It’s time for some truth-telling re: anxiety, depression and self-image  

 

I’ve spent the majority of today feeling like I am crawling out of my own skin. I’ve been restless and bored, unable to concentrate well. I’m unsure why, but in feeling those things I realized something: It’s been awhile since I’ve written what’s on my heart. It seems like so much of the writing I do these days is work-related. I’ve been writing because I have to, not because I want to.

But today I want to. Today I want to take the time to put it all out here, to be honest. And being honest means being vulnerable and real, because that’s the only way I’ve learned to be in these past few years.

Those of you who know me well know that I’ve battled depression and anxiety most of my life. Sometimes these disorders grab hold of me and drag me into a dark place, and sometimes I forget they even exist.  

Earlier this year I’d forgotten they existed, for the most part. Things were going really well, and I began to think “What if?” What if I tried to stop taking my antidepressants? What if I gave it a shot to see if I could feel normal without medication? What if I’d grown out of anxiety and depression?

So, in June I consulted with a doctor and decided to come off of my Zoloft. It’s important to point out that at this time I was probably 175 pounds and very unhappy with my appearance, something that affected me more than I realized until just recently. I knew that coming off Zoloft could potentially result in weight loss, which was another motivating factor in giving life a shot without antidepressants.

Coming off of Zoloft was no picnic, even though I lowered my dosage slowly. I experienced pretty strong brain zaps, as well as some dizziness and blurred vision — all of which I knew were normal, so I pushed through. Eventually I was able to come completely off the medication. I didn’t feel any differently, which I took as a good sign.

The months passed, and summer turned to fall, my favorite season. I still hadn’t lost weight, which was a slight disappointment. But overall I was still happy to be off antidepressants and still feeling normal.

As winter set in, I started to notice some feelings of sadness arising — typical when the weather changes to dark, cold and dreary. I chalked it up to that. But I also started immensely disliking the reflection I saw in the mirror. I hated that I couldn’t stick to working out or eating well, and it started taking a toll on me. I felt defeated, like my body was betraying me in a way.

And one day in November, it came to a head. I don’t remember the exact moment I realized I needed to make a change in my life, but I knew it deep inside. I’d known it for awhile, I’d just been too scared to take the step.

It feels important to note that I’ve always been an intense person. I feel things deeply, wholly, and I react to them the same way. It’s why I write, why I enjoyed drinking, why rugby was a good fit for me. I feel alive when there’s intensity in my life and my soul.

Enter Crossfit. Yes, I’ve written about this recently. Yes, I’ve made it clear that it’s a passion. But I haven’t really dug beneath the surface as to why I walked through those doors on November 28.

The truth is that I did so because I was feeling broken. Tense. Uneasy. Stressed out. Done. I wanted to feel something deeply, to fall in love with something new, and I knew that Crossfit could be the answer. I expected to come away from my first class feeling uneasy, nervous and tired. But what happened was the opposite. I walked out those doors feeling like I’d found a missing piece. I felt refreshed, ready, hopeful, strong. I came back the next day. And the next. And the next.

For 90 days, I’ve continued walking through those doors. The person walking out today isn’t the same person who walked in. Yes, today I can see muscles I didn’t know I had. Yes, today I’ve made it through some workouts I didn’t think possible, mentally and physically. Yes, today I am 20 pounds lighter. But the weight I’ve shed is more than physical. My whole being feels lighter, as if lifting some weights and making some new friends has ridded me of most of the heaviness that was dragging me down.

I see myself differently today. Physically, yes. But mentally, too. I have more clarity.

Crossfit has been an antidepressant of sorts, but that doesn’t mean things have been perfect. When I’m not at the box, I’ve been struggling — particularly in the last month. I’ve felt the familiar tug of sadness, not for any particular reason. My anxiety has been causing me to play out scenarios that aren’t even close to being reality.

And so I made a choice. Because my mind is clear, because I know it’s OK, because I know there’s no shame, because I owe to myself to be the best version of myself, I started taking my antidepressants again.

I know there’s no weakness in this choice, but I struggled with it a little bit. When you suffer from depression and anxiety, all you want is to feel normal, to shut out those feelings reminding you you aren’t.

But in retrospect, normal has never been my thing. I mean really, I got sober at age 20. That is far from normal, yet it has been the biggest blessing in my life. Not feeling normal was the reason I took to writing. It was the catalyst for walking through the doors to Crossfit Repo.

The good — no, the best — parts of my life have never come out of normalcy. And that’s something I am finally at peace with. It doesn’t mean every day is easy and happy and shiny and bright. Far from it, in fact. But today I can sit with emotions. I can talk through them. I can confide in people. I can be blatantly honest without fear of rejection.

Today I can be OK with not always being OK.

 

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