Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Neurotic No More

I'm going to tell you from the beginning that this isn't a post on one of my general topics. It's about a subject I rarely discuss, my battle with anxiety. Like my struggles with accepting my atheism and sexuality, my disorder has long inhibited the development of a positive outlook on life. I won't detail everything here, but it's a rundown of how I've been at my worst vs. my best (right here and now)!

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) has been the bane of my existence. I started showing signs of serious issues when I was eleven (my sixth grade year), although I wasn't diagnosed with it until I began cutting in high school. My extreme shyness led me to do things such as fake illness when running late for class - not because I wanted to avoid infractions for tardiness, but because I couldn't stomach the thought of my classmates turning around for half a second to see who walked in the door. Being stared at terrified me.

 During that year, I became a top pick for the bullies' cruelty. My weight, short stature, lack of athleticism, and introverted personality made me a perfect target for ridicule. On top of that, I was new. I'd attended an elementary school on the other side of the county until that year. Though no one ever beat me up, boys and girls alike would mistreat me in class, on the bus, anywhere they could. My books were shoved off lunch tables I wasn't welcome at. Anytime I'd receive praise from a teacher, it was met with snickers and "who cares about her, anyway." Shoes were chucked at my head in gym class. I could go on and on.

One of the worst days of my life was exam day at the end of the school year. I felt incredibly nervous because the tests were to be taken in homeroom, the place where some my worst tormentors were. Everyone seemed too busy to bully me that day, but that didn't stop me from having my first major panic attack. All eyes were on the shaking, sweating girl that I'd become after completing my tests. The stress of the staring resulted in incontinence. The nickname Pissti followed me for the next year.

My cutting problem started my sophomore year of high school. My identities as a nonbeliever and bisexual were emerging, met with much resistance. I tried to literally cut these parts out of me by slashing up my arms, leading to the beginning of what was to be years of counseling. I never experienced any serious breakdowns during these years, but I lived in a constant state of unease that blocked my ability to pay attention to anything other than what people must think of me. I had no moment free of my exaggerated paranoia. This unrelenting anxiety and self-injuring continued into college.

My most serious panic attack was last year - August 25th, 2011 to be exact. My first week of school was not yet over. A junior in college then, I had to transfer schools due to monetary issues. My self-esteem had improved a bunch, although my ability to manage stress left much to be desired. In that first week, my bike was vandalized,  I lost my keys to my dorm and room, I got into an argument with my first friend there, and knew no one else to turn to. I broke down and cut up my arm, causing my friend to tell the resident adviser, who was required to call the police. The police coaxed me out of my room for a mandatory mental evaluation. I was a sobbing, bloody mess. The woman who assessed me "heavily suggested" counseling with medical supplementation.

Here we are almost a year later. August 25th will mark one year free of self-injury. It'll be the longest I've abstained since first attempting to stop. I am taking fluoxetine (generic Prozac) and receiving behavioral therapy during the school year. My treatment has progressed so well that the frequency of my therapy is being decreased to half the visits I required last year, an accomplishment of which I am proud. Don't get me wrong - I need to work on not letting little insults ruin my day and not looking around nervously all the time when I wear politically charged t-shirts...Still, knowing these are the most serious issues I have to work on as compared to controlling the urge to hurt myself speaks volumes about my success.

I don't know what the future brings other than an end to my disorder. When will it be? I have no idea. And you know what? I won't worry about it. ;)

6 comments:

  1. Christi, You are very courageous to tell your story. Keep writing, as it is important to be heard. Your courage will inspire others. You are an excellent writer. Good that you could get off the Prozac and are finding the support you need. Keep taking care of yourself as you are doing. It doesn't matter what others think of you. It is more important what you think of yourself. In the end it is most important that you love yourself. I'm cheering for you! :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you very much for your kind words. I don't like to remember a lot of these memories, but they are vital parts of the person I am today.

    I still need my Prozac (helps a lot with keeping my worries in check), although I'm pleased the amount of therapy I need is much less. I don't walk around looking at the ground with a blank expression, instead looking straight ahead with a smile. I'll always be an introvert, just not a depressed doormat with nothing to say. I can actually speak up now in class and club meetings.

    I hope that one day I am able to walk around with the utmost confidence in who I am. Some days I feel up to it, but I have those days too where little comments will hurt me more than I expect. If I've come this far, though, I know I can keep moving forward.

    ReplyDelete
  3. This is far and away your best post yet. Personal stories are very effective.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Oh wow, really? I had such a hard time writing this. Several times I stopped and considered scrapping the whole idea because it was emotionally draining.

    ReplyDelete
  5. my wife had GAD but no self-injury behaviors. Kudos on the progress. As a person who has Bipolar Disorder my only advice is that your disorder may be a lifelong struggle but you're a strong person so I know you will do well.

    Thanks for sharing. Great story.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thank you for your kindness. I've known only one person who had bipolar disorder. We helped each other out when we could. His experiences gave me an idea of what it's like.

    I'll continue to work on my overly paranoid behaviors that are still very capable of disrupting my daily life. On good days I'm able to tell myself "you're being ridiculous." Although, on particularly stressful days, I'm more prone to falling victim to my over-exaggerated worries (in the sense that I can't get anything done until my concern(s) are taken care of). I've still got a long way to go...but I'm ready :)

    ReplyDelete