I was always a timid person, but not to the point of being afraid to even be near someone. That came after I was in a seventy-six-day coma, due to the swine flu. After the coma, and struggling to be able to walk and talk regularly, I started noticing that I was extremely nervous around anyone, even family. I contributed it to withdraw, because, at the time, I was addicted to oxycontin. I was prescribed the oxycontin for chest pain because my ribs were broken from CPR. So, I would abuse my prescription, then run out of pills at around the half month mark.
I would begin to withdraw, once I ran out of medication, and I couldn’t leave my room, due to being terrified of even hearing a person come near the door. It took me a long time to figure out that I was self-medicating without realizing it. The opiates were helping my anxiety to the point of not having it. Granted, it was oxycontin, which is extremely heavy. During the coma, I had horrible nightmares. They were as close to hell as I ever want to be. I had recurring night terrors for a very long time, and was diagnosed with PTSD, which I am sure did not help the anxiety.
I was finally diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, and Panic disorders. I was prescribed Xanax, but it only helped for around an hour, so I would go through them too fast, and not make it the entire month. Then, I started taking Klonopin, which ended up helping a lot, since the half-life was so much longer than Xanax. For a while, I was much better, then the monster called tolerance started looking at me with its eyes of pure black terror, and it’s razor sharp panic-inducing teeth. Slowly, the medication stopped helping as much, then hardly at all. I ended up being agoraphobic, and stayed in the house for TWO YEARS! I was even terrified in the safety of my home. If my phone rang, I would instantly panic. I would go through every horrible outcome in my mind, all in seconds. What if I answer and say something stupid? What if I respond and can’t think of anything to say? What if, what if, what if.
While I was in rehab, for the second time, the first being for addiction, the latter for anxiety and depression, I learned about “Progressive Muscle Relaxation.” It is a meditation technic that is a preventative for anxiety. I had no faith that it would help at all. I thought, “My anxiety is much too severe for that to help. Maybe, if it was just a minor issue, it could.” I am glad that I was wrong. It doesn’t get rid of the anxiety, but that plus exposure therapy helps quite a bit. With progressive muscle relaxation, you listen to videos, even posted on youtube, then tense your muscles, while relaxing them one by one. Progressive muscle relaxation teaches you to know when you are anxious, by understanding how tension feels. Then, with enough practice, you know how to relax all of those muscles.
Exposure therapy is HARD. Facing that monster, with its dark eyes and razor-sharp teeth, is frightening, almost to the point of just keeping you in place, instead of walking into that crowd, but the only way to beat depression and anxiety is to face it. You have to recognize it and fight it head-on. It’s probably always going to be there, hiding in the back of your subconscious. The goal isn’t to make it go away, but to learn to live a healthy life with it. I’m not entirely there, yet, but I am getting close to being able to say that I am okay. I start college this January, and I plan to begin with just two-night classes so that I can work my way into it. I want to get a feel for it before I jump right back in. I am excited, knowing how much better I am doing, and know that I will improve even more. All I want is to help others who are suffering from anxiety, depression, addiction issues, etc. I feel that I could relate to my patients, as a therapist, very well. Anyway, that’s all I wanted to say, for now. If you have not tried progressive muscle relaxation, I beg you to do so with an open mind! Even if you don’t suffer from anxiety, it can help relax you before bed.