This past August I opened up about my relapse into anxiety and panic attacks. I told the world in a seemingly simple Facebook post with a picture of myself smiling and a proclamation about being the best mother I can be to my children.
And though I am happy now to be on a new road to recovery, my post was anything but simple – and I want to take a moment to explain a few things about relapsing.
Before August, I had not taken a single pill for anxiety nor had a panic attack in roughly two years. That’s not to say I didn’t worry or have my bouts with anxious thoughts – but I had recovered. I was “well” enough to say “I’ve got this under control.”
After my son was born in July 2015, I almost immediately noticed a difference in my mental health. I was exhausted, I was outnumbered, I was stretched to my outermost limits. As I began to adapt to my new normal of two babies, traveling became much more difficult – as could be expected. But what I didn’t expect was the anxiety that came with it.
Most of my anxiety in the years before centered around traveling. Long trips worried me. Being in the car bothered me. Not knowing when the next bathroom stop would be could send me over the edge. I was diagnosed with a “nervous stomach” in high school, and over time it has proven to be highly irritable, so it has always been important for me to know that I will be able to relieve myself when I need to. Suddenly, with two kids and not enough hands, I found myself unable to concentrate on anything else other than my inability to make a quick stop if I ever needed to.
I distinctly remember two situations that summer that caused my anxiety to begin spiraling out of control. I harbored that fear for months, and in the end it kept me from even being able to drive to work unaffected – a drive I’ve made a hundred times without a care.
Crying and frantic, I began making calls to my doctor for an appointment. It was obvious that I was no longer able to say “I’ve got this under control.”
If you too are finding yourself in a situation where you can no longer say that your anxiety is under control, I encourage you to consider walking through these steps to recovering as I am:
- Find a support network. Whether that means joining a group of like-minded people that meet weekly, or reaching out to friends who will encourage you – find someone. The hardest part of this journey is feeling like you’re doing it alone.
- Establish your plan for the future. Think small at first. Convince yourself to inch toward whatever big goal you have in mind. Pat yourself on the back when you move forward!
- Take steps to forgive your past, and dream of a new future. Relapsing is disappointing, I know. Struggling with something you never wished on yourself is upsetting, I know. Forgive yourself. Forgive your brain. Forgive whatever or whoever you believe set you up for the things that have disappointed you. You can’t move towards a brighter future while you harbor that negativity.
- *If you desire your recovery to be faith-based, I encourage you to evaluate your relationship with Christ. That means, look at how often you spend time with Him: are you reading scripture? Do you pray during anxiety attacks? Do you ask Him for help, and praise Him when you notice yourself making progress? If you don’t know where to start, I encourage you to begin by reading Matthew 6:25-34, and pray over those verses.
Your friend in recovery,