That’s the culprit behind my dizzy spells and myriad new symptoms. At first, I was embarrassed. After all, what do I have to be anxious about? When the neurologist asked me what makes me anxious, I was unsure. At that moment, the only answer that popped into my head was not knowing an answer. That, and the fact that I had already dripped sweat onto the nice doctor while he tested my reflexes. I was a virtual fountain of perspiration during my entire time in that office – yet another reason he was certain anxiety was behind what I have been experiencing.
I left with a shiny new prescription for Zoloft and an uncertain understanding. What was I anxious about? I’ve given it a lot of thought over the past week and here’s what I’ve come up with: LIFE.
Our house does not resemble the organized photos I frequently pin. For that matter, nothing in my life remotely matches anything on Pinterest. It is a momentous occasion when I cook or craft or clean. These are not my fortes. I can work out and meal plan and read and discuss the nuances of Buffy like nobody’s business. I am fabulous at finding fun family outings, cracking up my toddler with fart noises, and carrying on conversations with my pets. You want to exchange sarcastic observations? I’m your gal. Need some encouragement to stick to your new workout plan? Look no further.
My anxiety arises, I believe, from my life being messy. It’s my natural state (just ask my mother). My brain focuses obsessively on things that spark my interest to the point of bypassing those that don’t. So when the laundry pile is even with the top of the washing machine and I know the requisite football jersey is somewhere in the center, I get anxious. When I double book appointments despite carrying every reminder card in my wallet, I get anxious. When someone pops in and our hardwood floors have a carpet-like appearance due to unswept dog hair, I get anxious. When I meet the bus in my bandana and pajama pants instead of that casually adorable outfit I saw online, I get anxious.
Could the panic have been avoided? Absolutely! I could have taken a shower and put on actual clothes. I could have kept up with my household chores or designated them if I’m in a flare. But I was focused on fitness trends and The Giver (which I read straight through yesterday before finally getting out of bed). And sometimes, I want to do everything I’m supposed to do. Sometimes, I make great plans to tackle ALL THE THINGS that I feel need done around the house. All at once. All in one day. All by myself.
Again, this makes me anxious. Overwhelmed. Often to the point of halting productivity entirely. You see the pattern here, right? At long last, so do I. (Thanks, Zoloft!)
So, aside from the new medication, I am reinstating several practices I’ve allowed to slide: daily meditation and yoga, regular Reiki sessions, use of essential oils. And reminding myself periodically to slow the fuck down and breathe.
I’m not alone. Once I shared the diagnosis, I found quite a few friends dealing with anxiety. Which had the somewhat ironic effect of easing a portion of my own worry. This, too, I can work with. Each obstacle in the past two years has uncovered new strengths. CEBV and RA led me to newfound compassion, increased knowledge of natural treatments and the importance of nutrition. Already, I am appreciating the lessons anxiety has to teach: to appreciate what is accomplished each day and understanding that everything doesn’t have to happen immediately. Deep breaths and frequent grounding techniques come in handy.
Mental health is a key component of physical health. They are linked so intrinsically, they cannot be fully separated. Just as I am open about my autoimmune diseases, I will be open about my life with anxiety. My biggest reward and lesson learned through this journey towards health and fitness has been this: that when I share, I help others. There’s strength in numbers, my friends.