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I no longer recognize that version of myself.
The version from the hospital, from the bathroom floor, and from long before the bathroom floor. The version who was sloooooowly being crushed under the weight of her anxiety, the one who walked around with a pained, twisted smile pretending to enjoy a conversation or activity but who was more than likely too preoccupied with arguing with some corner of her brain hissing thoughts like run, panic, window, glass, goodbye.
The version who wanted to stay home, to stay in bed. For whom Jason would cautiously lock up all the Tylenol and Advil before leaving her alone.
That particular safeguard started happening just over a year ago; we didn't get there overnight. The descent is slow and sneaky.
I blamed my work stress, household stress, the election, that fucking garbage-haired racist buffoon, my period. There was always something I could point at and blame for why I was feeling so unsettled and unbearably anxious.
(The depression, on the other hand, was harder to justify. But that's the hallmark trap it sets: You have no reason or right to feel this way. Now shut up and listen while I describe, in detail, what a miserable useless piece of shit you are.)
Plus, I've always been an anxious person. My whole life, since I was a child! I mean, the panic attacks aren't great. Okay, fine. I'll sack up and get a prescription and go back into therapy. But it's not like I'm ever going to wake up one day and just NOT be an anxious person, right?
But then...I did. And I wasn't.
I mentioned how great it was to be at the beach with other children vs. babies and toddlers, but I actually spent our week there marveling at how great it is to be at the beach when you're not anxious and depressed anymore.
Last year I woke up on our water park day and told Jason that I couldn't, I just can't, and stayed in bed all day staring at a single frayed thread in the carpet.
This year, I woke up and took my kids to the goddamn water park.
(Sure, I chickened out at the top of a water slide line because I got spooked by the metal-hoop-and-netting structure over the top of it, but that's mostly because I am old and have read entirely too much information on literally everything that can go wrong literally everywhere, but the POINT IS: I just said, "On second thought...nah." and went back to the wave pool instead of having an embarrassing panicked breakdown in front of a teenage lifeguard.)
There are still things that are a Little Hard, but I've recognized those things and am able to find ways to make them Less Hard. (If you haven't seen the Twitter thread about depression and The Impossible Task, please abandon Ye Old Blog Ramblings at once and read that instead.) I leave my phone charger downstairs so I have to get up in the morning. I turned off all my news alerts and limit news consumption to 30 minutes a day. When I find myself procrastinating on completing a work task or returning and email or whatever I'm slowly allowing to become Impossible, I take a deep breath and count backwards from five. When I'm avoiding making a phone call (which is always, and all of them), Jason dials the phone for me and hands it over.
Small coping mechanisms aside, the medication I'm on deserves most of the credit. Buspar is an older anti-anxiety drug that fell out of prescribing fashion because it doesn't work as for as many people as say, Xanax or Ativan. But those didn't work for me either. I stopped taking the benzos because they made me ridiculously tired and even more depressed. And while they could stave off a panic attack, I didn't feel like they did anything for my particular flavor of non-stop, free-floating generalized anxiety.
(I kept picking up my refills, though, thus building up the dangerously tempting stash I took all at once. PLEASE DON'T DO THAT.)
And so, for me (I repeat FOR ME, AND MY OWN BRAIN), Buspar has been a revelation. I don't feel drugged or tired or altered in any way...just...balanced. Normal. Like the kind of person who can wake up and go to a waterpark or just to the desk in her office. Who can go to Vegas without obsessively counting the exits and mapping out a mass shooter/earthquake/hotel fire plan. Who can go to Vegas and laugh, and smile, and do things.
And who can come home and laugh, and smile, and do things.
(And all for a $10 co-pay a month. Ten dollars! Every time I pick it up at the pharmacy I stare at that number for awhile, like, wow.)
I know sometimes things work for awhile and then they don't, for whatever reason. I know that I can never just like, *dust hands* and put this whole unpleasant business behind me without a second thought. I will always nee to be vigilant against the Sneaky Spiral and the traps it sets.
But there's a clearer distinction between then and now. I'm good, I'm happy. Now.