Monday, August 13, 2012

Shifting Sand

My birthday is next week. I turn 34. I don’t feel old, and certainly in the scheme of things, 34 isn’t *that* old, but let’s be frank – I remember when MY parents turned 34. I remember having a party for my mom when she was 35 and there were black balloons and “Over The Hill” signs. This is where I apologize and say, “Mom, I’m sorry. As a 9 year old I had no idea what it meant to be 35 and how that could possibly affect your psyche regarding how old that must have made you feel that particular day/year.” And, I’m thankful that most likely the earliest my kids will really remember *my* birthday is when I turn 40. Heh. That should be fun.

So anyway, I turn 34. I’m excited. I love birthdays. I enjoy my own. I love shopping for gifts for other people and I love birthday cake. This year seems to be The Year of Birthdays – for Adam’s birthday we went to Colorado Springs and for my birthday we’re going to Durango. I’m super excited that ON my birthday I’ll be going to one of the top places in the United States that has been on my Bucket List – Great Sand Dunes National Park. SO EXCITED.

Typically, though, a birthday doesn’t mean much other than that it’s another milestone; another year. I tend to leave it at that, but this year, I feel change a-brewing. I feel that after the birth of Anna, and finally starting to deal with an anxiety issue that it has turned out has been a problem for much of my life, that my life is making a turn for the better.

Is it okay to think that way? To see a birthday as a milestone that indicates change and not just another year added to life? Because I’m going to think about it that way.

This “new year” for me started with a doctor suggesting I needed to see a therapist about my anxiety so that I could function upon returning to work from maternity leave. It started with that same doctor suggesting that I might want to consider anti-anxiety medication to “take the edge off” so that I could access those tools I talked about in a previous post – so that I could access my prayer life and my faith life, so that I could access the relaxation techniques that I know, so that I could access the ability to start figuring out who I am when I’m not anxious. Because you know what? I don’t think I’ve ever known. During the first session with my therapist Kate, she asked me how long I had felt like this, and do you know, I couldn’t remember NOT feeling like this.

What does anxiety feel like to me? I likened it to a sparkler inside my chest. This constant buzzing in my chest. Always sparking, always going, kind of like the Olympic flame. It never went out.

And I knew HOW to quench it, but I was struggling with getting around it to access the tools to do so. And so I agreed to go on anti-anxiety medication. We started with Zoloft, but after three weeks it seemed to have no affect on me. We switched to Celexa, otherwise known as Citalopram. For the first two weeks, I didn’t feel any different. I continued therapy and started work and then honestly, it was like a switch – suddenly I woke up one day about a week and a half ago without that sparkler in my chest. Suddenly I could think and I could pray and I could get excited about life again, but not be overwhelmed by it. It was a Godsend, really.

But, it can’t be that easy. I was leery of the sudden change in my demeanor, in my ability to *deal*. I mean, it was my first week back to work – I should be overwhelmed, right? Anna was newly in daycare and not taking a bottle; I should be freaking out. I *tried* - yes, masochistically – to MAKE that feeling come back, and I couldn’t. It wouldn’t. It didn’t.

But I don’t simply liken this change to the drugs. I also really appreciate my therapist. She opened my eyes to a number of things I’ve never allowed myself to think on let alone think through, and it started a change in me. Find joy in each day, even if you have to try. Do something you love every day, even if you have to force yourself to do it. Start trying to live life instead of just doing it. Try. And talk. Talk to your husband about what you’re going through. Talk to your family. Talk to your friends. Make yourself important

again in your own life and in others’ lives. Truly live and don’t just exist. There has been so much… eye-opening… brain-opening… in the last few weeks. Good talks with my husband. Good talks with my friends. Opening myself to trust. Opening myself to acceptance of others’ failures – and my own – and being okay with that. Lessening the burden of expectation on myself and on others.

I said to someone very close to me – someone like a sister – this week, “the drugs help me be way less of a [insert a “b” here]itch.” But it’s not just the drugs. It’s everything combined. It’s the therapy, it’s the talks, it’s digging inside myself to figure out what’s in there. It’s truly awesome. I feel a lot freer, a lot nicer, and lot happier – not happy, more content with my life. I’m excited about the future… about planning forward, and figuring out how to make today the best for today and also make today the best for tomorrow all at the same time… it’s an incredible feeling.

I will see Kate the Therapist at least one more time, and I’ll stay on the Celexa for six months. I have lots to “work on” yet and will go back to Kate if/when I need to. I’ll keep building my tool kit up so that when I do go off the Celexa, I don’t sink back into who I’ve been. There’s so much to do with myself yet, but I’m happy with the start. There is hope, there is hope.

So, another year? A new year. Sand Dunes, here I come!

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