What I’m Struggling With Still

Sometimes I look at my life, almost like an outside observer would, and I am struck with how different it looks from life three years ago. Sure, I’ve had a baby since then, but that’s not the difference I’m referring to, although it definitely has changed things.

Three years ago, I was at the same job. I was married to the same person, living in the same house. Sure, I didn’t have a baby yet and I traveled a lot more (because I didn’t have a baby yet). But, other than that, my life, to an outsider, probably looks the same.

But three years ago, I had crippling anxiety. I had suffered with it for years. And more years. And I was feeling a sense of hopelessness that this was as good as it was going to get, that this was something I’d always have to battle. It was more than just the occasional, situational anxiety. It pretty much affected everything. Every day. It was my greatest battle, to try to not let it totally consume me and run my life.

Hallelujah, that has changed.

My days aren’t perfect now. There’s stress and exhaustion and lack of time and lack of energy.

But, there is no crippling anxiety.

I am so grateful. In fact, tears fill my eyes as I type these words because, when I write about it, or talk about it, or think about it, I remember how bad it once was and I’m filled with gratitude for the healing that’s taken place within me.

It’s been a long road. You can look back at previous posts to see what my journey with anxiety looked like and what my most recent game changers were.

However, I thought it might be helpful to share what I’m still struggling with today. It might not be panic attacks or intrusive thoughts or nausea. It may not make it difficult to function, the way my anxiety once did, and maybe “struggling” is the wrong word, but it’s something I still want to work on. It’s something I’m still investigating.

Number 1: People pleasing.

Number 2: Medication guilt.

Let’s start with people pleasing. It’s become sort of a buzzword, but I promise you I struggled with it before it became a “thing” people make infographics about on Instagram or film reels on TikTok.

I really, really don’t like disappointing people. I prefer to instead, tell them what they want to hear, or sacrifice my own wants/needs, and then resent them later for it. This is further complicated by the fact that I am a very good judge of character. I can read a room. I can usually tell what someone is feeling and I change my own behavior in ways to accommodate how others are feeling.

You may already know this, but people pleasing is exhausting. Inevitably, frustration and resentment will build up, but because I’m a people pleaser, I won’t tell the person that that’s what I’m feeling. No, I’ll stew on it or vent to someone else.

These are not healthy behaviors. They’ve contributed to my anxiety in the past for sure and, although I’ve addressed a lot of my unhealthy behaviors that contributed to my struggle with anxiety, this one, people pleasing, is one I still haven’t gotten under control.

Number 2: Medication guilt.

I take Zoloft. I started taking it in 2020. It’s been a journey, but I can officially say now, it helped me tremendously.

I’m actually not sure I wanted it to help me at first. I fought with my Doctor about taking it, hemming and hawing. Then, the side effects. It took almost a full year for my body to adjust and for me to find the right dosage.

But then there was a shift. It started out mild. But slowly, I noticed I was able to cope better with stress.

And now, like I said above, night and day. I can get through the day without thinking about my anxiety flaring up. Spontaneous plans can be made now. I can carpool without freaking out about having a panic attack and not being able to leave on my own. I can sit through work meetings without breaking out in hives. I never worry about getting nauseous or throwing up anymore (used to be a huge fear of mine).

There are many factors that contributed to my freedom and healing, but Zoloft is no doubt one of the most influential.

Here’s the thing though, I wish it weren’t. I am working through these feelings, but I am ashamed that Zoloft helped me so much.

Medication guilt. Where does it come from? Well, from myself, for one. My own values and beliefs. My pride. I wish I could have just gotten to this place on my own, i.e. medication free.

I think it comes from the church too. There’s this idea that if you have faith and you truly trust God with your life, you will not be anxious. You just need to give God your worries. A part of me does believe this. It worked for me in the past. In High School, when I first experienced panic attacks, I clung to my bible and quoted scripture and the panic attacks did eventually subside. But I couldn’t shake the anxiety this time around, and that plagues me still. Did I not have enough faith? Did I not trust God enough to face fear?

The alternative health realm is another culprit to blame for medication guilt. Meditation and exercise and diet and going to the chiropractor and hypnosis and acupuncture, blah blah blah (not to say I tried all of these) should all be enough to help calm your nervous system down and fully heal anxiety. You should be able to use your breath to calm down the anxiety raging inside you. It’s this idea that Western medicine just masks symptoms and that you’re not dealing with the root of the issue if you turn to pharmaceuticals for help.

I don’t have all the answers as to why the Zoloft works for me. I don’t know why I couldn’t overcome anxiety without meds this time around. There is so much guilt there.

All I can say is, everybody’s healing looks different. As far as the guilt goes, I’m trying to give it to God. I don’t think He is disappointed in me for taking Zoloft. I thank Him every day for it, for Western medicine, for wise Counselors and Doctors.

As a practicing Christian, I ask the Holy Spirit to work in my heart, to continue to mold me and shape me, to heal the parts of myself that need to change (i.e. people pleasing and resentment and pride). I ask Him to help me to let go of the guilt I feel and I ask Him to help me trust Him with the journey He has placed me on, which right now includes Zoloft.

He is working in me. These are the struggles today. There will be different ones down the road.

This side of heaven.

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