I remember hearing stories of people getting glasses for the first time and finally being able to see things that many of us take for granted, like leaves on the trees and birds in the sky, but I never fully understood it until I started taking medication for anxiety.
For most of my life, I felt like there was something wrong with or broken inside me that I needed to fix. My reactions were extreme, I’d cry at the drop of a hat, I hated going to new places alone—even things like standing up during a meeting to throw something away caused my heart to race uncontrollably. I spent years in counseling and trying various types of therapy, which helped to some degree but never completely calmed the irrational reactions, the anxiety.
So when my doctor prescribed both an anti-depressant and beta-blockers, “Because you’re scoring equally for anxiety and depression,” I took them as a last resort.
Then, they started working.
I can vividly recall the moment I knew something was different, standing backstage while rehearsing a theater performance and feeling the freedom to be my unhindered self the moment I stepped on the stage; without thoughts racing, my heart thumping, or self-criticism swirling about. “Oh, this is what life is like for other people,” I thought as a barrage of memories arose: times when I was so restrained by the anxiety that I couldn’t speak, couldn’t move, couldn’t be me.
Living with anxiety is like being trapped in an invisible box that keeps everyone around you at a distance while a very real threat stands right beside you, inside the box. You are untouchable, making it difficult, if not impossible, to connect. But the most exhausting thing for me has been holding on to the notion that I should be able to “fix myself” without the help of medication. The belief that self-help and introspection was the answer ultimately left me in a hopeless fight.
The truth is that every day people are prescribed medications to help combat infections, diseases, and physical ailments. And yet, there remains a stubborn stigma attached to medication intended to treat mental illnesses. While it’s true that some things can heal on their own (or with our work), other things need additional support. I can put a bandaid on a small cut, but if it is too big, I require stitches.
All of us have been dealt a hand in life, not equal, but still, we are meant to play it. Playing life is choosing to live it, one day at a time, accepting the help that we need along the way. Maybe it’s medication or counseling or a support group or a new hobby.
For me, taking something to help calm my mind and the physical reactions anxiety causes, has given me the ability to stop berating myself and play the cards I’ve been given to the best of my abilities.