One of the main medical problems I have had since living with day-to-day angry episodes from my husband is anxiety. My first ever anxiety attack was in India, where I hyperventilated. I think this was a fair response to a terrifying situation where the hotel owners were knocking on our hotel room door asking me if I was okay having heard Pete screaming and throwing things around and I had locked Pete in the bathroom because I was fearful 1) that he might hurt them and 2) he might bail out of our hotel and we were in the middle of nowhere in Jaipur and I didn’t know if I would ever see him again. I began to breathe really fast and then next thing I realised that my breathing was getting faster and faster. But then my mind kicked into gear – I knew I had to stop myself because I needed to take control of the situation. So I bottled down my emotion and put on my brave mask.
This was the mask that I hid behind the whole time that Pete and I were together. It was my coping mechanism. My shield. I am a sensitive person, I am easily impacted by what others think about me. This is still an issue for me – my sense of worth comes from others opinions which has contributed to my most recent anxiety attacks. However, during the time that I was with Pete I learnt to shelve my emotions and therefore outwardly at least, I would present as uncaring and like nothing touched my soul.
I have been in the process of trying to engage in past emotions. I shared in a previous post that I wanted to cry – really cry and get out some of my deep feelings buried inside. I have had some situations recently that have left me feeling especially vulnerable. A friend told me that a guy had shared with her reasons that he would never date me. She said that it was “horrible” and that she didn’t want to tell me. This only made me want to know even more. All she would say was that it was appearance related. I felt absolutely awful, depressed and ugly. I love my family and care very much about what they think of me, and at the same time that I had found out that this guy thought very little of me, I was having family dramas as well.
I was driving home one day in the middle of all of this, and I started to sob and this time I was feeling so vulnerable that I couldn’t stop. I pulled over and found myself breathing really fast until I could feel goose bumps on my arms. I knew that I was hyperventilating but I was past caring. I gave in to my deep sense of sorrow and sadness. I let my tears do the talking – there were no words.
I have never felt so low in my entire life. I felt like I had nothing left to hope for. I felt like there was no point to life. I asked for God to take me up to heaven, I was keen for a world without sorrows and pain. I just wanted the pain to stop.
I guess that was when I realised that for the first time in a long time I was being real. I was letting myself be vulnerable and express the emotion that I had been keeping hidden inside. I no longer have to wear a mask. I don’t have to say I’m fine when I’m not. It is ok to admit that I am NOT OK. I have downplayed my anxiety for such a long time but this latest anxiety attack scared me. I realised that I could no longer struggle with it on my own. I was at breaking point.
I ended up discussing my anxiety with my doctor for the first time. She listened to what I was experiencing and said that she really felt I should go on some medication at least for now to help me to turn my “high alert” system off so that I can better engage in therapy. She said that she felt that I had been “battling anxiety” for some time.
I like this description of it. It has truly been a battle. Some days I would be winning – I would wake up feeling fine. But it would only take one word or one situation to make me feel like my world was falling apart.
I’ve gotta admit to feeling nauseated at the thought of going on anti-anxiety medication. This surprised me. I am a Registered Nurse, I’ve discussed with patients about the importance of going on the medication and how it will be beneficial in the long run. I’ve agreed with them that the stigma is ridiculous and I’ve been the first to agree and discuss how depression and anxiety are illnesses just like diabetes is an illness and that there is no difference between needing antidepressants/antianxieties and needing insulin to survive.
I’ve said all of that and strongly believed it for everyone else. But when it came to me needing medication, I felt great shame. I felt like I should have been able to solve it and fix it all by myself. I felt weak and like a failure.
I did a lot of soul searching in that moment. It changed my whole perception of bravery. Bravery is actually the opposite of how it is defined in our culture. We perceive bravery as being all macho, and engaging in self-help – a brave person is often seen as the one who appears like their life is sorted. The outgoing confident person who always knows what to say.
I actually reckon that bravery is openness and vulnerability. The person who admits their weaknesses and reaches out for help. There is nothing braver than standing up and admitting – “I need help, I can’t do this by myself.”
Recovery is not achieved in isolation. Recovery is achieved through:
- Admitting that you even have a problem
- Accepting help: Doctors/Counsellors/Medications
- Learning how to do the everyday DESPITE the problem
- Realising that the problem does NOT define who you are
I feel like I am just starting the slow journey towards recovery. This is not the end for me. This is just the beginning. Now my healing can truly begin.
From Christy x