Today is February 11, 2016.
Exactly a year ago, I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Twelve months ago, my life took a turn that I didn’t see coming. 365 days ago, my life created itself a new normal.
At the beginning of February 2015, my life was going far from smooth. Nothing seemed to be going right, and I never seemed to be able to keep myself under control. What felt like heart attacks – I came soon to learn that they were panic attacks – would hit me like a train, at first every once in awhile, but soon, daily. I’d start shaking, I’d stop breathing, I’d start feeling my heart race 10 times faster than a heart should ever go. I’d vomit, even if I had nothing to eat that day, and if I was lucky enough to sleep at night, I’d be awoken constantly by what felt like piercing nightmares. I’d feel like I was mentally drowning in an ocean, unable to keep my head above the water. The worst part? I had no idea why this was happening to me; I had no idea how to control myself.
Today, I still have panic attacks. But my panic attacks are completely different than they were one short year ago. In this last year, I have come to learn so much more about my mental illness, and about myself. I take medication, I do breathing exercises, I talk myself down from panics and I find myself bringing my emotions out from my head onto paper with a pen or a paintbrush. I understand how I react in situations – on good days, I can sense what kind of panic I’m about to go into and am able to mediate myself out of it. While I am not and never will be perfect, each and every day I am choosing to learn to breathe, to know that I am safe, and to remember my worth.
I’ve learned that I’m terrible in transition, that I’m terrible with change. That when I go from home to school or school to home, I find myself saddened. That the hardest parts of this last year have been changing my major, stepping down from a leadership position, applying to (and accepting) a job out of state, and realizing the fact that not everyone will play the same role in my life forever. I’ve learned that a walk alone does wonders for my soul, and that there are two trees and one baseball field that have become my saving grace. I’ve learned that silence is deafening to me, but music helps me find a way out of the constant dominoes falling in my head. I’ve learned that it is always okay to cry, but that some people and some things are not worth my beautiful tears. I’ve learned that I struggle when I am not in control of situations, but I’ve also learned that His plan is not for me to understand.
Every night, before I go to bed, I open an orange bottle and take one little white pill [sometimes two, if I know I need it] and set it in the palm of my hand. A year ago, when this pill first laid in my hand, I felt consumed by it, I couldn’t imagine a day where I could handle myself to the point of being stronger than a pill. Today, when I look at that very pill, I feel different. I know that while this pill is here today, and it’ll be here tomorrow, it won’t always. That I am strong and I am wonderful and I do not need a pill to make me who I am, but I am lucky for this little medication that balances out my brain’s chemicals and helps me live my life. I know that one day, whenever that day may be, I will take that pill for the last time.
While the road is long, and I still find myself curled in a little ball in tears, it’s different now. It’s different because there is hope. It’s different because there is understanding, both by me and from others. It’s different because this is my life, and I’ve had to learn to take the wheel whether I wanted to or not. When I find myself shaking, I remind myself to stand back up again. When I find myself questioning, I turn to the dozens of people that have my back who reassure me of my worth in this world. When I start to feel uneasy, I call up one or both of my counselors, and I trust that they have my best intentions at heart. When I doubt who I am, I look straight to the Lord and straight into the mirror and hear Him say “Just be yourself, Em.”
While my diagnosis today may be the same, I’m not. I’m stronger. I’m proud of who I am, I’m proud of what is a part of me. I’m aware of my worth as a human, as a twenty two year old girl, as a college student, as me. I am nowhere near finished in this fight, but I will never stop fighting for myself and for those around me who need it the most.