New York is not really the slowest place in the world to live. I know this comes as no surprise to you, whether you live here or not.
The past few months have felt like the busiest months of my life–long hours at work as my department grows really quickly. Taking on more responsibility at Junior League. Training for a marathon. Writing this blog.
Yes, three out of those four things are things I don’t *have* to do, but they’re all rewarding enough, in their own ways, to keep doing them.
Yes, all of those things are also outlets for stress relief–especially the running. I have amazing friends and an amazing family as a support system, and I certainly know my problems could be much worse…
But I’ve been struggling with anxiety lately, and this week it finally hit its chest-tightening, heart-racing apex.
Monday night, I had an awful anxiety attack, and Tuesday morning I woke up and not even a run helped. I got to work and tried to calm down, and I told myself mentally to put things in perspective, and honestly, I believed myself.
But I couldn’t control the racing of my heart and mind and my chest tightened so much that I could barely breathe. I ZocDoc-ed an appointment with my primary care doctor and somehow managed to walk over. I like her a lot, and she’s usually great, but I ended up having to wait for half an hour to see her, which, you know, didn’t really help with the anxiety. The nurse took my blood pressure, and it was 150/90.
She came in and didn’t believe my blood pressure was really 150/90, so she took it again. It was still 140/something. We started talking, she handed me a prescription for Xanax, and I looked up at her and started sobbing. I’m generally not a crier at all–except for at weddings and sappy movies–so this was terribly out of character for me.
She stayed and talked to me for a few minutes, and assured me that many people go through this at some point, and it was okay–and that this, too, would pass. She told me to sit in her office for as long as I needed to and suggested I call a friend or family to be with me. I called one of my best friends and she met me at Duane Reade, where I was dropping off my prescription. I took one look at her, too, and burst into big, sloppy tears on her really cute shirt. She totally took over bugging the pharmacist for my prescription and talking to my parents for me, while I stood there, just a little numb (and this was before the Xanax.)
We walked back to my apartment, stopping at Energy Kitchen to grab me something to eat for lunch, and she made fun of me for still trying to get something healthy even in the middle of an anxiety attack…so I got their baked fries.
My parents came over, and we talked and talked and talked. Another good friend came over when she got out of work, and my little support group really helped. Honestly, it was nothing they said, but just having them there helped more than anything…except for maybe the Xanax.
The doctor recommended I take Wednesday off, too, and so I listened. I woke up feeling guilty that I was taking a sick day when I wasn’t physically sick, but then I remembered that the anxiety was actually manifesting itself physically. I treated the day like it was a sick day and, other than searching for a therapist, spent the day doing not much.
If you think you need a therapist, you’re right. I think everyone could benefit from talking to a therapist. Not all of what the therapist said was ground-breaking, but sometimes it’s just easier to hear it from an impartial professional. Many insurance companies include behavioral health benefits now, so therapy can generally be no more expensive than your copay–and so, so so worth it, since mental stress can lead to so many more physical problems. (Caitlin wrote a post a few months ago that got some great comments on therapy and finding a therapist.)
As I walked with the therapist from the reception desk back to her office–a walk that felt interminable–I wondered if I really needed to be there. I sat down and thought what I was about to say might come out sounding stupid…and then I realized that there’s nothing stupid about admitting you need a little help. I left her office feeling much calmer–and like I had the beginnings of an action plan to get my stress under control.
I’m telling you this because I believe that we need to remove the stigma associated with therapy and discussing mental health. It’s okay to feel this way sometimes. I’d rather not, obviously, but it doesn’t make me a bad person, or a damaged person, just someone who needs a little help right now. And one who’s getting it from wonderful family and friends and a lovely therapist.
And if you’re feeling this way, or if you’re struggling, and you need someone to talk to, please consider therapy–or even just dropping me an email if you need someone to listen to you.