It started in my early twenties when I found that I was often short of breath. I thought maybe I had asthma but it turns out it was good old fashioned nerves. For many years I controlled it with yoga. Lots of yoga. Like 2-hour classes three times a week and a lot of walking up and down the hills in San Francisco.
But then I had kids.
And I stopped doing so much yoga and stopped sleeping well and just generally wasn’t able to take such exquisite care of myself anymore. And then one of those kids started having seizures at 12 months old. Each episode was traumatic. At my first public speaking gig (and first time away from my baby) I had a full blown panic attack. It was terrible and horrible and lasted 3 days. By the time I returned home, I felt like a bulb that had burned too bright and shattered into a thousand pieces.
I also knew a door had been opened. Something was possible that wasn’t possible before — panic.
If this has happened to you, you know what I am talking about. And my sense that a door was opened? is actually scientifically pretty accurate. As my panic attacks and anxiety have snowballed this year, my doctor told me that this is a conditioned response by the brain. The more you have them, the more your brain wants to have them.
For the last 3 months I have worked with an integrative physician to find a solution that doesn’t involve pharmaceuticals. I have been downing a whole arsenal of vitamins and supplements, hiking nearly every day and eating well. I was feeling great! Until a few weeks ago when I had another attack. I was doing something completely ordinary — google-mapping a birthday party in Oakland — when I suddenly collapsed on the floor, pure fear and adrenal surging through my body. I have been plagued with almost constant anxiety since.
I just can’t take it anymore.
My brave move
My brave move last week was to call my doctor and asked for a prescription. For an anti-depressant. Zoloft to be exact.
The more I open up about this, the more I realize how many of us are suffering from anxiety and depression. I used to think it was a flaw of my character — neurotic, too sensitive, easily overwhelmed, no fun, bad mother. The judgments would come in a steady stream at the hardest moments. Why can’t you just be a normal person like everybody else? is another one of my favorite ways to beat myself up. But now I see that this is an overwhelming world we live in. And if you’re highly sensitive like me? It can be too much. Parenting can feel like too much. Leaving the house can feel like too much.
I keep wanting to write this story from the other side of it. I took the drugs and it was the best thing I ever did. I can’t believe I let myself suffer for so long. But that remains to be seen. I am still living inside this story.
It takes courage
I am grateful for the Cultivating Courage class where we are doing one brave thing each day for 30 days. Without that class I might not have recognized this choice as courageous.
But of course it is.
It takes courage to ask for help. It takes courage to share our vulnerability, especially in a world that views it as a weakness. It takes courage to go down the path you didn’t want to take. It takes courage to act with self-compassion, to not make yourself wrong for what you need, but to simply ask yourself in the kindest way- what can I do that will help?
I did not want to do it this way. I’m one of those people who doesn’t even like to take Advil for a headache. I’m also one of those people that is so high functioning you would never know that they were depressed or anxious. But here I am, knowing that the bravest move I can make is to get help.
And I’m hopeful that this is just the right help I need. Just the right medicine.