I often joke that I started writing a blog to stay sane through the craziness of parenting, but I think that anyone who writes as therapy knows it’s not really a joke. All of it. It’s all true. (yes I just quoted Star Wars)
Sometimes I feel like people just love categorizing all the things that are “wrong” with them, and they get bogged down in all their labels. Some even have a list of all their ailments proudly proclaimed in their social media profiles. I’m not like that. I’d rather be defined by my passions and accomplishments rather than whatever might be a little off with my mind or body. Because there is plenty to label myself with if I chose to go that route!
After years of just being the “shy quiet kid,” a doctor in my late 20s finally took notice of the way my heart rate shot up the first time they’d take my blood pressure. She noticed it happened every time and asked me about it and I told her going to the doctor made really nervous, even though I wasn’t there for anything life threatening. She then actually took the time to sit down and talk to me about why that happened and asked if it happened in other parts of my life. It was the first time anyone talked to me about it. I broke down in tears and told her all about the things that I just considered my everyday crazy stuff.
I told her how I avoid situations where I might have trouble finding a parking spot, which will make me late or worse, I just turn around and leave because I can’t park. (I know this sounds silly) I told her how I start shaking so bad when I try and speak in front of people that I mumble and sweat and forget how to say actual words. I also confessed about wasting countless amounts of time going back to my house to make sure I locked the door or turned off the oven because I’m convinced I forgot and am going to burn the house down. Sometimes I’ve gone back three times because for some reason it doesn’t stick and I don’t remember I checked. And how I will avoid social situations because it will be filled with people I’ve met and I just can’t remember any of their faces. It was one thing after another of my “silly things.” And to top it off, I was having panic attacks and didn’t even realize that’s what they were.
She diagnosed me with generalized anxiety, social anxiety and OCD. So there. People often joke about their “OCD” but I really have it and it’s not all that funny. It’s limiting and annoying and I hate when it affects me. My type of OCD is called a “checker” for obvious reasons.
So what did I do about it? She prescribed me Inderal for social situations and panic attacks, Xanax for the general anxiety and sent me to the psychiatrist. I did not like the psychiatrist AT ALL. He didn’t get me and I didn’t feel like it helped anything. And of course I had a bunch of anxiety about going and making the appointments so it felt like it was compounding the problem. I stopped going to that, but kept taking the drugs for several years.
The Xanax took the edge off my OCD. It affects your short-term memory so it’s hard to obsess over locking the door if you forget about it 10 minutes later. It also mellowed me out a bit so I wasn’t constantly running high strung and started sleeping better. The Inderal was a major life-changer though. It’s the only thing I still keep around. It’s a beta-blocker so it stops the physical symptoms of a panic attack. I’ve gotten really good at mentally getting over my social anxiety but sometimes by body gets the better of me and once my heart starts racing and I start shaking, it’s just all downhill from there. The Inderal stops that from happening. Sometimes my body wants to freak out so bad that I’ll feel mildly ill, but that’s way better than the sweaty, shaky, blubbering mess I would otherwise be.
I still sometimes get the OCD attacks and even just last week I drove back home because I was convinced I’d left the dog outside. But I know how to deal with it and make sure I make that connection that there is no problem and I can go on with my day.
Surprisingly, having a child took care of a lot of my social anxiety because I just don’t feel the same anymore. I don’t feel like I need to impress anyone. I know I can be a hot mess and I’m OK with that. And so what if I introduce myself to you four times, at least I’m friendly like that. I don’t want to pass on any of my social awkwardness to my kid, so I push past it to try and set a good example.
So no, I don’t consider myself “mentally ill.” I keep reading blogs today with people referring to themselves in that sense. I’m just wired a little different. My brain issues may have been diagnosed and medicated, but I still don’t think of it as an illness, just a part of me that I have to learn to work with.
And if you are wondering what I replaced the Xanax with to relax me? Blogging and medical marijuana. For real. I didn’t want to go back on pharmaceuticals long-term and the Xanax made me too sleepy anyway, so I applied for a Compassionate Care card and have been good with that for the last year. They make some nice half THC/half CBD blends that do wonders for anxiety and insomnia. I totally recommend trying it. And writing has always helped me clear my mind of things that are bothering me. I write to get all the stuff out of my head that tends to just bounce around in there and nag at my brain. I’ve kept journals since elementary school, so blogging was a natural extension of all that. Writing has always helped, and sharing my story and getting feedback helps even more. It helps to feel less alone in your own brand of crazy. So discovering blogging and the community around it was the best therapy I could have ever asked for. Thank you to everyone who has ever read and commented on one of my posts. You don’t realize it but you are WAY better than that silly psychiatrist I saw all those years ago.
Now if only my insurance would cover my blog costs I’d be all set….lol
But in all seriousness, I hope anyone out there reading this that might feel a little “mental” sometimes seeks help for their issues. It changed my life for the better when someone finally took my silly stuff seriously. And while there’s not exactly a cure, there are things that can help you deal with it and push past it so it doesn’t dominate your life. I sometimes think of the things I avoided due to anxiety issues and wish I had talked to a doctor sooner than almost 30. So don’t wait until your mental stuff really does manifest as an illness. It doesn’t have to be that way. You can make a difference in your life, just sometimes it takes seeing a doctor to put that change in motion.