Perpetually Overwhelmed

It’s been awhile since I last posted. In all honesty, I started struggling with anxiety. It started in October when I fell behind on a huge paper for my graduate school program. I thought the anxiety would go away in December once the semester ended, but it didn’t. The overwhelm was constant. I had less on my plate, but still I felt anxious and constantly overwhelmed. I got blood work done to check my thyroid. I met with hormone specialists. I got more blood work done to check my hormone levels. I talked to my therapist about it. I met with a psychiatrist a couple times. I sought multiple consultations. I gave up some of my initiatives to reduce stress. But still the overwhelm was constant. I thought for sure that by the time the spring semester ended in April, and the anxiety will go away. But it didn’t. That’s when I finally realized that I might possibly have generalized anxiety disorder. What I’ve come to realize about myself is that I’ve always been an anxious person. I have an anxious attachment style. I used to be very neurotic when it came to relationships. I had a hard time dealing with significant life changes. And I used to feel anxious in social settings—I still do sometimes, but I’ve learned how to use body language to present myself as anything but anxious. In college, I used to use drugs and alcohol to manage my anxiety. throw in some trauma and I presented as an individual with bipolar disorder when I sought therapy because I was having a hard time adjusting to life as a grown up going to school full time while working full time. After three years in graduate school, I learned that I didn’t really have bipolar disorder; at that time in my life, it was actually substance induced bipolar disorder. I didn’t realize then that lying about my drug use would result in an inaccurate diagnosis, which in turn would lead to an inaccurate treatment that resulted in a suicide attempt. What I have come to realize is that I had all these maladaptive strategies for dealing with anxiety that I presented with bipolar disorder (irritability, increased goal directed activity, decreased need for sleep, racing thoughts, distractibility). Now that I am well past my experimental phase with drugs, I’m realizing now that I should have been honest with my therapist about the using drugs. I don’t think I ever admitted to her that I did any kind of drugs because I didn’t want her to tell me to stop. I didn’t think it mattered to my mental health until I decided to become a therapist myself. When I was learning about DSM-5, I noticed one particular criteria for most diagnoses that required that symptoms be not due to direct physiological effects of substances. When I look back on my experience with drugs, I was doing downer everyday and uppers every weekend, and some of the uppers had a really bad comedown. I loved the peak of it, but afterwhile, the come downs were too much for me. I needed to rebound faster than I was so I gave up that lifestyle when I left the food service industry. I legit believed I had bipolar disorder and for a while it made sense to me. I developed an obsession with it for one year reading up on the subject and even dedicating an entire semester to completing a final media package all about bipolar disorder. In the process, I was able to identify problematic behaviors I didn’t want anymore and systematically started working through them one by one until they weren’t problems anymore. All this to say, I’m getting help and I’m learning to take better care of myself. My biggest takeaway from this whole experience: Stress is a friendly reminder to practice self-scare.

“When personal warning signs show up, let that be your cue to immediately schedule some time to take care of your physical health, your financial well-being, and your most cherished relationships.”

 

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