Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Anxiety, Fast and Furious

Adult Coloring coping with mental illnessThe coloring books made an appearance this afternoon, a sure sign that I've been struggling.  Even though I enjoy coloring, I tend to only do it as a coping mechanism when my brain swirls.

After four really great months, the high anxiety reappeared Monday afternoon.  The onset was quick, and I've been working through the effects of that first episode since.  The physical symptoms of a dry mouth, lack of hunger, diarrhea.  The dread that maybe I'm falling back in to that pit of despair.  The fear that I won't be all that my kids need me to be or that I won't be able to sleep again.

I should have seen it coming, really.  I've slacked on some things that have proven in the past to help me maintain my mental health - exercise, getting enough sleep, stress reduction, not giving in to compulsions.

What Happened?
I recently finished reading the New Testament and am now making my way through the Old Testament.  A few hours after reading yesterday morning, I heard Brant Hansen on the radio speaking Truth about God's grace and us not being able to be good enough on our own.  I thought back to what I read that morning, and I got very confused by how different the God of the Old Testament seems to be from the God of the New Testament.  He is the same God, so how can that be?  Immediately my head began to spin with the obsession that I needed to reconcile this or maybe I was missing something that affected my salvation.  The paradoxes of the Bible confuse me - God's judgment and grace, His compassion and holiness, His justice and mercy, His kindness and anger.

High anxiety covered me like a blanket.  I haven't felt that way for months, and the familiar feeling was not welcome.  My natural response was to start the compulsions - to continue thinking about it (ruminating) in this case.  Instead I spoke to my husband and sister, had some coffee with pretzels and chocolate chips, and chose to not think about it (easier this time than in times past), and by doing that I was able to trust God.  He is who He says He is, and He is able to change the way that He deals with people.  He has never changed, but His methods have.  I choose to believe that He is good, and that His love endures forever.  He has saved me through Christ, and I have been made holy through Him.  The end.

After a couple of hours, the anxiety calmed down and I felt normal.  Until yesterday afternoon when it again hit out of nowhere.  It was like a switch turned in my brain and I was immediately anxious and irritable.  This time the feeling lingered through the evening and more familiar feelings returned (like everyday tasks feeling daunting).

And this morning I woke up afraid.  Afraid that I was going to slip down the slope in to the major depression and go back to that place of intense suffering and extreme difficulty functioning.  The place where doing anything feels daunting.  The place of uncertainty in my faith.  The place of feeling like my kids deserve better.

But then I realized that what I was feeling were the effects of having that high anxiety a couple of days ago, and I wasn't intensifying it by giving in to compulsions.  With that realization came the reminder that the anxiety never lasts forever.  It passes every single time, and I'm okay.  I'll be okay.  And I felt better.

Frustrating Liberation
I've found that I can't handle the things that other people seem to be able to.  Being busy leads to stress which has a direct influence on my mental health.  This is both frustrating and liberating.  Frustrating because there are so many things that I would like to do - get my doctorate, adopt, maybe have another baby, join the board of a non-profit, teach more college classes.  Liberating because I have a reason to say no.  All of those extra things I'd love to do - the doctorate, adoption, non-profit - they have to take a back burner so that I can be healthy for myself, my husband, and my kids.  They need a healthy wife/mom, and for that to happen I have to limit my involvement with outside activities.

I also need to reduce stress in potentially stressful situations (dragging all three kids to two grocery stores in one morning is a bad idea) and take care of myself physically - exercise and get enough sleep.

Keep moving forward, one step at a time.

What do you do when thoughts seem to get the best of you?