I'm Not Ok
I’m a notorious “five more minutes” sleeper, even after I finally blink my eyes open I like to stay in bed for a few more minutes to just be before I get up to start my day. Several months ago five minutes became six for me to muster up the courage to start my day. From there it was ten, fifteen, twenty, then an hour, more than one morning it has been two. There are mornings when it took me two hours between opening my eyes and talking myself out of my bed to face what was ahead of me.
So, that’s not great…
But in the time my pep talk length was increasing, so were the frequencies of my “Drea moments.” Crying at commercials, because things were too cute, because things were too sad. Crying because I was overwhelmed. Crying because I was tired. Something that for a long time was just part of what I did.
Also, in retrospect, not great…
I started to become more withdrawn; with the amount of work I do and number of jobs I have, it’s easy to explain my absences away. But the truth of it is, I couldn’t make it through being social without breaking down into tears when I got into my car immediately after. Even with my best friends, even at the yoga studio, I’d leave shaking and in tears. Or would pour over every detail of every interaction looking for what I did wrong, or should have done better. It took every ounce of energy I had to feel like I was acting normal. When, in reality, what I was feeling was anything but normal.
The day I decided something needed to change I was sitting in front of my computer at work staring at a blank Excel workbook. I could not, for the life of me, remember why I had opened it or what I needed to do. Not a big moment but it was part of another slow build. Over the months prior things that normally would take me five minutes would take me thirty. More and more frequently problems or questions that should be easy for me to work through would leave me absolutely baffled. People I work with were, clearly and understandably, frustrated with my inability to function as I usually did. Even I would get frustrated at myself because I could feel my brain trying to work and it just wouldn’t. I know now that’s called brain fog.
Which...as I mentioned...is not great. But for the most part, each of these individual things didn’t seem *too* abnormal.
For as long as I can remember I’ve been an anxious human. And, yes, I know everyone has anxiety. However, not a lot of six year olds land on a psychologist's couch learning progressive relaxation techniques because their anxiety attacks would make them physically ill. But it’s always been a part of me, without my anxiety, the constant voice whispering in the back of my head that I could do better, be better, I don’t know who I would be.
I’ve generally managed by anxiety fairly well, in many ways it’s been my driving force. Until a few summers ago when it stopped pushing me forward and, instead, paralyzed me. When I stopped going to soccer games because the concern that I wouldn’t have anyone to sit with became overwhelming to the point I couldn’t handle it so I just stayed home. The summer after that it was watch parties because I was convinced nobody liked me or wanted me there, so I skipped. Then it took a way darker turn. Anxiety I’ve always felt but this, this was new. And it was deep.
The voice telling me to be better, to do better now had a friend. It whispered a little louder that I wasn’t capable of doing better, that even if I did it wouldn’t be enough. That I didn’t deserve anything good and I wouldn’t ever have it. That I should just stop trying because there wasn’t a point to any of it, even if something good managed to happen I would eventually ruin it.
But if anyone asked how I was doing, even when I was quite clearly upset, my response was always, “I’m fine.” I wasn’t fine. Not even close. I doubt my lie convinced anyone.
Then that day, sitting at my desk, unshowered because it had taken me hours of talking myself into being there, staring at an empty workbook not knowing what I should be doing or even how, I realized something had to change. I couldn’t just shake out of this one. It was different. I reached out and started actively working on ways to not only manage where I was but also to improve it. I’m not just anxious, I have anxiety. And like so many others my anxiety comes with a neat buddy, depression.
Anxiety and depression are a yin and yang of mental health in many ways. They tend to work best as a pair, only instead of balancing each other they amplify each other. I had no motivation to do anything, at all. Not doing things left me anxious and stressed, like a failure. The mental and physical exertion of my stress left me exhausted to the point where we started all over again. Finally, I asked for help I never thought I would, or could. I told a few people what was happening, I created a small circle of support that I desperately needed, and still need. Sometimes, often times, I worry that I’m a burden to them. It’s an odd balancing act between what is logical and what I perceive to process in every relationship, in every scenario. I ask more questions, I talk through things more, I revisit topics and conversations that closed, I try to explain how I’m comprehending things. I’m sure it’s overwhelming to others, it’s overwhelming to me.
It’s been two months and some days are good, some are great, some are not so great. If people ask how I am I still say “great” or “fine.”
The truth is, I’m not great, I’m not fine, a lot of the time I’m not even ok.
But I’m getting there. I’m trying. I don’t know if this is a thing that ever gets “better,” but it’s something I’m committed to managing better.