About 4 years ago, I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder. I took my prescribed medication and it helped tremendously. My panic attacks and other symptoms mostly went away and I felt so much better. Except when it came to my writing. My mental health was great, but my creative muscle was numb. No inspiration, no words, no creative sparks of any kind. That doesn't mean that the urge went away, though. I felt this desperate need to write something, but the well was dry. It was hard for me to come to terms with that. Writing is my thing. It's who I am, it's what I do. When I don't or can't write, I feel restless, like something is missing. But the medication really made my quality of life in every other area better.
It was an impossible choice. Creativity versus health. Eventually, I didn't have to worry about making the choice. Through a series of job changes and insurance waiting periods, I had to stop seeing my doctor and eventually the refills ran out. (And she eventually closed her practice and passed away from cancer, but I digress). And almost immediately, the words came rushing back. I was ecstatic. Ideas came from everywhere. I had trouble getting them all down on paper, but it was a good problem to have. And my anxiety seemed to be OK, so it was the best of both worlds. For a little while.
Eventually, my anxiety symptoms came back full force. I went to the hospital, twice, because I was convinced I was dying - chest pains, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, dizziness, you name it. Each time, the kind doctors did their due diligence and tested me for everything under the sun and finally said, do you have anxiety? And I felt ashamed. Like, why am I bothering them with my little old anxiety when there are people who are literally dying? But in the moment, I didn’t know. It felt real. I wrote this in my journal not too long ago, and it’s something that is 1,000% true for me: Logic is a feeble foe against anxiety’s might.
My symptoms are mostly better now. But it’s still a struggle from time to time. Usually, the most random times. The other day, I drove to the grocery store to pick up some bread, and as I was waiting at the stoplight, my throat started to close up and my heart started pounding and every worry and ridiculous thought in my brain reared its ugly head. I literally felt like everyone’s eyes were on me and I started hyperventilating. I sat in the parking lot for a while, just listening to music and trying to breathe. It passed and I got my bread and went back home.
But there's this tension in my neck and shoulders that happens when my anxiety gets really bad. It’s a bracing for things to come - things that generally never come. But my body is ready for battle anyway. It's exhausting. It's exhausting to have to explain over and over that I don't feel well, that my whole body hurts from muscles that are clenched, that my mind is tired from racing and illogical thoughts, that I may appear to be fine, but I'm really not. I get tired of seeing people say over and over that anxiety is a joke and people just need to stop worrying and be positive and everything will be fine. I get tired of people who think that occasionally feeling anxious and having diagnosed anxiety are the same thing. I get tired of people responding, “Oh, I thought you meant sick sick, like with an illness.” WTF?
But my writing, though. My writing has been pretty awesome, if I do say so myself. I don’t publish everything that I write, but I have been feeling so creative and productive lately.
My main point is that as someone who lives and breathes writing, having a condition that can only be treated with medication that isn't conducive to writing is heartbreaking to me. I've tried a couple of different kinds of medications, too. But it didn't help. And doctors aren't really concerned with creativity, understandably - I have anxiety, they have a treatment for it, and the treatment works. In their mind, that's the end of the story and they've done their job. And they have. But writing is not something I'm willing to give up.
Right now, the balance is easier because I do a little freelance/part-time work from home. I don’t have to go anywhere if I don’t want to. The only people I see are my husband and my kids. And I like it that way. There’s a routine and a sense of comfort in my days. So, if a random attack pops up, I can climb in bed and wait it out and do my breathing exercises and I’m usually fine. But as the hubs and I discuss me going back to work outside the home soon, I’m worried. I know that I will need medication in order to function. I don’t do well with new situations and new people and new places and new stressors. But with medication comes the inevitable numbness. I’m worried about my writing and losing the words that mean everything to me. It’s a sucky situation all around.
Anyway, if you've ever navigated something similar, I'd love to hear from you. There's got to be a better way to manage the two. And if every doctor in my town could NOT have a 6-month waiting list, or actually accept new patients, that would also be great. But that’s a rant for another day.