(Trigger Warning: I wrote this a few days ago, and it's about anxiety again. Sorry.)
Last night I was afraid to go to sleep, because I'm still recovering from that medication switch-a-roo that had my anxiety cranked to 11, and every night for a while now I've had attacks and near-attacks and wake-up-just-in-time-to-have-one-more attacks, and there is just nothing more miserable in my admittedly sheltered little world than lying in the dark, doing breathing exercises, and teetering on that panic precipice. Nothing. Because I'm a wuss. Being scared scares me. Being scared of things no one around me is scared of isolates me.
I can be rational and understand that these feelings are lies. I know they are physical reactions caused by chemical imbalances, and that once my thyroid stabilizes the feelings will (mostly) go away again. I know it will get better.
But in the moment, when all is an unsettled, shivery blur, and fatigue chokes out the still, small, rational voice, it's hard to hang on.
So last night, I was afraid to go to sleep. More accurately, I was afraid of lying there for hours and hours while John slept peacefully beside me, even though he always tells me to wake him. Because waking John means something is wrong, which means I have to *admit* something is wrong, which means the monster is real and has huge, pointy teeth. Better to keep telling myself it's fine, I'm fine, and breathe, breathe, breathe.
I think this is why sometimes it hurts us anxiety sufferers to talk about it. Why it makes us *more* panicky to reach for the bottle of Xanax. Anxiety is as real as any virus, any cancer, but we want to believe it's something we can just will away. That if we just think enough calm thoughts, give ourselves enough pep talks, hang on to a hug from a friend just a few seconds longer, then we'll vanquish the monster.
But it doesn't work that way. You can't will away an emotional or mental problem any more than you can will away arthritis or a broken bone. It's real. It's physical. And while sometimes that reality is hard to cope with, it should give us hope. If a bone is broken, there are medical professionals who can mend it. In the same way, we have doctors and counselors who are (slowly) learning to mend our invisible breaks inside.
I'm guilty of depending far too much on will power, and saving even my ridiculously low dose tranquilizers for only real "emergencies." I've taken less than 20 pills per year. I suffer needlessly, convinced I should somehow be stronger.
And yet, these past few weeks have driven home just how much of my panic is caused by my Hashimoto's - by a real, diagnosable thing that's not me worrying too much, not me needing to "calm down" or "just relax" or any of the other ridiculous things people tend to say in panic situations. I'm more convinced than ever that the things we feel are tied directly to how our bodies are working or not working... so I need to treat it that way.
Can we agree to do that together, guys? To treat our diseases like actual diseases, take our medicine, see our doctors, and stop trying to tough something out just because there are people who don't believe we're sick? Can we agree to be proud of our doctor appointments, because it shows how hard we're fighting? And when we need a new session or a new medication, can we recognize it for what it is?: A sharper, stronger sword for slaying the monster.
"That's right, mofos, these aren't tranquilizers; they're monster-slaying swords. That you swallow. Which sounds wrong and painful, but that's just how bad-ass we are."
(I'm not sure this gif makes sense here, but dancing Wall-E wins all the things, so I'm leaving it.)
Last night John saw the tears as he hugged me goodnight, and after we talked, he convinced me to take a lorazepam. Then he held my hand, and stayed up all night with me. We left the light on and sat against the headboard and talked about nothing 'til nearly dawn, when we were punchy with fatigue. Only when he saw my chin start to hit my puzzle book did John allow himself to sleep - with the light still on, and the panic monster still at bay.
When I finally drifted off some time later, it was the best sleep I'd had in weeks.
Love and proper medication, you guys. Best. Combo. Ever.