A little reflection over the last twelve months.
Today is my birthday. It’s usually something people meet with either happiness or dread, depending on what end of the spectrum you are on age wise. I’m in my twenty-ninth year as of September 2nd, which makes me a freshly made overthinking twenty-eight year old. My anxiety all began when I was a child but my first ‘proper’ panic attack began on my twenty-first birthday.
The stresses of not completing all the tasks I had wanted to by that age all came down on top of me. There was no university graduation, no long-term job, no apartment, no savings and no partner (although this wasn’t on my list of things to have it would have been nice to think I had settled down).
At sixteen I left school, with six qualifications under my studded belt I had mentally planned the future. I’d be attending college, which would then turn into university and by twenty-one, I’d be qualified in something. That ‘something‘ most probably being teaching. It was something my Grandparents had always recommended I got in to, both myself and my sister. We both showed a lot of interest in it, including my love for playing ‘teachers’ alone with my whiteboard even in my teens, but neither of us pursued it.
For the last seven years, I have been receiving medical treatment for what my doctor initially said was a “…period of anxiety that will go away“. To be fair to him he probably assumed that by giving me some medication to try and recommending I speak to support about accessing the likes of CBT was probably enough. However, I did just hope that by popping some pills I’d be right as rain within a few days. To be fair I was a lot better within a few days, although not cured. The medication prescribed to me was called Propranolol, a drug that seven years later I am still taking daily. Along with another medication known as Sertraline, which I began taking over two years ago now. It’s technically an anti-depressant but is regularly given to those who suffer from Generalised Anxiety/Social Anxiety or OCD.
A lot has changed over the last two years. In fact, the last seven could even be described as an eventful but large… blur. Since being put on Sertraline things changed quite dramatically. I went from being completely housebound and fearful of being at my own front door to then visiting my family a twenty-minute drive away. I still struggle with long-distance travel, anything longer than 15 minutes or if it is on a motorway is a problem. But I’m getting there. I know there will be bumps, including one I had today but I’ll get there eventually.
Just over a week ago now the Sertraline medication was increased. After a chat with my Doctor, it felt like the right thing to do. I need that extra push that I’ve not been able to give myself for over a year. There’s no shame in taking pills, I’m a believer in that if something helps…then do it. Legally, obviously.
Birthdays have never been an excitement-inducing thing for me ever since I began having anxiety. Don’t get me wrong I enjoy them in what they involve. I love spending time with family and the presents are always lovely, however, at the end of the day that doom of ‘another year older’ would hang over me like a bad smell. Alas, I hope this year continues to improve.
Well, that’s something…
Last year although I was getting better and doing things at a good pace I wouldn’t have been able to properly sit with a list of accomplishments from the year before. Now, however, I think I have quite a few.
Things I wasn’t doing last year, but I am now:
Able to travel in taxis
I couldn’t do this for a couple of years. I would rather walk in ice and snow before getting into a cab, or even a car for that matter. It’s not as easy as blinking but it is a lot easier than it used to be.
Visiting my Grandparent
I couldn’t see my Grandma for a good year or so, apart from Christmas and New Year when she would come to me. She went through a serious illness at the time and whilst I know I was unwell at the time I do hate how I wasn’t there for her during that. I see her a few times a week now. I love visiting her, eating pancakes and drinking coffee is how it should always be.
Shopping in large supermarkets
The thought of visiting my local supermarket filled me with intense dread. I would walk in and zoom around there like I was on Supermarket Sweep. The faster I walked the more anxious I got. Whereas now, after repeatedly doing it I’m there all the time. I spend too much time there if I am honest. I do still get a little nervous, don’t get me wrong. Filling up the trolley and then feeling wary in case I need to suddenly leave… but the gremlin on my shoulder quickly hushes when we reach the magazine aisle. (I bloomin’ love magazines).
I could never really visit newsagents as I would fear about going into a panic and having nowhere to go. The only comfort a large supermarket brought was that there would usually be a restroom I could escape to if need be.
I’m sure there may be a couple of other things but they are lost at the back of my mind.
None the less, they are just as important. It serves as a reminder for myself today, and for others too, that mental health isn’t as simple as just ‘..not thinking about it’. If that was the case then heck I would be a brain surgeon with high confidence and zero anxiety. But it’s just not the case. I’ll maybe never been the most confident girl in the room, and maybe I’ll always question myself before I talk in front of those I’m not 100% comfortable with but at least I’ll know I’ve tried. And that’s all you need right?