Anxiety Stole My Identity, and I Stole it Back

panic

I was always a bit of a worrying type of person growing up. I wanted to make my parents proud, be popular and excel and everything. Not a bad trait if you think about it. I did hold certain things too close to my heart. Rumors, gossiping, the normal teenage stuff. Didn’t have a traumatic childhood, no definitely moments that trigger mental issues. It wasn’t until I was 30 that my world was flipped, turned upside down and I had lost everything I ever knew about myself.

I had just given birth to my daughter and also had an 18 month old son. Both little blessing, as I was told by docs, as I wasn’t going to be able to have kids- but a 2 year span in Korea as a new military spouse changed that.

I got the flutter…the panic flutter

We were stationed at Fort Drum, NY when the unthinkable happened. A month into my new position as a mom of two and my husband some how contracted a brain virus that nearly killed him. I was as strong as a superhero the month we watched him lose mobility, lose speech, have seizures, and spend way too many nights in the ICU. Long story short. He recovered 100%. He couldn’t drive for 6 months but I handled it. Back and forth to his work multiple times a day.Two he road trips to specialists for follow ups.

The 6 month recovery period was almost up when it happened……my first panic attack. I was driving with friends following right behind and my whole world went into tunnel mode. My legs went numb, I could breath, and I was sweating from every part of my body. I pulled over thinking I was having a heart attack. That was the beginning of my spiral to the bottom. It wasn’t long before I completely feared driving, I started having panic attacks in stores, I feared leaving the house for fear of panic attacks in public. I drank at night. It was the only thing that wold relax me. And I drank a lot. I mean a lot.

I knew I hit the bottom when I was standing in Lowe’s buying things for a DIY project I enjoyed. I got the flutter…the panic flutter. I went to the bathroom and tried to calm myself, but it didn’t happen. I tried to walk back to the section my husband and kids were but ended up standing in a random isle frozen. My legs felt like jello and I was sure I was going to fall, or faint, or die.

I called the doctor the next day and said I needed help. My doc gave me Ativan. Not bad stuff, but a temp fix. I kept having issues and we worked with some other meds. Doctors in the military rotate a lot so I bounced through 3 before I was recommended to see a therapist. He was a nice guy. Talked fast, rushed a lot. Taught me the whole breathing thing and worked a bit on changing my perspective on how I saw the things that triggered me. It was a good beginning. Meds still not doing the job though. So my doc sent me to behavioral health so I could see a psychiatrist. All of our sessions were over Skype. It was weird but this woman was on point. We realized that the 7 (yes 7 ) meds I had tried weren’t working right and causing severe side effects because I had a extreme sensitivity to anti anxiety meds. We finally found my combo. Paxil and Klonopin. Zoloft was wicked for me. Lost 18 lbs and was an energy boost got me back on fitness and lost a total of 42 lbs but the digestive issues and the sweating like an NBA player were extreme. Prozac was a horrible phase. Only time I ever scored on the depression chart. There was also Lexapro, Celexa, Venaflaxon and a few more in there. I’d stopped my drinking cold turkey, lost the weight of the beer drinking and started getting a sense of my old self back.

It was so uncomfortable and so scary and so overwhelming but I did it and a few weeks in I was seeing it was getting easier.

Then we got orders. The military was sending my husband to Korea. This time he had to go alone and my tiny humans and I would be going back to Florida with family. This was not what I wanted. I had routines now. A space, a comfort zone. The families hated each other and now I was going to be playing the 50/50 split between the two for a YEAR.

While prepping for the move I was scrubbing a table I was preparing to sell. I wasn’t gonna be seeing my stuff for a year. As I was scrubbing my eyes started going blurry and I couldn’t see what I was scrubbing, I went outside to get some cold Northern air and I was looking at the dogs and couldn’t see there faces. I went to the bathroom and couldn’t see mine. I went to lay down and go through my normal calm down routine. Then my limbs started going numb. I ended up having to contact 911. Yep sure enough…panic attack. I was hyperventilating and a mess.

The things I’m learning about myself would have never come out had I not seemed my missing puzzle piece.

After that day I started posting in my Facebook anxiety groups almost like a journal. The support was amazing and the group’s had helped me in the past to realize I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t going NUTS but I unfortunately was on a journey that thousands of others were going through as well. The move came and the intensity was building. How was I going to cope? How was I going to be able to deal with this illness around friends and family and be able to be the parent my kids needed?

There was only one way I could think of…jump in full speed and get the hell over all the fears I had started to collect. I went to theme parks, I went to stores, I went to baseball games, I went everywhere. I did it all. It was so uncomfortable and so scary and so overwhelming but I did it and a few weeks in I was seeing it was getting easier. Then came the hardest part. Driving. I knew it wasn’t gonna be a small trip around the block that I needed it was gonna have to be a big one and on to I-95 I went. An hour drive. In the slow lane…singing Taylor Swift at the top of my lungs, blasting the AC and literally driving like an old old old lady. Talking to myself all the way. I did it. I felt exhausted, I felt weak afterwards but I felt proud.

You have to want to do whatever you need to do to regain the person you lost and come back as a better person then you were before.

The driving after that got easier. Even faced the fear of bridges because it was keeping me from my ocean, and I needed the ocean. So all this self done progress and I still felt like I wasn’t finding the missing piece and one day it hit. How was I so blind. I’d already learned the tools and I’d been on the meds I’d played the diet game of eliminating everything that might have increased my anxiety. I hadn’t talked to anyone though. Really talked. Like shared my story, got feedback. So I started seeing a therapist and it’s been amazing. The things I’m learning about myself would have never come out had I not seemed my missing puzzle piece.

I’m now a functioning member of society. Yes, I have anxiety, and always will- but you know what? Everyone does. You can’t cure it because you need a bit of it to motivate you through life. I still have the occasional panic attack but it’s no where near the 6 a day I was having before or the attacks that would leave me bed ridden and hiding in a dark room unable to do anything but want the feelings to go away. The key is you have to know that you deserve better and you have got to want it….BAD. You have to want to do whatever you need to do to regain the person you lost and come back as a better person then you were before. Not everyday is going to be sunshine and rainbows, but every day has 24 hrs in it…even the bad ones, so all you have to do is make it 24 hrs and you get a new day. This is my story.

Anxiety stole my identity. And I stole it back.

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    I agree, we all have levels of anxiety that we take for granted. It only becomes a serious issue when a major crisis hits. Then rebuilding takes a lot of patience and courage.
    Thanks for sharing. Your story inspires me to keep facing my fears.