I could debate at length about whether or not to post personal history, but then I would waste more time not getting to someone who needs to read it.
I’ve suffered from anxiety for the last decade. I don’t need to explain what anxiety is, but it should be made clear there are several types of anxiety, and the one I experience is not mild.
It does not matter why I have anxiety, at least not anymore. I spent the greater part of the last decade trying to figure out why I had it, where it came from, what it’s causes were – because then I could “understand” it better.
However, why it exists, where it came from, how long it’s been a part of your life does not matter; it should not matter anymore. You can spend/(waste?) your time trying to figure out all of these answers, but then you are just perpetuating your own cycle of negativity. What truly matters is how your anxiety manifests and what you do to manage it.
When I first decided to seek help, (counseling, groups, self help) I thought to myself, well, at least there is something I can do about it. I did not know then that I would spend every day of the next decade of my life trying to ‘do something about it’. It gets pretty tiring, as I’m sure many of you know or can imagine. As the anxiety worsened, I was naturally lead to the medication debate.
It’s not so simple, you know. There is a ton of stigma that accompanies taking medication. Of course, if you have diabetes, you would take insulin, or if you have any other medical condition/disorder/disease whatever you want to call it, you would take whatever was necessary to make it better. Anxiety is its own condition/disorder/whatever you want to call it, and you can also take medication to treat it.
What medication does, though, is treat symptoms. It does not treat the root cause. Much research shows that medication combined with therapy can be the most effective way to treat anxiety, among other mental health issues. Let’s not forget, though, that each one of us is so different, so our treatment modalities will be different.
I put off taking medication for as long as I could, then when it became absolutely necessary, I caved; or at least that’s how I viewed it. It felt horrible to have to rely on something to help myself feel better. Why couldn’t I do it on my own? Why couldn’t I just control my thoughts? Why did I have to take a pill to ‘feel better’? I didn’t know. I just knew that how I was living was not the quality of life one would desire.
After a while and feeling better, I stopped taking it – typical for many in my position. I managed and struggled for a few more years and then when it became necessary I took it again for a couple of years.
It was through graduate school (I have my Master’s in Social Work), and my professional career as a social worker that I researched, explored, worked with others and worked on myself to find ways to heal from anxiety. I knew that taking medication helped me to feel more stable, but I did not want to just feel stable, I wanted to actually feel better.
I worked, traveled (the world) and explored myself over the last decade, looking for a solution to feel better. I’m thankful for my experiences along the way, as they have all lead me to where I am now.
So where am I now? It took a lot of guts to quit my job and tell my parents I was going to train to become a yoga teacher, but I wanted a better quality of life for myself. Why yoga? I run, exercise, and that is how I have managed my anxiety. It works, to some extent, but something was still missing. I knew yoga was supposed to help make people feel more calm, and I didn’t honestly believe it could help me, but I was desperate.
Now, 600 hours of training and a few months of teaching later, I am here. I stopped taking my medication after the completion of my last yoga training.
I did not plan it this way, but I spent so many months focusing on myself, my breathing, my body, its anatomy, and ways for me to connect with my mind through my body. I learned how to properly breathe.
Proper breath, in addition to practice and knowledge of cognitive behavioral techniques, worked. I finally made it. I could breathe, survive, without my pill, and not just survive, but live. Yoga is really another application of a cognitive behavioral technique — and it’s free (well, it can be).
So, in a recent journal entry of mine, I wrote that I felt proud to have stopped taking medication. I recalled writing 6 years prior that I was proud I started taking medication. What? So I was proud to start, and now I feel proud to stop? How am I feeling proud for profoundly different things?
I know now that those two things were not actually different. Both were efforts to make my life better, to improve my overall health and mental health, and quality of life. I had to experience the ‘guilt’ or ‘weakness’ of taking medication, of feeling like I was cheating, experience the struggle and challenge all of that time, or I would not be where I am now.
It no longer matters why I have anxiety, where it came from, how ashamed I felt to take medication or how proud I feel to stop. What matters is that I am here, working with others, to try to get to a place where they too can feel that it no longer matters – because you just are, the way you are, and that’s okay.
It’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to not need help. Everyone’s okay is different.
Whatever your dilemma is, there are 2 answers: one will keep you right where you are, and the other will take you to where you didn’t know you could be. When you make that choice, believe in what you’re doing, and make it because it’s your choice, not someone else’s.
I don’t know how long I will be able to not take medication for, but I do know that as long as I am able to properly breathe, there is a way for me to manage.
Oh, maybe this will help 🙂