There Will be 50 People in My Home Tonight. For Me, That’s A Minor Miracle.
Our social life has more or less faded to black in the years I have been sick. First, it was due to my daily battles with brain fog, bone crushing fatigue and constant GI discomfort.
In more recent years I have been pinned down by intractable anxiety. When I say “pinned down” I mean it literally. There were many times when anxiety prevented me from leaving the house, or from even having the desire to leave the house.
The best definition I have ever hard of anxiety is: “the indescribable fear of….. nothing”.
That pretty much describes my last three years. Fear was the guiding force of my life. Normal, everyday situations like sitting on the front porch, going to a restaurant, or going to church felt life threatening to me. The anxiety was palpable. I could feel it in every cell in my body. I could taste it. It was a living hell.
As the fear grew increasingly larger, my world grew correspondingly smaller. My home, and one chair in particular, became my safe space. I could breathe there. I could exhale there. Ah, safety. Protection from all the demons just on the other side of the door.
Because my home was my safe space, I became edgy when others (besides my family) entered it. I just couldn’t tolerate it. My safe space was only safe if outsiders weren’t in it.
Tonight there will be 50 “outsiders” in my space. And I’m OK with it. Really.
The fact I’m OK with it truly feels like a miracle to me. Just six weeks ago, I most definitely would not have been OK with it. But with the help of a brilliant new therapist I am ever so slowly reclaiming my life (I’ll talk about that in detail in a separate post). I am escaping the fear and darkness. I am returning to the vibrant person I used to be. I am re-entering the world outside my chair, and am finding it is not so scary. Full disclosure – some days it still seems scary, but not all days, and that marks the beginning of the end of my mental torture.
This is of course, very personal, and I’m slightly surprised I’m willing to share it. But here’s the situation – I’ve always been a worrier, but I’ve never had anxiety on this level. Never. Ever. At first, I went through the typical pattern of feeling shame and blame and thinking I was weak and should just “get over it”.
At a certain point, I realized the shame and blame were doing nothing to help me heal. I also realized anxiety is not a character flaw. Finally, I came to understand I had some pretty darn good reasons to feel anxious. My body broke in spectacular fashion. It is only logical that my brain would break along with it.
It took me about a year and a half to free myself of the shame I felt for having a mental health issue, and I know my shame delayed my recovery. In light of that, I’ve decided to be open about my story in the event I can make even a small dent in the large stigma assigned to those with mental health issues.
Mental health problems can and do happen to anybody. And I can promise you, anybody struggling with their mental health isn’t doing so by choice. Nobody would choose this. And if it was easy to just “get over it”, we would.
I spend nearly every waking hour battling my anxiety. But for the first time ever, I believe I am getting the upper hand. Something has changed in my brain chemistry. I can just sense it. Anxiety is still present, but it’s just a part of my day. It doesn’t command my day, and it’s not holding me prisoner.
I’m a journalism major and as I conclude this post, I just realized I buried the lede. I haven’t told you why I’m having a party. My brilliant husband wrote a novel and it’s being published today. Further, he just turned in the manuscript for his second novel. Both are massive accomplishments, and I thought he deserved a big party. He initially fought me on it because he thought it would be too detrimental to my physical and mental health. But I stood firm and insisted I could handle it.
And I can. What a feeling. No words for it.