Some days, you just have to accept that your disease is getting the better of you. You can work, you can fight, but it’s really just worse than you want it to be. At some point, the best thing to do is stop and accept what is happening to you. That might mean that you have to leave work early. It might mean you’re going to cry the whole way home. It’s not the way you wanted your day to go, but it’s the way your day went. It’s the way my day went today. My Pap used to say, “So what are you going to do? Drop back and punt.” So I punted. Let yourself feel what you’re feeling. Let yourself hurt if that’s what you need to do. But take care of yourself, and try again tomorrow.
That was my day on Friday. For no good reason, I woke up feeling particularly anxious and I headed to work trying to take some steps to ease my discomfort. But none of the coping skills I’ve learned through the years seemed to be working. My anxiety persisted and strengthened. I was putting in a good effort trying to put a dent in it. Quickly – in the span of two hours – I went from being nervous about going to work to feeling overwhelmed with just about every aspect of my life, feeling I had no answers, no opportunities, and no outlet. Panic settled in, it was all I could do to hold back my tears while I was working. Hopelessness flooded my mind, every street it went down was filled with obstacles. Suicidal thoughts crept in, disturbing new methods I’d not thought about before. I needed an exit.
I chose, in that moment, to handle my problems responsibly. I told my supervisor I was having a panic attack and needed to leave. She told me to take care of myself and asked me to see my manager on the way out.
“Can I talk to you for a minute? I have really bad anxiety. I’ve tried working through it all morning today, but it keeps getting worse and now I’m having a panic attack and I’d like to go home.”
“Yes! Do what you have to do. Go and take care of yourself,” was my manager’s reply.
In the past I might have slipped out the door without talking to anyone, but these actions were further strengthening my commitment to talk about my problems with anxiety and depression openly. I started crying as soon as I sat down in my car. I hadn’t been this low in a long time. It was unexpected and hard to take. It was a setback I wasn’t prepared for. I was still crying when I got home twenty minutes later. Took some anxiety medication and laid down on the couch to cry it out. I ended up crying myself to sleep. I woke up a couple of hours later, unsettled, but calmer.
I took care of myself the rest of Friday. I did things slowly, deliberately, paying attention to what I was doing, being present in the moment. I made choices to take things easy that night, relaxing into a evening where my only goal was to be.
Scary and harried thoughts about returning to work in the morning knocked at the edge of my consciousness, but I didn’t let them in. Focused on the now, I prepared for the morning by being present with my evening. I rested well that night and awoke Saturday morning with a quiet, but solid determination to keep my anxiety at bay.
Work was going to be work. It hadn’t caused my anxiety Friday and I wasn’t going to allow it to take over on Saturday. I focused on keeping my mind open and empty. Thoughts and feelings entered and left, but none lingered for me to dwell upon. I was present, and I was keenly aware that I needed to stay that way.
So I went through my work day. My job’s not hard. I work in a warehouse. I put items on shelves so that other people can pick them when orders come in. I worked, focusing on just what was in front of me. When I reached the time I had left on Friday, I congratulated myself on making it further than the day before, and I kept doing that every hour longer I stayed. And I made it through my day. I remained present and anxiety-free.
I felt a sense of accomplishment as I left work on Saturday evening. After one of the worst days I’d had since being in the psychiatric hospital six months ago, I was able to bounce back and have a good day the very next day. That shows me that I’m growing and learning to manage my anxiety better, even after it had knocked me down for a while.
Recovery is an up and down process. It’s not always as severe as this case was, but this experience taught me that I’ve come a long way in six months. Something that would have taken me out for days in the past is now something that I can overcome. It’s an important lesson for me to keep in my back pocket as I continue to move forward.