Smooth Sailing?

After practically a lifelong battle with anxiety, the last several years have been a really lovely hiatus from fear. I think mostly because I finally gave medication a try and although it wasn’t an easy decision nor an easy adjustment (re: side effects), I do think it’s worked wonders on my overall anxiety.

I am so grateful for the shift that’s taken place. It wasn’t overnight but little by little I found myself able to face fears that seemed insurmountable for a long time. My stomach issues started to resolve. Phobias lost their hold on me. I stopped needing to rely on Ativan to calm myself down in certain situations. Anticipatory anxiety no longer plagued me for days leading up to an event. I felt hopeful. I was able to do “normal” things that once would have caused me great angst, without really a second thought.

I was beginning to think I was invincible.

I worked really hard for really long before trying medication. Prayer, Therapy, Exercise, Diet changes (bye bye caffeine), Meditation, Exposure Therapy (i.e. facing fears), etc. It all helped, some things more than others, but anxiety was still a major struggle for me. It was still the thing that caused me the most tears, still the thing I prayed for healing from, still the thing I hated the most about myself. So, finally I “gave in”. I tried Zoloft and it was by no means a miracle cure. It was awful at first. It took a full year for my body to adjust and to finally see the intended results: way, way, way less anxiety.

After much perseverance and experimentation with the dosage, I finally was seeing the results and, wow, what a blessing.

For the last several years, I take 100 mg of Zoloft every day, and for the last several years, I’ve felt like myself again. My mind just doesn’t “go there” anymore.

I was so grateful. I am so grateful. I am still saying “am” because I don’t want to believe the alternative, that maybe my anxiety is returning.

Because two weeks ago, I was sitting in church, on Easter Sunday, and we were singing beautiful songs of worship about our Savior and His victory over the grave and over fear, when my mind started to wander and drift towards old fears, ironically. I tried to shake it off, but the fear was there. My stomach started to tighten up. It wasn’t a panic attack or even very severe anxiety, but it was enough to make me feel “off” the rest of the day, and the day after that. It was enough to make me question why…and that is always a dangerous road to go down when it comes to anxiety.

I went down the road anyway. Why did I feel like this? What did it mean? Was my anxiety coming back? Was my medication not working? Was it hormonal? What was going on?

I still don’t really know the answer to those questions but I determined that one possible factor could be the fact that I stopped breastfeeding about a month ago. Sometimes googling things does have its benefits and in this case I found there were a few articles on increased anxiety and depression due to hormonal changes after stopping breastfeeding.

This calmed me. If I had a “why”, then I could relax. If I knew the anxiety wasn’t back for good, I could ride it out and wait to feel good again.

And I did. Several days later, I felt fine again. I breathed a sigh of relief.

Ah, but then. Two days ago I felt it again. Just a worry, that led to another worry, that led to another. The spiral. That thought, what if my anxiety is coming back? Then the tightening in the stomach again. The loss of appetite. The catastrophizing.

And that is where I’m at. Could it still be the hormonal changes going on in my body after giving birth and stopping breastfeeding? Yes. Could it be that my medication isn’t working anymore? Yes. Could it be that my anxiety is coming back? Honestly, yes. Could it be a sign that I need to slow down? Definitely, yes. I’m not sure how I’ll do that as a parent of a 1.5-year-old, but I have to try, because slowing down and trying to calm the body is always a strategy when your stress hormones are elevated.

There could be any number of reasons why I’m feeling this way but it’s easy to automatically assume the worst. I’m trying my very best not to let myself go there.

It’s been discouraging but it’s also a reminder that I am not invincible and that I still need to take the necessary steps to take care of my mental health. Things like, getting good sleep, cutting back on caffeine, trying to get outside and walk, and making time to pray and open my bible are things that I have let fall by the wayside.

I’m clinging on to hope. After all, that’s the reason why I started this blog, because I believe in hope. I have to. Hope is the antidote to fear, at least one of the antidotes, and it’s a powerful one. It’s also a fight. It’s not easy to hope when you feel like crap. It’s not easy to hope when you don’t know the “why’s” and the “what if’s” feel really scary. It’s much easier to believe the worst instead of the best, at least it is for me. Another thing I’m working on.

For now, I’m doing my best to believe the best – That this is just a little wave in my calm sea. A little blip on the radar. A small step backwards, or, just a pause.

Smooth sailing will resume shortly. Hopefully.

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