I'm still here!
I've been pretty quiet on Sergeant Calm in the last few weeks. Anyone who struggles with anxiety and depression will relate - it's hard to talk about your messy head when things are going well. For almost 4 weeks everything has been different for me, and I'm slowly getting used to it. I'm on a low dose of escitalopram and for the past 4 weeks I have been very careful to let it build up properly in my system and to let it do it's job. Thankfully, the side effects I experienced while intense, they only hung around for a week and a half. That hasn't stopped me from doing everything I could to make myself comfortable in the time I was getting used to them. I took long hot showers, read as many books as I could cram into a weekend, lit candles, burned essential oils, went to bed early, got back to the gym (praise be!) and got back to my regular hot yoga practice. All of this in combination and routine has made such a massive difference in my day to day life.
When I wake up, there's no knot in my stomach about the day ahead, even if I know it's full of potential stress and meeting after meeting. I'm up and I'm excited about the small things, coffee and my podcasts I listen to on the way to work. Towards the end of the most recent anxiety build up I had, I was having trouble driving. Mostly due to the increasing traffic and aggression in Auckland where I live. Anyone who commutes to work here will know what I mean. It may feel like a first world problem but constantly being cut off and having to guess where people are going (less and less people are using their indicators) was beginning to take it's toll and driving to work filled me with panic. It's getting easier, even with the constant near-misses every morning and night commute.
Probably the best thing about being on the meds and the difference they have made for me is the improvement in my concentration. Stress and anxiety would just shut my brain down. I couldn't process anything properly and I struggled to concentrate clearly enough to make decisions, solve problems and come up with creative ideas (all of which are essential for my job). In the last 3 weeks I have been able to do all of these things and best of all I've started to enjoy doing them. It has been noted too, most predominantly by client feedback. I got the most wonderful email from one of my newer clients thanking me for my efforts, my common sense and my happy nature. It means more than a lot to me because the majority of work I did for them was right in the middle of me feeling like I was batshit insane. It won't last but it also has given me some peace of mind that actually I'm worthy of my position and that I can in fact do my job, and do it well. It's part of a very real set of perceptions I have that a few years ago I was told that they are the quintessential symptoms of 'imposter syndrome'. A syndrome that convinces a high achieving individual that their accomplishments are flukes and that eventually they'll be exposed as a 'fraud'. It's very real and causes someone like me to constantly live in fear of being fired. That part of my brain has been very quiet in the last few weeks too. When describing it to someone who's never taken SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Uptake Reinhibitor) I have said that it's like my brain is taking a vacation from worrying constantly. Even if the worry sweeps in, it feels easier for me to push it out of the main view and sleep, concentrate, breathe and not obsess over one thing over and over and over again. The meds have essentially told my brain to 'shhhhhh' and it's been enough for me to get some distance and some true perspective on what matters and what does not. It's nothing short of miraculous for me to be honest. It's not for everyone but for me it makes me want to fist bump the air and cartwheel down the street singing hallelujah...
I've been very lucky to have a GP who has emailed me at least twice a week to check in and make sure I'm doing ok. I have a prescription for an online CBT program and I'm therapist hunting because my deeper problems belong on a couch - behind closed doors; not here or with any of my friends.
I feel in good shape too. When I physically feel strong and I can see the difference the gym makes to my body (when my thighs and upper arms are a bit more solid) my brain feels strong. My partner said the other night that when the sweat is dripping into your eyes during a workout, it's the best high you can get. I understood that and I fully agree. I also know that during a really intense gym class there has never been a time where I get distracted. All that matters in that 30 mins - 60 mins is survival and the burning pain takes over from any other thoughts. Try it next time you do a gym class, take a mental note of anything you were thinking about during the class. I can pretty much guarantee it won't have been much. I love it, I love realising that all I've thought about it during my workout was the searing pain below my lower ribs after 100 crunches on a bosu ball.
My tool box is full, I'm feeling stable and happy. I have a great routine going at the moment, I just need to fit it around 'real life' (meeting friends, spending time with my partner) as I've sacrificed a lot of that to get myself back on my feet.
So, I'm still here, still motivated by my passion for mental health, I'm just enjoying the little holiday in my head.
At ease x