Back in October, I realized I needed to do something, something to fix the way I was feeling.
I was constantly feeling overwhelmed by my workload, people were incredibly irritating, I wasn’t sleeping well, my relationships were suffering, I was just in a mood. Earlier that month, I was listening to a podcast and one of the ads was for therapy online. I went to their website and immediately signed up. Shortly, after I completed their questionnaire and got paired with a therapist.
Our first phone call was just for her to get to know me. We talked a little bit and then she asked me about anxiety and depression. I’ve always known that I feel deeply. I’ve talked before about how growing up, I rarely knew what to do with all my emotions. I would little things eat away at me until I couldn’t take it anymore and have some sort of emotional breakdown, setting my family into motion to react quickly the curveball I had just thrown them. My therapist asked me where I was on a scale of 1-10 with anxiety and depression. I admitted to her I wasn’t sure because I had never been diagnosed with either, but something was telling me that maybe it was time to address both of these things.
She told me she couldn’t diagnose me, but she could at least educate me on the symptoms of both. As she’s going through the symptoms of anxiety, I very quickly realized I resonated with a majority of them. Swallowing my pride, I felt like I could put my finger on one thing that had been affecting so much of my life as of late. It was a good place to start. We worked together a little over two months before she left the platform. In that time, I learned so much more about myself. I’d like to think that I’m pretty self-aware, emotionally speaking. What I wasn’t aware of is how anxiety was showing up in my life, especially physically. The tightening of my chest, the lack of focus to complete simple tasks, the ability to fall asleep quickly and not lie awake thinking about all the things I didn’t complete that would be added to my list of to-dos the following day.
My therapist helped me start to address all of things, and I’ll be honest I was disappointed when she left the platform. But it gave me a chance to really put things in place for myself.
Focusing on my mental health these last few months has been a complete change of focus for me. I’ve had to say no to things I normally would jump to do. I stay home more to just take care of myself, by making time to exercise, make myself meals, go to bed on time and not plant myself in front of the television. When I am worried about work while trying to fall asleep, I tell Alexa to remind of things in the morning. I’m learning to try and let things go that I can’t control.
I felt like I was getting into a good routine, until the coronavirus took over.
Tuesday afternoon changed a lot for me and I’m still figuring out what a normal routine can look like, for my mental health’s sake. The Governor of Ohio strongly recommended higher education institutions move to an online-only format. My work responsibilities quickly moved from focusing on marketing, to focusing solely on public relations. Suddenly, I’m sitting in on conference calls with the governor and keeping my eyes peeled to press conferences and press releases. We were asked to work remotely, which I’ve been doing since Friday. Now, the entire state is shut down. Everything is uncertain and almost everything is a little chaotic.
I’ve had to scrap all my plans for work and my social life, for the time being, and I know it’s for the best. But my work now is centered around whatever communication needs to go out based on the reports from the day before or what have you. I’ve been pulling longer hours because there’s so much to research to do, and then tailoring each message for whatever platform I’m pushing it out on. We’ve all been checking in with one another and I’ve felt uncharacteristically calm…until last night.
For the life of me, I couldn’t fall asleep. It seemed more like I was in that middle of falling asleep feeling. I wasn’t fully conscious, but I wasn’t asleep either. I kept “waking” up because there was one more conference call I needed to make, worried about the messaging I needed to work on. Clearly my brain couldn’t shut off from what my life has been like for the last week. On my daily call-in with work, I immediately started getting overwhelmed with the work I was going to need to complete today. When I got off of the call, I curled up on the couch, hiding under a mess of blankets wondering what was wrong with me. I tried to take a quick nap, but couldn’t. I said out loud, “This is anxiety trying to take over, Lauren.” I got up and did some deep breathing exercises that have helped me in the past. And I felt a little more in control of my mind, my body, and what I need to accomplish today.
Writing has always been a safe release for me, so here I am sharing this with you. By no means have I overcome my anxiety, but it is easier for me to name its place in my life. I still have yet to go to a doctor, which I think it’s about time I do. There’s a lot going on right now that is just heavy, I’m sure I’m not alone in this sentiment. Being cooped up at home, I have a lot more time to be reflective, which says a lot because I reflect…a lot. I want to continue being intentional with the way I spend my time, especially to take care of myself, but I’m also extremely cognizant that others need to be taken care of during this time of uncertainty.
I spent two hours last night FaceTiming with two of my closest friends. It was exactly what I needed, to be reminded of the good people in my life that are fighting for me and alongside me. Don’t forget who those people are. Especially during this uncertain time, check in with them. Be more intentional than just sending a text message. Schedule time to talk on the phone, FaceTime, or make a meal together, if you live in the same city. These are times where a lot isn’t in our control, but we can control our attitude and our mindset.
Close your eyes. Take a deep breath. Exhale. Open your eyes. You got this.