There’s always a way back

I’ll preface this by saying this post is going to be a tough one to write, and a little all over the place. It’s never a good sign when I can say that in the first line. Usually that feeling of vulnerability sinks in once I’m part way through a post, or even after I’ve finished. But the content of this one has been on my heart for awhile, and on my mind even longer.

I’m not even sure where to start to make this make sense, so I’ll just start with yesterday.

Yesterday I went and saw a counselor. Counselors aren’t new to me, by any means. I saw one when I was young, around the time my depression and anxiety began. I saw one occasionally throughout middle and high school. And, of course, I saw one when I was in treatment.

But in a way, none of those visits were my decision. My parents played a role in my going, and I was always closed off in talking to a stranger about such intimate topics. Even though I clearly had issues, I didn’t want to come off as not being in control. That’s how I used to be — guarded. Stoic. Unsure. Angry that I wasn’t “normal.”

Anyway, yesterday. I made the appointment about two weeks ago, in the throes of one of my more panicky and anxious days. I felt desperate, like I needed to reach out for help and talk to someone who knows depression and anxiety and the depths to which it can take a person. But by the time the appointment actually rolled around yesterday, I was dreading it. Mostly because I’ve been feeling more myself lately — my happy self.

So going into my appointment yesterday I wasn’t sure what I’d say. What came to mind was, “Hi, sometimes I feel fucked up and sometimes I don’t. Today I don’t, but a few days ago I did and tomorrow I might.”  But I have a filter, so that’s not what I said.

Instead I went into the appointment with an open mind, knowing I would feel uncomfortable. And I did, almost immediately. When you sit down with a stranger and they ask you questions about intimate topics, it’s tough not to feel that way. But instead of retreating and pulling back, I did the opposite. I told her what was on my mind.

I told her that sometimes I can physically feel the onset of anxiety, and it overtakes me, paralyzes me almost.

I told her sometimes the anxiety does the opposite, that it makes me fidgety and hysterical.

I told her that sometimes I worry that Crossfit is a new addiction, and even though it’s a healthy one it scares me to know it’s something I can fixate on.

I told her I’m a control freak, a perfectionist, but that I’m working on it.

I told her that yes, I have a person, my person, who I talk to about these things. And my person gets it, and she’s there, and she doesn’t make me feel shame or judgement.

I told her that when I think about the future and the big, important decisions I’ll have to make someday, my entire mind goes into panic mode and tells me I’ll never be able to handle everything life throws at me.

I told her I just can’t see myself how others do, that matter how hard I try, there is always a little voice telling me I’m not enough and not worthy of the love people so freely give me.

I told her I’m 24 and sober and sometimes that just fucking sucks.

I told her that while I’m proud of my recovery and what I’ve overcome, I sometimes feel it defines me and I no longer want that.

Once I started to tell her, I just kept telling her. Clearly we covered a lot of ground in 60 minutes. There were some tears, some laughs, some healing, some re-opening of old wounds. I left feeling two strong emotions:

Frustration. I was frustrated because I couldn’t answer some of her questions. I like to think I know myself well and am in tune with why I feel the way I feel. But I walked away from that appointment feeling like a little bit of a stranger to myself. Later I realized that without frustration I have no reason to keep pushing and keep growing. Frustration is a catalyst for me because it gives me something to overcome. You can bet that for the two weeks between now and my next appointment, I’ll be making it my mission to be able to answer those questions.

Relief. Though on one level I was frustrated, I was also relieved. I was relieved that I had made the appointment and stuck to it. I’d done what I’d hoped I’d be able to do, which was be forthcoming and honest. And rather than feel bat shit crazy for vocalizing the things I did, I felt understood and like my feelings were valid. When the counselor told me I wasn’t crazy for feeling like revisiting my drinking was a draining, anxiety-inducing thing, I just felt relief. It was what I needed to hear to know that it’s OK to walk away from that chapter of my life for awhile when I feel the need to. Right now I need to, and that’s acceptable. It’s part of caring for myself.

In a way, these two emotions are the ones that dictate so much of my day-to-day life, so it makes sense they are the two emotions I left with. I still haven’t sorted through either one of them fully. I still don’t know what the next step is. I still don’t know why I feel things so intensely and so deeply.

But what I do know is that it’s going to be OK, even when it’s not OK. A few weeks ago I was laying in bed daily, having full-fledged panic attacks, feeling overwhelmed by small things, like getting a glass of water or putting together my clothes for the next day. It all sounded so freaking impossible. But I stood up and I did it. And then I did it the next day, and it was a little easier. And the next, easier still.

And that’s life, really. You just do it. And then you do it again. And again. And eventually the hard things seem less hard. And the breaths in and out become natural. And the frustration gives way to relief.

And instead of just existing, you’re living again.


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