The Up and Down

The most exhausting thing about my mental health right now is that it can’t decide what it wants to do.

I have spent a comically large portion of my life cripplingly anxious. Crippling isn’t an exaggeration here. I don’t remember chunks of years past, not because of any particular horror or even a bad memory, but because they were entirely spent worrying about nonsense, and thus not worth remembering. There are entire months, maybe years in some cases, that I can write off by saying, “oh, that’s when I was worried about having MS” or “that was during the time I was worried about being gay, I think”. I measured time, not by the grade I was in or what I was doing in my free time, but by what I was worrying about….because, really, that’s all I was doing.

I used to describe my anxiety like that too; long periods of worrying, from waking to sleeping, about one or two specific things, with only brief gaps of a few months of semi-normalcy in between. It was maybe an oversimplification because I didn’t fully understand myself yet, couldn’t yet see the way I thought in the context of an illness rather than “it is what it is”, but it’s how I remember my life, for the most part. The last year and a half has been something new. By all objective markers, I am getting better. I have more good days than bad, more hours of my day are spent at ease than with my¬† whole body clenched with fear. I can graph this change. My anxiety exists in spikes now instead of plateaus. Therapy and figuring shit out can change things, empirically. Better still, I’m about to dip my toes into the realm of medicating this (like it’s an illness) for the first time ever. Statistically, this means the moments of anxiety should become less frequent still, making my graph look less like a foundation shattering earthquake and more like routine seismic activity.

The trouble is, this doesn’t feel routine. However much numbers could tell me I’m improving, I feel like I’m fighting through some kind of thorny adjustment period. I’ve spent so much of my life in a predictable pattern of irrational torment and relative calm that this touchier up and down is scary. Rather than waking up and, before my eyes are even open, feeling the tug of whatever my current obsessive worry is in the pit of my stomach, just like it was when I fell asleep, and knowing that will be my day, I now I have to deal with an unprecedented uncertainty. Last night, I fell asleep feeling relaxed and accomplished, but this morning I wake up gripped with the fear out of the blue. Later, I feel better, I cope, I can put it aside for a while. This is definitely a skill, something I’ve learned through working on myself, but it’s still new, and OCD hates change. I want to be totally confident in this journey, like a brave mental illness warrior who makes for a good awareness story, knowing that I’ll accept on-and-off anxiety as the “normal” it ought to be. Mostly, I’m just a little freaked out that “better” is something so different from how it’s all always been.

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