I ran out of anxiety medication recently. Not until the last pill was gone did it occur to me that I had no refills left, so the pharmacy had to reach out to my doctor. I went three, maybe four days without a pill. Several weeks later, I am still feeling the repercussions of those missed doses.
I heard a segment on This American Life podcast recently where a woman described going off an anti-psychotic she’d been on for as long as she could remember. She hadn’t ever experienced psychosis, but took the medicine to control intense feelings that put her in danger. But it numbed her out. Because she felt she now had the tools to better deal with those feelings, she started tapering off the medicine. She was curious to find out who she was without that pill.
Like her, I’ve been discovering different versions of myself lately as the medicine, or lack thereof, messes with my head. But how do I know which of my thoughts are really me? The serotonin in my brain is still rebalancing, so I’ve been flooded with unusual amounts of stress. But even during normal times on the meds, I still get anxious. So I don’t know what thoughts and what symptoms are from my typical anxiety, which ones are from the withdrawal, or which ones are just me.
Last week I became extremely worried about a small role I’d agreed to serve in for my church. My gut had told me that I wasn’t good at that sort of thing, but I said I’d do it because I thought it would be a good way to serve. Later, I freaked out and wondered why I didn’t listen to my gut. But where does that voice come from, anyway? Anxiety? Laziness? Or an honest assessment of my abilities? I know Christians who get certain gut feelings and are pretty sure they’re from the holy spirit. I wish I could believe my gut like that.
I’m getting good feedback at work and might take on some new responsibilities. But I worry a more customer-facing role could be tougher on my mental health. Should I listen to anxiety to protect myself from further stress? Or should I believe in myself more? My husband gets stressed about a new kind of therapy he offers. But he challenges himself to do it anyway, and he grows and gets better at it. I tried challenging myself to be a youth leader once, but I gave up halfway through the year because it started stressing me to tears every week.
I’ve been more forgetful, passive, and testy with my husband these past few weeks. When he points it out, I try not to be defensive. I try not to blame it on the pills or the anxiety. I want to take responsibility for my actions. But it’s tough when my moods feel beyond my control. Sometimes I try mindfulness, but mindfulness is hard when my mind is saying horrible things about me. I’d rather drown out the thoughts with distractions, but that makes me feel worse in a different way.
Having anxiety is like looking in a warped funhouse mirror. Sometimes the reflection I see says “FAILURE” over it. Sometimes it’s merely a distortion. But it’s hard to know what I really look like. I’m better now at discerning when not to believe what the mirror tells me. It took a couple decades to even realize that the mirror wasn’t the truth. Still, even when I look away, the mirror’s false messages linger in my chest.
I’ve done the women’s retreat thing where I pray to combat the lies that I believe about myself or that the enemy tells me. I even gave a talk once to a summer camp. I read the kids some dark lines I wrote in my high school journals when my low self-esteem ran unchecked. I asked them, “Does what I just read sound like the truth to you?” They shook their heads, and then I held up the Bible. “This is the book that says the truth about you.” I read some verses about being chosen, about being God’s workmanship. A lot of kids said it really helped. Yet here I am, struggling again to know which words to listen to.
Soon my brain chemistry will rebalance and I’ll feel more stable. But I still wonder who I’d be without this medicine. Even more, I wonder who I’d be without anxiety. Is it part of me because it controls so much about how I approach the world? Or is it a negative force to be overcome? Part of mindfulness is accepting that I might always be anxious and letting the stress happen without fighting it. I’m trying to embrace that. I’m trying to hold onto me through it all.
Photo credit: Flickr user Benjamin White (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Laura graduated from Calvin in 2015 with a degree in art and writing. She lives in Toronto, Ontario, with her husband Josh and dog Rainy. She works as an IT support analyst and enjoys painting, rock climbing, and exploring the city.
I will pray for you regularly. I had some serious mental health issues for years, but in my forties God healed me of both of them at the same moment. I had disashoctive disorder and clinical depression.
I hope and pray that you would understand how important you are, sharing your journey, bearing your soul and being honest about your mental health issues.
Being open and honest with yourself helps the people that love you, be more aware of your struggles.
I pray getting back on your meds will get you back on a postive path.
God has given a gift of expression and a talent for writing, we your friends are hear to encourage and left you in prayer.