I have been a bit MIA the past couple of months when it comes to writing. It took me a while to decide that I wanted to share what was going on with me and has taken me even longer to figure out how to put it into words.
If you know me personally or have read any of my other works, you know that anxiety and mental health issues are something I have dealt with ever since I was a young teenager. Over the years I have gone to many therapists, tried many different medications, read many books, done countless meditations, and tried homeopathic remedies to try and “fix” my anxiety.
After my diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis about a year ago my anxiety really began to spiral out of control. What once was a small voice of worry in the back of my mind became a deafening roar that echoed violently off of the inside of my skull. Every day I felt like I was at war with my own mind. I was exhausted, I was losing hope, and I was scared.
About a month ago I started an intensive outpatient therapy program (meaning I go to treatment for 7 hours each day but go back home after treatment each evening) to finally address both my PTSD and anxiety. It was a difficult step to take, but one I knew was important for my mental health.
The treatment I am going through is called Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE). PE has two parts to it:Imaginal Exposure- revisiting your traumatic event in detail with a therapist, speaking in the present tense, and then discussing and processing the imaginal exposure and your emotions etc. afterwards with the therapist.
The second part is In Vivo exposures. This means “in real life”. These exposures are confronting your fears both during programing and at home after programing each day. You work with your therapist to develop a range of all of your possible feared stimuli or situations (related to PTSD or another disorder, so it could be specific places, people or things that remind you of your trauma and cause panic and anxiety or trigger you in some way) and create a challenging but doable exercise to do repeatedly day after day, until it no longer causes you anxiety.
This process is called habituation and it is the gradual process of becoming accustomed to safe but uncomfortable situations that we once perceived as scary or dangerous. Once you habituate to a once feared stimuli you move on to the next thing on your fear hierarchy.
I am attending a program that focuses on Prolonged Exposure Therapy as well as Cognitive BehavioralTherapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Experiential Therapy(ET) and medication management.
This treatment has been one of the most exhausting, terrifying, empowering, healing, and intense experiences of my life. I am not going to lie and say it’s easy, but I will say it works.
It’s hard. I mean really, really hard, but it is so worth it in the long run. Beginning to free myself from the heavy weights of anxiety and panic that I have been dragging around for so long is so invigorating!
It is both intimidating and self-empowering to wake up every day and face my biggest fears. To look my demons in the eye and tell them to fuck off. To learn to trust and love my own mind again.
I didn’t write for a while as I started this treatment program. Writing is very emotional for me and when I write a lot of my heart pours out onto the pages. I wasn’t ready to write in the beginning of treatment. I just had too many thoughts, fears, anxieties, and emotions to even begin to put them into words, let alone share them with anyone but my therapist.
But then one day I picked up a pen and wrote something that sort of encompasses what I have learned so far from this program and what I am continuing to learn and work on every single day. A Poem entitled : The Wave.
It took a while, but I have finally started to feel like myself again.
For anyone dealing with mental health issues or trauma, I know what you’re feeling. I know how scary, and lonely, and exhausting it can be to fight with your own thoughts every day. I know how far away happiness can feel at times, and I know that it may seem like there is no light at the end of the tunnel.
But this is a gentle reminder that there is.
That you are not alone. That you are strong, even if you feel broken. It’s ok to feel what you are feeling, whatever it may be! Your emotions are valid and none of them are “bad”. Be accepting of your emotions and thoughts, but you don’t have to let them control your actions. You get to do that!
It felt important to share this with you all because too often people find themselves ashamed to admit they are struggling with a mental health issue. Once we start looking, however, we will realize that there are so many people out there who are feeling the same things as you are. Take comfort in knowing that we are all human and we all experience both good and bad in our lives. You are not alone, you are not “sick” and you are not crazy.
You are grounded. You are loved. And you are enough.