When I went to my new doctor the other day (my first visit with a GP in my life, since my last non-specialist doctor is a pediatrician I last saw before I left for college) we started the work of sorting out how we wanted to dispatch my anxiety from its place as overlord of my life. Up to this point, I hadn't considered that my chronic fatigue and migraines had anything to do with my mental health. I took for granted that I just need more sleep than other people. The world exhausts me. I've taken frequent naps since birth. I've had the headaches nearly as long.
But here's what blew my mind. I assumed that the lab would find some evidence of chemical or hormonal imbalance to explain the 20 pounds I've gained in the last year, or the headaches, or the forever case of the sleepies. I thought maybe I had anemia, or an iron deficiency at least, if not chemical depression. But there's nothing wrong with me. The way doc put it to me, my anxiety is a product of my thin emotional skin. He doesn't know me very well yet, but I started crying when asked me to confirm that my father was in fact deceased. It was a simple yes or no question any normal person could answer without so much strife, but so much of my disdain of doctors and medicine in general is tied up in what my dad went through with his health that I could not maintain the membrane between what was happening to me in the moment and what I remember from the past. I am empath. That's my thin skin. I take on other people's emotions, and I am a slave to my own. Though there's nothing chemically wrong with me, that thin skin means there might as well be.
I'd never considered drugs before, but consented to low dose medication at our appointment just to see if it might help give me a thicker skin. It's not supposed to have any noticeable effects until about a month from now, so maybe this is just a placebo effect, but that fatigue I battle daily is entirely gone. I'm going to wait on say the medicine murdered my migraines, as it is a bit soon, but generally I feel like I'm operating at the speed of an average person. I went to a party full of strangers on Saturday night and instead of drinking too much for social lubrication or chain smoking on the porch as a way of avoiding social situations altogether, I participated without completely freaking out. It was more than that though. I had a great night. I don't know that I've ever felt relaxed at a party before.
It might just be the knowledge that I'm on my way to getting better that's pushed me into a higher level of functionality, but even if that is the case, it's really gratifying to not be crippled in the presence of fun. I feel so zippy, I even went running over the weekend. This is the most astounding thing of all. I hate exercise, but my doctor told me I should try to improve my lung capacity, as my breathing is a real problem during panic attacks. I planned to run once, just to say that I tried, and then retreat into my cave of potato chips and cigarettes, but instead made it through a mile without flinching. The following day, I did it again, just to see if the first run had been a fluke. But it wasn't.
In November, when I was trying to make light of terrifying making doctor's appointments was for me, I told a friend that 2013 would be the year of self-care. At the time, it was meant as a joke about how I wanted to put everything off for a few more months because of how stressful it felt. But now that the wheels are turning and I am stumbling (somewhat bravely, but mostly just hopeful) forward, it seems true in a genuine way. I am taking gummi vitamins every morning, I am making breakfast smoothies with spinach and bananas and honey and yogurt. I am giving myself the tools to feel better.