Two years ago, I experienced what I would call a nervous breakdown. You might wonder why I use a term so antiquated to describe this experience but it is actually a perfect label. You see, I was afraid of labels. If I had seen a doctor, being that I am a nurse practitioner, I know that they would have diagnosed me with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Major Depression But, I refused to be diagnosis because I knew this would not last forever. I would overcome. I did overcome. Slowly, painfully, at times unwillingly, I beat this monster who invaded my mind so quickly. Sharing these experiences is not easy and this is my first attempt. For this day, I’d like to share about the first 3 months. This is what I would call the survival phase.
Survival phase. Briefly, I’ll describe the triggers and my condition. I endured rejection from close friends all at once and was already under tremendous stress. I consider myself to be resilient and strong so I felt ashamed and disappointed in myself for not “just getting over it!” This guilt of course created more pain for me. After going through counseling with some of these friends, I began experiencing panic attacks for the first time. I went night to night enduring these attacks. Unable to eat, sleep, or think about anything else, I felt as if I was truly “falling apart.” I felt like a nervous wreck. Anxiety and living a nonstop panic attack describes these first 3 months, the first phase, survival phase.
There were many pieces that came together during this time to get me through including God, my husband, and my mom but there is one that I want to talk about today. I spent late nights searching through Google in panic and a book listed on a random chat stuck out to me. Hope and Help for Your Nerves by Claire Weekes. I read the first chapter and my jaw dropped. She understood me, finally, someone describing me, my nerves, my pain, my inability to function or think like myself! I downloaded this book and read it. It was the first thing that I could read and comprehend during this time. Now, 2 years later, I can say that I have read through that book over 5 times with highlights all the way through. The most significant first lesson I received from her book was that my “feelings of anxiety were simply a strange feeling with no great medical significance.” Therefore, I needed to be “prepared to accept and live with it for awhile.” This was opposite of what I was trying to do. I was trying to fight, find anything to cure, my heart beaten rapidly in fear of not ever being healed. But she was telling me to accept and live with it? Honestly, it seemed impossible. Yet, I knew deep inside that she was right. The more that I could accept the feelings of anxiety and panic, the quicker it would fade away (I hesitate to use the word quick because I now know that this is a long process).
For me, that was the goal of phase 1 survival. To stop fighting but sit quietly allowing these feelings to come and go. Opposite of my nature but vital for my survival. I did begin to sit quietly and, with practice, feel the anxiety without fear. I came to realize that the feelings were bluffing me because that was all they were feelings that come and go.
I don’t know where you are at today in struggling with anxiety and depression. I do hope by my sharing my own path, that I could help you on yours. I once read that anxiety is like being at the bottom of a well and needing help to get out but only one who has themselves climbed out of that well is capable of helping another come out. I’ve climbed slowly out of the well. Can I help you? Will you share about your phase 1 experience?