I have been Zoloft free for 4 months, and I live with anxiety everyday.
There are days in which I do well. I am hopeful about the world yet realistic about it. I enjoy conversations with friends and listen as much as I speak. My anxiety is asleep and calm within me. She may have a thought or two every now and then, but she is quickly pacified and acts more giddy than freaked out.
Then there are days in which I fail miserably.
There are days I find myself frustrated over a snide or unnecessary remark, or thinking about the future and any plans I have for it, and my anxiety wakes up. She is scared that there’s been a disruption. Within me, she panics and flips over furniture and breaks things and makes the chaos more difficult, because she’s so scared and doesn’t know what to do to make things better, so she inadvertently makes them so much worse.
She remembers wonderful accomplishments and good days and wants to be content, but she can’t contain the fear and pain inside, and it erupts before I can stop it. She doesn’t mean to cause harm, but she doesn’t know how to deal with everything pent up inside. She has a hard time processing it on her own and needs someone to talk to, but it’s not the right time. People are busy. We are currently in class or at work. Someone else needs me to be there for them, so just wait your turn. What’s she supposed to do?
She knows she should turn to this “God” figure, who’s supposed to always be there for her, but since she got hurt all that time ago, she only looks up at the sky skeptically, wondering if he/she/it/whatever is really doing anything at all. She’s still so tangled up in that old language and old way of seeing things, and anytime others around her use that same old language, she retreats further away. Sometimes, the new stuff she’s learned about grace, unconditional love, and an overall newer worldview can help untangle a knot and give her some steadiness. But there are days when she is in such a frenzy that instead of resting in the release of tension, she tangles everything up all over again. Sometimes, I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with her.
I still go to counseling at least twice a month. I am finally able to see my spiritual director on a regular basis, because I’ve calmed my anxiety enough to be able to talk about spiritual matters without her freaking out. I am more attentive to my self-care and am less likely to let my anxiety erupt all over people.
I’ve learned to talk with anxiety better, in both firmer and more gracious ways. I’ve learned to tell her she’s being irrational without demeaning her. I’ve learned to acknowledge her instead of ignore her, which seems to cause a decrease in temper tantrums. I’ve learned to tell her she’s OK even when she doesn’t feel like it, and she’s mostly learned to listen and accept this. I’ve learned to tell her that her thoughts are just thoughts, not real problems or concerns, and she lets them go a little more easily as a result.
I’ve lived with this anxiety for my whole life, and I am only now learning how to deal well with her. A lot of days are still exhausting, but I have to say I’m doing better overall. We have learned to work together instead of against each other, and it is making all the difference. We talk and even listen better than we used to, and we are taking each day one step at a time. I am learning to be fine with her constant presence and the need for more patience.
But it’s still hard. On the days I can control her well, the effort still exhausts me, and this exhaustion in turn affects how well or how poorly I engage my relationships and responsibilities. I have many days in which I know I am doing better, but I don’t have as many days in which I feel I’m doing better.
I still need more patience and more grace, for myself and others, as I continue this journey which I know will never end. I still need help accepting this and not seeing it as either a gift or a burden, but simply something I have. I still need hope that I can live with her and not hate her, even when she suddenly decides to ruin a perfectly good day. I still need hope in the good enough days and the great days, hope to get me through the really rough ones.
I still need hope that I’m doing well enough.