Hello, my name is Anxiety.
Whoops. Amy. Hello, my name is Amy.
Tales of my anxiety bound far and wide. One of my mother’s favorite stories is one that tells the tale of a young Amy in preschool. Seriously, pre-school. My mom had come to pick me up from school, and there I was (apparently) in full stress-mode because I couldn’t find the puzzle piece. “We have to find it!!!” – I said with all tenacity and perseverance. I had many of my classmates in tow looking for the dang puzzle piece. Little enablers, I tell you. Though I still do not know if said puzzle piece was ever recovered, I do know that my mother ended up on the business end of a discussion with the teacher to chat about potential reasons for my anxious tendencies.
Fast forward from those formative years to my 20’s. I was still a perfectionist and people made me nervous. They are judging me aren’t they? Yes, perhaps I was “high-strung,” maybe even, “tightly wound,” but it served me well. I had finished college and graduate school with the best of grades and landed a pretty good job in my field. To top it all off, I married a wonderful man. Sure, I had seen a therapist on and off, but heck; (1) I am a therapist and; (2) I am a proponent of the “mental health check in whether you need one or not.” By the age of 29, however, the anxiety had stopped serving me so well. Though everything in my life seemed to be in place, one day, everything seemed to fall apart. I became “sick”. My heart was racing, I had a constant lump in my throat, and I felt panicked. I was in a state of constant fear and I never thought it would end. I suffered from paresthesia in my face and limbs. I thought I was dying. I went to doctors. I saw specialists. I even went to the emergency room. Nothing was found. I had these symptoms for 5 months without relief. Somehow, I still went to work, but I would end the day exhausted, paralyzed. My husband supported me, but also felt out of control, not being able to make it better.
I tried to do all the right things. After all, I’m a therapist myself and I know what to do. I went to my doctor’s appointments, I exercised, ate healthy, and went to therapy. I was not getting better. Finally and begrudgingly, I went to a psychiatrist at the behest of my primary care physician. I was kicking and screaming in my head. I was ashamed. I’M A THERAPIST! I SHOULD BE ABLE TO DO THIS ON MY OWN! (There I go “shoulding” on myself again). I was placed on a titration of Celexa and am now a certified diagnosee of Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
Where am I now? I would never go back. I have accepted my diagnosis as well as the treatment and feel a sense of freedom that seemed to evade me for so long. I talk about my anxiety. I share my story. I’m able to laugh about it. Talking about it initiates an important dialogue that honors the experience, while taking control away from the illness. The conversation empowers the person, not the symptoms. Let’s keep talking.
I am proud to be a part of the I STILL MATTER movement.