I kept making excuses not to see a therapist or to get help. Then I went through a terrible breakup that sent me over the edge. I’m going to be honest with you guys: I was in a really bad place. I didn’t want to get out of bed. I was having panic attacks on the subway. I was afraid to leave my apartment. I needed help.
I’ve had success with therapy before, but I hadn’t found a therapist here. My mom found someone for me, and I started doing cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) with her in February. CBT is a method that focuses on being extremely aware of your thoughts, feelings and behaviors. They’re all connected so by doing CBT, you can change the way your thoughts, feelings and behaviors impact each other.
For example, if you feel sad, you might have a bad thought and that might cause you to stay in bed and be sad. By staying in bed and being sad, you’re reinforcing that behavior, which will keep you feeling sad and thinking bad thoughts. CBT helps you navigate out of that so if I feel sad, I recognize that I feel sad, think about why I feel that way and then do a behavior that will make me feel better instead of worse.
It sounds easy enough, but it takes a lot of work and patience. Nothing changes overnight, and for someone with anxiety, it’s very difficult to break out of certain ways of thinking and behaving. I’m someone who can’t turn my brain off so I get caught in things called “thinking traps.” Everyone does this, but people with anxiety can get stuck in a trap and spiral. Thinking traps can lead to panic attacks and can actually stop you from being productive in daily life.
I fall into a few thinking traps every single day. I ask myself ridiculous “What ifs,” convince myself that people are thinking bad things about me and worry constantly about things that I have no control over. I’ve been doing this for my entire life without realizing it, and I’m now working to reverse it. It’s really hard.
Recently, my therapist and I discussed going on medication. Even though I’m doing everything I need to and utilizing all of my tools, I can’t turn off my brain and get out of my head. I’m open to the idea because I know medicine can truly help people, but I’m terrified because a lot of my anxiety is related to medical issues. Logically, I know that most medications are safe for me. But in my head, I think every medication will kill me because I almost died from taking something before.
Medications for mental health issues are also pretty scary because it can take a while to find the right mix of medications that work for you. I’ve seen what can happen to people when they’re on the wrong medication, and I’m afraid of what could happen to me if I am on the wrong one. These medications literally alter the way your brain works.
I’m not sure I can handle the anxiety that I would have when actually taking a pill. I get migraines, and I don’t even like to take my migraine medication.
As a huge advocate for mental health awareness, it’s really difficult for me to sit here and tell people that it’s important to get help when I’m having trouble with it myself. I am doing well in therapy, but I’m still struggling on a daily basis to get a handle on my anxiety. Medication is NOT the only way to solve mental health issues, but I think for me, it might be the only option that will work right now.
And that’s okay.
Do you have anxiety? Are you thinking about going on medication? Tell us in the comments!