I didn't always wear glasses. The world past a certain point was once a blur, and that's how I thought it was supposed to be. I didn't realize that people could probably read those big green highway signs until I put on a pair of frames for the very first time--they were blue because I wanted to look as cool as possible. I was eight when I first saw the world the way it was meant to be seen. It was a clear world that I could not wait to grow up and be a part of.
Fast forward to adulthood. It's time for bed. I better check to see if the door's locked first.
Alright, door's locked. I should brush my teeth now.
Alright, all clean. Hmm… better check to make sure the door is still locked.
Alright, it's locked… wait, was that sound from me checking the door knob, or did something unlock? Might as well check again.
There you go. Hmmm… checking one more time won't hurt anything.
Alright, it's locked. Everything's fine. No one can get in. Time to go to sleep.
Mmm… this bed is comfortable. Wait, where's my jacket?
Oh, I left it in my living room. I'll go grab it.
Hey, if I forgot my jacket then maybe I forgot to lock the door?
I've already checked it several times, but I should probably check it again.
Alright, it's locked.
But why can't I accept that?
This was my life for a really long time. I'd go through this cycle of checking my door a dozen times (literally) and then go to bed still anxious that my door was unlocked. And I'd apply this same anxiety-fueled cycle to nearly every aspect of life. Grocery shopping was particularly tough, sometimes taking me an hour to buy two or three items. Why? I needed to find cans and boxes that looked perfect, so I knew there was no way any could have been tampered with.
I'm sure plenty of my friends and family noticed things like this. Little quirks in the way I did things. The vast majority of them were to prevent myself from getting anxious. I would make sure nothing could go wrong, and this would help keep the anxiety away. I'd wash my hands a million times because if they were definitely clean, then there was no way I'd inadvertently poison myself.
It never seemed bad until I said it out loud. I had become obsessive-compulsive in my attempts to beat anxiety. Throw depression on top of that, and you've got yourself one heck of a psychological sundae. Things got rough when I started living on my own. There were times before this when I was scared I was going to lose control over my body and commit suicide, but those last 4 months of 2015 were me at my worst. Never have I felt so helpless, so trapped, so scared to live in my own body. I was slowly falling apart.
I had previously come up with healthy ways to battle anxiety. Exercise, mindfulness, and meditation were three that worked well for a time. I still practice them as much as possible, though I'm sure I could be doing more. However, sometimes these methods aren't enough. And that was definitely the case for me; I was losing to anxiety by a significant margin, and I needed help.
The first time medication was suggested to me was in 2010. I said no--and I'd say no several dozen times over the next six years. Drugs have always scared me--I didn't take a single painkiller after having my wisdom teeth pulled out of fear of overdosing. I'd seen people I love get seriously hurt and even killed by drugs--and I've always had a difficult time swallowing pills. The inner conflict of knowing these drugs would help me and just being too damn scared to take them was torture. At one point, I felt like I knew the medication would help me, though I was afraid it would change me, and I'd come out a different person. Like musicians with drugs, I thought the anxiety helped make me the talented, funny person I am.
I eventually met with a psychiatrist who, after hearing my life story, was the next person to propose medication. My heart sank. I was going to have to take drugs. That didn't stop me from dragging my heels for the next few weeks, though. Certain side effects made me think it wasn't worth risking; additionally, I thought that maybe if I applied myself twice as much, I could stop my obsessive behavior and lower the anxiety, drug free. Not even I was convincing myself anymore. I got my prescription, got the medication, and got started.
It's a month later, and I honestly can't remember a time where I felt better than I do right now.
I wish I'd started in 2010.
This past month reminds me of the clarity I was granted with my first pair of glasses. The world isn't blurred by anxiety and self-made fears anymore. I can lie in bed at night and not worry about my door. I'm not inspecting every item I get at the grocery store. And the number of times I wash my hands? It's down by a lot. I feel free. I'll do something that would have made me anxious (like touch my sink's tap) and say "Whoops, time to feel anxious…"
But then I won't. In fact, I don't even think about it. My mind doesn't get glued to things that made me feel awful. Thinking about past relationships doesn't tear me apart anymore--they're in the past, and I'm looking to the future. I'm so blown away by the way I'm reacting to everything now. It's incredible.
However, I'm not cured. I never will be. The moment I think I've won is the moment I've lost. I need to work at this my entire life. I exercise because it makes me feel good, but it also helps keep anxiety at bay. I meditate because it helps me clear my head and focus on what matters. I practice mindfulness because living in the now helps me realize everything's okay. And the medication is what gave me a fighting chance. Like taking off my glasses, the minute I stop doing these things is when I stop experiencing the world for what it really is.
Medication did change me. For the first time in a long time, I am truly me. And I am so happy to be a part of this world.