19 November 2011

the anxious life.

image via Friends of Type

The past couple of months have been an unexpected journey. At the beginning of the school year, I went to the doctor with a series of complaints that, as it turns out, fit a particular medical profile commonly manifest in graduate students. I had to be told by my doctor that, unmanaged, my anxiety was hurting my body.

I've lived with anxiety for a long time. It's taken a lot of different forms over the years. I've dealt with it in a variety of ways. Pared down my schedule. Made incredibly detailed lists. Took months off from work. Learned to embrace being a flake. Slogged through periods of sleeplessness with the hope that it wouldn't be a permanent state. Took up reading literature before bed. Exercised. Online shopped. Kept a journal. I was surprised when my doctor intervened because I had developed so many strategies for living in this state of high strung euphoria-- with its attendant crashes-- that I had forgotten it was something I was actually living with.

I had managed to avoid medication for a long time. Every doctor or therapist that I had encountered had spoken of medication as something to be avoided at all costs. I am grateful that when the prescription was finally thrust into my hand with the promise that I didn't have to keep living like this that I had the courage to accept it. I have spent enough time reading dooce.com over the years to know that there is hope, truly, when we accept treatment. Heather Armstrong's work has touched my life in a deep and important way-- we need to write these narratives so that the stigma of medication can be replaced with people getting what they need when they need it. 

My anxiety has not gone away. There are moments when it strong arms its way into my rich and beautiful life without permission. There are instances when it robs me of my peace and tranquility and capacity to work. It takes me to low places. 

But it is not my whole life. 

There is something sacred that comes from the naming of this pain and my struggle against it. I have put off this post for a long time because it felt so intense and daunting, sharing a part of my soul that I am in the habit of hiding. I am reminded of this passage from bell hooks about the promise of healing that that comes from naming:

"Holding my hands, standing body to body, she allowed me to share emphatically the warmth of that healing. She wanted me to bear witness, to hear again both the naming of her pain and the power that emerged when she felt the hurt go away."
-bell hooks, Teaching to Transgress

I live with anxiety, and it is making me powerful.