Forward and Backward

I haven’t been posting lately because I felt like I reached a nice plateau in my mental wellness. Summer has certainly been an important factor and also the opening of U.S. cities given our lucky vaccination break. And of course one should be able to take a break from too much introspection. It’s exhausting work to look at the past.

Certainly I’m in control of my own therapy right? Well recently I had a panic attack flare-up.

One was on public transit and the other was on a Sunday night just before bed. The transit one wasn’t so unusual, it use to be a common place for me to feel uneasy and for thoughts to spiral. I just wasn’t feeling really good that morning and instead of listening to myself, I pushed through overcast skies, loud disruptive road construction, and that typical panicked run to an incoming train. Then once seated, feeling trapped, heart racing, unsure why “this” was happening. That was a reasonably anxious situation for me. The one at home at night, not so reasonable.

Or so I thought. I had spent the afternoon with friends at a pleasant coffee shop, working on the ACA Yellowbook. For dinner we went to a Sonoran restaurant that is significant for being the last place I had dinner with my late best friend. Later I watched a pleasant but emotional movie with friends. Instead of winding the day down, I wound up, looking at various personal files including my financial budget.

All these well-intentioned activities on a Sunday piled up more than I realized. I was angsty and emotional. After some last minute evening stretching, I decided to take a blood pressure reading which was naturally elevated. The worry about that reading spiraled into a memory about a doctor who “cornered me” into taking medication. The rest of the night didn’t go quite well. I woke up around 4am and felt like I had slept an eternity already. I just did my best to continue pretending sleeping in bed well into 9am. Good thing the pandemic makes our mornings pretty flexible.

All this happened to say that I can never really take a break from mental health work. As much progress as I’ve made and my friends have congratulated me on, I am still a work in progress and I need to be a lot more careful about what I am exposing myself to. So much work can feel undone by a bad day.

I use to think I had it all together and approached therapy like a quick fix. You want my money? Then give me the minimum amount of sessions to “knock it out.” Some websites say it takes 10-15 sessions, some say 10-15 months. A year or more is often what I hear from therapists directly.

So in addition to dealing with the actual therapy, I have to deal with this constant frustration that I am never healed or never good enough. The alternative is a codependent life that yo-yos between big highs and big lows.

Hopefully one day I can take on any thought or memory and let it slide gracefully off my shoulders. I don’t feel resilient against the wind anymore, but I do feel like I can get back up when I’m knocked down.