Mondays are hard for me. They are probably hard for everyone. It’s tough getting back into the swing of the week, getting back into the schedule, getting back into the routine. For me, though, it’s particularly tough. Mondays are the toughest day of the week.
I suffer from anxiety. Really, we all suffer from stress and anxiety – it’s normal. But my anxiety is a mental illness I was diagnosed with in college. “Generalized Anxiety Disorder” and “Panic Disorder” are the two biggest diagnoses in my medical file to date.
Gosh, I hate that term “Mental Illness”. So much stigma. I’m not handicapped, I’m not crazy. However, looking back through the 15 years since my diagnosis, I can see how this illness has affected my life, and how I am forced to manage it every day. Long story short, I was diagnosed by a doctor after dealing with 6 months of major symptoms. No one knew what was wrong with me, yet the symptoms persisted. I would wake up as much as 5 times a night gasping for air – choking. I’d wake up terrified, knowing in my heart that I was dying every single time. It would take about 10 minutes for me to catch my breath, sometimes after getting sick, before I would calm down enough to fall back asleep. Panic and anxiety attacks are normal for people, but my situation was very odd, and symptoms were very frequent. If we do the math of 5 panic attacks a night, times 7 days a week, times, 4 weeks a month, times 6 months that would equal somewhere around 840 middle-of-the-night panic attacks for me during that time. Needless to say, I started fearing sleep, and the disorder manifested. I quit sleeping – which then caused even more problems to rich to write in one blog.
I complained to my parents and my doctors about my attacks, and it wasn’t until my Dad witnessed a really bad one, did anyone realize how horrible these events were. I was treated for everything, and it was finally a Pulmonary Specialist that told me that it wasn’t my lungs, but all in my head. I was giving a huge prescription for Xanax, sent back into the world. Not happy with the modern treatment of “let’s drug the crap out of you” (a.k.a. 3 downers a day), I sought counseling. I was able to get treatment through my university’s student services, as well as find alternative therapies like Rational Emotive Therapy, Positive Psychology, Massage, Meditation, Pilates, and a lot of reading. However, none of this was going to cure me of my diagnosis. What I have is more related to genetic predisposition and chemical things, and, in fact, I had a doctor once tell me that my problems were caused from “bad wiring”. So it’s all about management for me, and I am perfectly fine with that.
Fifteen years since my diagnosis and first treatments, I have rarely have panic attacks anymore, but anxiety still gets in the way. It becomes frustrating when you know that you are the reason for your problems. It’s not the situation, it’s not that person, it’s me and the way I am handling it. I do know my warning signs, and I know when my adrenaline starts kicking. It usually all happens on Mondays, and that’s why Mondays suck.
Interestingly, I found my way away from traditional jobs and have been self employed for a very long time. I am in control of my schedule, my work load, and I am my own boss. All of the work pressures are placed upon me by me. I start Mondays running pretty hard at 6 a.m., and will usually crash pretty hard somewhere around noon. I usually experience a racing heart beat by nine, find my self doing deep breathing by 9:30. The adrenaline is pulsing be then, hence the reason for nap time come 12:30.
Those who know me, know that I am a go-getter. I have never once let my anxiety stop me. I admit, it will get in the way sometimes, and I will just push through it to get to my goal. I have never once identified myself as “a mentally ill person”. I refuse to let it own me or dictate my life. Thanks to the love and support of my husband, I have done a lot in my life, and have been able to accomplish so much because I won’t let me (and he won’t let me) get in my own way. I am not a victim of myself, I am a survivor of a condition.
I share my big secret in hopes that it will inspire some of you to step past your obstacles. The real you is not your situation, it’s not your excuses, it’s not your past – it’s how you perceive the world, how you push past your challenges, how you pick yourself up and keep going.
With that, I leave you with some wise words from one of my favorite little dudes (who has been through a lot in his short little life)… It’s up to you to be awesome. What are you waiting for?
You have one life – LIVE IT – MAKE IT AWESOME.