Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The thing about anxiety is . . . .

For any one who suffers from a lifelong mental or physical illness there is this thing that is inherently different than a cold, broken arm, or even bout of pneumonia. Those other things get better with treatment. Eventually they go away and you live your life for the most part just as you did before. A little more then 10 months ago I was diagnosed with anxiety. It was my own miracle to have a diagnosis. I finally knew what was wrong with me, and I knew that all those things I'd been feeling weren't just made up in my head -- or they were made up in my head, but there was a reason they existed there. I found medication that for the most part combats all of my symptoms. Some days I even feel like a normal person, a normal person who CAN NOT forget to take her pills, but a normal person. But the thing is for me this condition will never fully go away.

I know that I'm not the only one out there dealing with a life long condition. There may be faint hope of a cure "someday" but day to day management is much more at the forefront of my mind. In my medicine cabinet is one bottle with a green label on the lid that I take every morning and another with "EMERGENCY" written in red sharpie. My husband and kids know how to find the one I need when I ask and usually don't ask questions. For months now, I've been diligent about taking my daily pills, and hadn't needed an emergency one for a long time. Each time I ended up taking an emergency pill I had a trigger that I understood.

I know that I can't skimp on sleep, and sometimes that means taking a 2 hour nap instead of doing what I had planned that morning. I have to eat regularly and healthy too. I now carry meal replacement bars with me if I'm going to be out of the house for a while. I have had to find new ways to deal with stressful situations and say "no" to lots of things I want to do when my stress level starts to escalate. Sometimes when I need the sunshine but can't face that it's 1pm and I'm still in my jammies I'll open my back curtains while I still hide from the world behind the still shut front ones. When my stress starts to escalate I have a few mind games that usually help me calm down before panic sets in. Since I began my medication regimen I haven't had a single full blown panic attack until yesterday. 10 months without something that I used to live with daily. 

I'd forgotten how awful they were. I took all the precautions, worked all the tricks, took my medication, but nothing helped. For several hours it was difficult to take a deep breath, my heart was stuck in a vice, and though I lay as close to my husband as I could for comfort I couldn't stand to be touched any other way. There was no one trigger for my condition. The only thing I could figure out is that I'd just survived a very stressful week. 
  • To help out a desperate FSO (charter school PTA) mom, even though I only signed up for making copies, I ended up in charge of prizes and assemblies. People can be really ornery about  not being picked to win a dollar store prize. It's horrible stressful to try to make everyone happy.
  • My laptop was down for several days as I prayed it would dry out from a stupid kitchen water disaster. Yes I know back stuff up, yes I know not to dump pot fulls of water on your electronic device, yes I know I shouldn't cook, help teach someone to cook, and do dishes at the same. None of this helped my fear that 2 hours of inspiration earlier in the day to solve a MAJOR problem with my 85% complete book was gone. 
  • When the same laptop not only turns on, but my IT husband can save the locked hard drive and all the data, I cried many tears of joy. I'm not a crier. I didn't cry when my kids were born. I didn't cry when I sent them to kindergarten. I did cry that my book was safe.
  • I drove a bunch of family to Logan and back for a baby shower for a wonderful lady on Saturday. I don't usually drive other people. I don't feel like I'm a great driver. It was more stressful that I realized. Very enjoyable but stressful just the same.
  • I teach nursery with my husband. We used to have 5 kids, then we had 8, as of the beginning of the year we've had 11-14 each week. 11-14 is very different to manage than 5 or 8. 
So I think all of that came to a head when most of the issues were already dealt with on Monday. This morning I woke up still unable to function. For me when my anxiety is high I can't leave the couch. I play mindless computer games or apps on my Kindle hoping that if I complete just one more level I'll have the courage to stand up and brush my teeth, unload the dishwasher, or shower. Usually the only motivation that gets me going is my desire to be dressed when I pick my children up from school. 

I hadn't been in the place for a long time. Once the medication started working I never wanted to be back there. But there I was. Hit in the face that most likely I will be fighting this battle for the rest of my life. I know we shouldn't compare trials, I even wrote an entire chapter about it. But when you aren't functioning and you read on Facebook, or the news, or watch stories on TV of others that have overcome even more difficult adversity I tend to become very hard on myself. They dragged themselves out of the house to visit a sick child in the hospital yet again today. They dealt with the death of a loved one and managed to be kind to someone else today. They've lived in limbo over a job, a house, a spouse for so much longer that me. Just get dressed. But for me anxiety doesn't work that way, even if I'd like it to. It isn't something that I can turn off and on. It isn't something that will ever go away. I will have bad days at inopportune times. I will most likely have to find a different way to deal with social events with lots of people. I'll have to be careful what checkout lines I use at the grocery store. 

The thing about anxiety is....I will live the rest of my life with this demon always on my shoulder waiting for one moment of weakness to pounce. It gives me a even bigger reason to work toward a Celestial Resurrected pure with no defeat body. It also gives me a a reason to lean a little more upon my Savior and His Atonement. A more sure knowledge that He has surely born our griefs and our sorrows. He knows and understands exactly why I can't move from under my blanket before I play one more mild calming game of Sudoku. 

It is that belief and knowledge that keeps me "keeping on" and "swimming" through all the bad days until a few good ones come along again. It makes each and every one of the days without this pain so much sweeter. The days my brain works right and doesn't overly worry seem as close to heaven as I might get in this life. They give me reasons to continue to strive to do all the things I've been taught even when they are hard and I want to be contrary. 

I've been lucky so far to have the good days out number the bad. I've been able to see the blessings through this life altering trial. I have amazing family and friends, who check in on me, rush to bring me just the right medicine, and sit next to me and hold my hand when there isn't anything else they can do. 

Thank you life for continuing to go on when I feel I can't take one more step. Thank you family for not outwardly wishing I was different. Thank you Christ for showing me life can be better and I can survive great hardship with Your help. Thank you Heavenly Father for making my brain for different so that I could learn this lesson. Thank you readers, friends, neighbors, and those I hardly know for listening and taking just a few minutes to see life in my shoes. 


  1. I adore you!! The end. - Julie Smith

  2. Liz... you are my Savior and I couldn't do what I'm doing now without you. I hope that the work you do for me brings you a sense of satisfaction and not just more stress. Besides. it is 1:55 pm, I'm sitting here at the computer in my pjs knowing that I have to go teach Orchestra at 3:30. I have goals to at least get the kitchen cleaned up and eat something, that may not happen. I may end up playing Mass Effect instead. Oh, and always remember, people tend to post their most courageous bits on FB, not their negative ones.

  3. Dang it Julie Smith! You took what I was going to say! It is true though, Liz. I adore you! I always have warm fuzzy feelings when I think of you. You keep on keepin' on even when it is dang hard. We all have different trials. We all deal differently. Good for you for trying to figure out what works for you and when you need to just have a day to figure out good ol' plan B. I love you sister friend! You are truly a gem and I adore you!

  4. Oh, my brave, amazing daughter! I am forever proud of you.
    Love you always!