“What if all that keeps you trapped in that invisible boxing ring is the belief that you have to keep fighting in order to win?… What will happen to your opponent if he suddenly has nobody who will fight him?” Courtney Perry

Once upon a time

I started having panic attacks

I hated them so vehemently

That I swore to fight them at all costs

I swore to do whatever I had to to to win this battle

So I trained

And so I won many battles

But eventually I grew tired

I grew tired of always fighting

Being on guard 24/7 was crippling

And life was becoming one giant battlefield

One day

The panic attacks came back

They had grown stronger than before

I shrank my world to fit in my condo

Hoping if I stayed off the battlefield

The panic attacks would see I was no longer in the fight

They’d turn around and walk away

And leave me alone

Instead, they found me there

In my safe place

Banging on my doors and windows

Rattling me to my very core

I was so afraid

I hid in the darkness and shrank into the corner

Days passed this way

I could hear them getting louder and louder

And just when my door sounded like it was going to break apart

And my mind was going to snap into a million pieces

I sprang to my feet

I frantically threw open the front door

And yelled for them to fucking do their worst

I screamed that I wasn’t afraid of them

I didn’t like them

They knew that

I never would

But I had grown so tired of living in a constant state of fear

That I realized I’d rather come face to face with them

And if they destroyed me

Well

Then at least it would be over

The funny thing was

That when I opened the door

No one was there

The hall was eerily silent

I was stunned

I looked around

Sure that they were just hiding

To catch me at my most vulnerable

I looked in corners and under crawl spaces

Still I was alone

I was bewildered and shaken

I sank to my knees in the quiet hallway

And I started to cry

Big fat tears rolled down my face

I wasn’t crying because I was afraid

Not this time

This time was different

I was crying because all of this time

All of these years

I had expended so much energy and strength

I had used up so much of myself

When all I had ever needed to do

Was to open that fucking door

—–

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‘I don’t know who I am or maybe I do know who I am and I just don’t want to be her anymore.’ -G.F

Feeling a little lost

I know

Nothing new

Since stopping the Paxil project

I feel like I have little purpose

I’m still off of work

Which basically means

I’m sitting on my ass doing a whole lot of nothing

My return to my role in the Section program is still unclear

Work has had my medical documentation for over a month but I haven’t heard anything on that end

Not a ‘get well soon’

Or ‘are you still alive?’

All that aside the million dollar question is what will happen if and when I return

I don’t know if they think I’m capable of returning to my position

They have the authority to move me into a different position

That’s weird isn’t it?

I’ve been made aware that it’s within their legal rights

But I no longer have a say where I work

Somewhere along the way

I no longer have control over a huge part of my life (my career)

I don’t know if it’s MS that I owe that to

Or my ongoing struggles with mental illness

Or an amalgamation of all the above

Each taking a little piece of my ability to be a ‘good’ employee

Of course there’s an option to leave this job and look elsewhere

But I would only be kidding myself

If I were to say that it would be different in another job

I mean

At first it would be

I do well in interviews

Maybe they’d hire me

Things would go well

I’d exceed their expectations

And then

The sick time would start accruing

And instead of them looking at me like I’m some slacker

I’ll explain my illnesses

And then

They’ll understand

For months or maybe even a year

But eventually

The rhetoric remains the same

Angela is an excellent worker…when she’s here’

Call me pessimistic

But I think it would make a memorable epitaph on my grave

‘Courage, above all things, is the first quality of a warrior.’

All I can see is the empty space where my ‘motivational’ affirmations once hung

All the words I thought I’d need to get me through this dreaded Paxil withdrawal

Now discarded and out of my face so I don’t see the glaring reminder of another failed attempt

But it’s likely I didn’t stand a chance even before I started

I hadn’t had a full blown panic attack in a long time

Until today, that is

All week I felt it coming

Making me irritable and antsy

But I proceeded forward with my Project Paxil Taper

Each day I told myself I didn’t feel worse

I didn’t feel anxious

It was fine

I was fine

But I was lying to myself

I don’t know if it was the anticipatory anxiety that got me or the effects of decreasing Paxil

I don’t think I’ll ever know

I reached out to professionals

Asking for help and support in this withdrawal process

But again and again I was met with lack of resources and ambivalent sympathy

Today it was too much

I closed the blinds in the condo

Tried to distract myself with audiobooks and tv and music and extra long hot showers

And all the while I could feel it’s suffocating grip on me getting stronger and stronger

Making it harder to think and breathe

I laid in bed and tried to utilize the skills I’ve been taught

But none of them worked

My stomach hurt

I felt nauseous

I could feel the grip getting stronger as I grew weaker

Clammy and sweaty and cold

My headache hurt like it did all week long

And then when I couldn’t hold it off anymore

It overpowered me (like it had done so many goddamn times before)

And just like that

I felt helpless all over again

Like the fucking victim I never wanted to be

I took more Ativan to help it go away faster

Joey was home and tried to quell the rising panic

And the crying

All the fucking crying

But nothing works

My crying louder and harder to breathe

The only thought clear in my brain

Is how this is never going to stop

I will always be at war with myself

My natural instinct is fucked up and no matter how many times I’ve tried it just doesn’t change

It doesn’t matter how tired or how many good days, weeks or months I have

When I’m at my weakest

It rears it’s ugly head

And I’m powerless to defeat it

So all this bullshit warrior can do is cry

Not in sadness

But with pain that comes from deep within me

Because I know

That at the end of the day

Not even 4mg at a time

Not even with support

Not even with CBT and all the other therapies

That I still can’t beat this

It won’t matter if I cover my body in quotes and reminders

It won’t matter how much I want this change

How determined I am

All that matters is that I’m still so afraid of my own goddamn mind

I’m afraid of the panic it can conjure all by itself

The derealization, the depersonalization, the heart racing, nausea, can’t breathe feelings that come at me full force

And I just can’t see, no matter how hard I try (and trust me I so badly want to see it)

A time in which those feelings are not a part of the landscape of my life

And that is the most terrifyingly hopeless thought I have ever had

My doctor said to me on Monday he could see a happy ending after all of this is said and done

I won’t lie, I carried that home with me and placed it under my pillow and wished on it every night since

But not everyone gets the happy ending that they want

Maybe this really is as good as its ever gonna get…

The task is in deciding if that will ever be enough

Maybe, just maybe…

I’ve started Project Taper Paxil on Sunday

I worked myself into a frenzy anticipating what might happen

I took an extra Ativan to get some peace

I saw my doctor yesterday and he reminded me that I could have put off starting Project Taper Paxil for another week

But I didn’t

Evidence to support the theory that I’m stronger than I think

The doctor mused that it’s been a tough year for me

I guess it has, hasn’t it?

I can pretty much unequivocally say this is not where I thought I would be at this point of my life

At 36 years old

I had hoped for something very different

And that’s even with several revisions

But what do you do when that path leads you to a dead end?

If you’re like me,

You might spend too much time retracing your footsteps over and over again

Trying to figure out how you got it so damn wrong

Did you miss a turn?

Did something lead you astray?

Or were you just unlucky enough to end up on that path to nowhere?

If you’re like me,

You don’t have answers to any of those questions

But you just can’t fathom starting all over again

Finding a new path to walk

Wishing that this new path will be the right one

Hoping that it won’t become another dead end

But

Maybe this time you won’t care about the destination

But

Maybe this time you’ll be content with the journey

And

Maybe this time it will be exactly what you needed all along

And

Maybe, just maybe

You’ll be happy

At last

‘I’m afraid to be alone with my own mind’ -Sylvia Plath

Here goes…Everything

The compounding pharmacy has made the Paxil capsules for me

I picked them up yesterday

I will be decreasing by 4mg every two weeks

My dose was 40mg

Last night I felt really anxious

I keep thinking about how shitty I felt going on Paxil

I keep thinking about not being in control

I keep thinking about panic attacks

I’m trying to think about the benefits

Maybe I can lose the weight that Paxil helped me gain

Maybe I can stop sweating in the middle of an emergency cold alert day

And yet somehow

Those benefits just don’t stick in my brain

My brain that has been sponsored by Paxil for over 10 years

It’s not that I’m connected to Paxil

It’s not that I think Paxil has helped me

It’s solely the fear that is controlling me right now

The same fear that always controls me

That no amount of therapy or meds has ever really been able to free me from

I want to do things in life

That I do because I want to do them

And not because fear has made me choose them as safer options

And not because fear has made me avoid other things

Fear

In some ways I think this has always been my biggest challenge

Probably from a young age

Seeing my dad experience panic attacks

Seeing him not feel like he was in control

Therefore not feeling safe in someways

As I’ve gotten older

That control has gotten more important for me

And I need to hold it firmly in my hands

I need to hold it because if I don’t

The world will fall apart?

I need to hold t because if I don’t

I will fall apart?

I need to hold it because if I don’t

I won’t feel safe?

Sometimes I curse the level of self awareness I have

Sometimes it does nothing more than get me stuck in a thought

When instead I should be in motion

I know what is right for me

I know what I want to do

I just need whatever part of me that is holding onto that fear to catch the fuck up

But today

The warrior woke up first

And warriors aren’t afraid

I still don’t know what’s on the other side

But I took the leap

I’ve started the tapering

Let’s hope the scaredy cat version of me is not the one that wins

Let’s hope that this warrior side of me has grown strong enough to finally

Finally take back what is rightfully mine

My life

The needle and the damage done

Hit a wall

Monthly blood work time yesterday

This is never a fun time

My veins play hide and seek when it’s time

Literally

It’s a thing

Look it up

But yesterday was a whole new bag of tricks

They think my veins in hands have collapsed and are clotting Collapsing veins

Like a fuckin junkie

So they couldn’t finish the testing

I’ve gotta go back in a few days

I felt and still feel frustrated

My hands are bruised up and sore as hell

Whatever that’ll heal in time

I know this

But

I feel discouraged

I just keep thinking

Another four years of this

What the fuck was I thinking?

The fire and the damage done

My life has been compartmentalized into three sections

Before anxiety

During anxiety

And after anxiety

Before anxiety I was 17 years old

Naive to the world in so many ways

And somehow also much wiser than I should have had any right to be

Before anxiety doesn’t feel like a long period of time

And I can’t help but look back upon with a wistfulness

Because I did not know then how bad it would get

During anxiety was a vast period of time where days and months have blended together to give me only a drug addled memory of what it was like

I remember fear and ambulances and hospitals

And the overwhelming sense of dread that things would never be good again

I remember wanting so desperately for there to be a reprieve

From the thoughts racing in my brain

Chasing away my sleep and my appetite

And it never came

Until it did

I fought my way back

So hard

Until it became

After anxiety

I can’t even remember the moment where I realized I could go out without needing to be extra medicated

I feel like I should remember that

I should remember the exact moment that I didn’t need to clutch a bottle of water in my hand to face the world

I want to remember the exact second in time that I stopped having to counter every anxious thought that popped into my brain

The best I can remember

Is that it happened

And somehow

The last thought before bed wasn’t about having a panic attack

And the first thought upon waking wasn’t about having a panic attack

I feel like maybe if I remembered those moments in time

I wouldn’t have taken it for granted

And maybe just maybe

I wouldn’t be where I am right now

Triggered by a situation outside of my control

Feeling like once again the world is a scary dark place

That I need to protect myself from

Because that’s it really

That’s the thought that I cannot talk myself out of

I can’t provide evidence to counter that thought

Yes of course there is good in the world too

I know that

The yin and yang and all that

But that doesn’t change that fact that I am afraid of how the world will fuck with me

And why?

Because I have solid evidence that reminds me I am right to be fearful

To feel the need to protect myself

To feel the unnerving desire to flee

And I’m afraid that no amount of good will ever change that

Just because you put salve on after the burn

Doesn’t mean you can’t remember the excruciating pain that the burn caused you

Doesn’t mean you don’t still have the scars where the blisters bubbled up angry and red

It doesn’t mean you can go back to what it was like before the fire changed you

Marked you as it’s victim

Sure you can cover it up

Pretend it didn’t happen

Or maybe you wear it proudly

Tough as nails like you’re nobody’s victim

But the next time there’s a fire and those flames flicker a little too close

Instantaneously you are transported back to the moment

When the flames claimed you

And you cannot help

But to take a step back

You won’t let yourself get burned again

Not this time