to me, when I did reflect upon it, that this mental illness had been a part of my life since childhood. I had brushed it off as asthma.
Things pop up and manifest in different ways when you have had trauma. I experienced every type of anxiety and panic symptom, from my throat closing and stomach symptoms, right down to "hiding in a bomb shelter," shaking and unable to move.
My trauma happened when I was a kid. Perhaps my teachers noticed, but I was a talker and a good student, so perhaps I didn't express it the same way as others might have. I just "toughed it out" and never really had a clue that this was trauma until my late thirties.
In the last year, I have had therapy on a regular basis and have been able to come off medication. I have used art as a form of facing my fears, and the sunshiny me that everyone sees is not what comes out in the drawing. That's okay, though, because it is no longer inside me! The relief that drawing and writing give me is unquantifiable.
My counselor and I are both exceptionally proud of the progress I have made. I have had to face tough times and decisions since going on leave last year; none of these have made me panic. In fact, I can't remember the last panic attack I had.
I still get mild anxiety about certain situations, but nothing in comparison to what I had experienced in the last few years! Things have changed in my life, and I have been able to roll with the punches. At night, I can fall asleep right away.
It can be terrifying to make that first call, but it is absolutely worth it. Peace of mind is something you just cannot put a price on.
Feel free to ask me questions, mes amis! I would be honoured to help.
MmePoulet, The Brave
No longer a chicken.