I have a theory that the joys and despairs of life come in waves. People who have achieved some semblance of happiness have mastered the art of surfing these waves, coasting through with exhilaration.
And others? Well, others are just trying not to drown.
I’ve been pretty absent the last couple months because I’ve been dealing with some pretty high tides of my own. Being as self-aware as I am, I generally have a pretty good grasp on my anxiety. I can recognize the bad days and emotionally remove myself to take the time to process my feelings and ground myself in reality.
For reasons I still cannot fathom, my anxiety had gotten the best of me at the start of last month. I couldn’t sleep, eat, or exist without a crushing sense of being overwhelmed. The anxious feelings became worse as the day progressed, until I found myself laying in bed with a racing pulse and a mind that wouldn’t rest. I couldn’t control it.
At first I thought it was related to the month of clinical I had, with back to back twelve hour shifts twice a week. The stakes were high, with several instructors letting us know that it wasn’t entirely uncommon to have people fail and repeat third year. But the experience was valuable and I learned a lot about balancing a heavy workload with volumes and volumes of paperwork. I had a great group through it all and we survived, joking and complaining the hours away.
But still my anxiety persisted.
I didn’t even want to write about it as I usually do, because that would involve thinking about it even more, which was all that I was doing. I just wanted space. I wanted space from my mind, space from my life, and space from the pressing concerns I had about the future. It was probably the worst it has ever been, and I seriously considered reaching out for some professional help. I didn’t feel like myself. The world felt threatening and unfamiliar at every turn. I was stressed and panicked, and became even more stressed and panicked about not being able to figure out why I was so stressed and panicked.
Like the tides, the feelings eventually subsided. I haven’t found a miracle cure, but listening to my body definitely helped. I took the time to be a little self-indulgent and look after myself. I caught up on my sleep, I spent more time outside, and focused on simply getting by, one day at a time.
I feel much better than I did a month ago, but I’m still trying to take things one day at a time. As terrible as it was, I did manage to learn a few things. Here’s the takeaway:
- Don’t get used to being in control. It doesn’t last.
- Don’t get used to feeling out of control. It doesn’t last either.
- Be selfish. Take the time to take care of yourself, before that’s the only option you’re left with.
- Reach out. Talk to a friend, talk to a stranger. It doesn’t have to be about what you’re feeling, but the distraction is a often a welcome reprieve.
- It’s okay. Whatever the “it” is, will be okay.
For now, I’m just working on that whole surfing through waves of feelings thing. Preferably without getting my hair wet.