A secret that is not actually a secret at all is that I am terrible at handling stress.
I’ve gotten a little better at it, thanks to being more aware of how my brain and body works, and with that comes an ability to try to recognize when I’m letting myself get too overwhelmed. But like a lot of things in my life, it’s still a work in progress. My dedication to improving my self-care this year isn’t just to make myself more productive and get more sleep and the like. It’s also to get myself into a place where I can hopefully feel better about myself. Part of that involves finding ways to quiet my brain when it wants to take the rest of my well-being on a ride — and that doesn’t just extend to things during the day. It would be nice to not wake up in the middle of the night constantly, and, you know, sleep a little better for once.
A large part of my stress ends up coming from the fact I have a hard time believing that what I do is right or enough, which is probably a holdover from the way I was raised — loving, supportive parents who also pushed me far too much, who made me believe certain ideals were more important than others, a top high school full of kids who were all smarter than you, etc. But it’s tough to want to be social, to be out with friends every so often and think, “I would be better if I was spending time writing,” or to be at home doing nothing and think, “I would be better if I was more productive.” The noise that I get in my head kind of paralyzes me in the same way I can’t turn my brain off when it comes to the self-worth things compared to the rest of the world (my writing isn’t as good, my life isn’t as good, my relationship isn’t as good) and then half the time I just end up whining to people about the way I feel, which causes my friends to do really lovely things like threaten to put a shock collar on me so I stop getting down on myself. (See? True friendship.)
In all honesty, I know this isn’t something that’s unique to me. This kind of mental stress is something everyone deals with, and some people are just better at figuring out how to handle it. Some people need help, and I’ve recently come to terms with accepting the fact that I’m one of those people — no, I might never be satisfied, but I can make efforts to keep myself from feeling like everything is too much.
For years, I resisted taking any kind of medication for various reasons — I didn’t believe I had any kind of issue that was worth being medicated, I had been told by some friends that I shouldn’t go down that route, I felt like I was a failure for admitting I needed help more than just talking to someone. After a recent incident made me realize just how much my brain could overwhelm me (read: a complete anxiety attack where I lost it while with my boyfriend and his uncle at a Broadway show, and became unable to function for a few hours) I made it a mission to get that kind of help for real. (Not just doing things like, you know, having friends slip you pills in times of need. Whoops.) And honestly? Just knowing that I now have the option of that little bottle of pills, that I have a way to quiet my brain when it gets to be too much, has made me feel so much better about things.
Aside from certain coping mechanisms that I’ve been trying to take advantage of (audiobooks, coloring books, tea), I’ve also been using iPhone relaxation apps more and more, especially before bed. And it actually helps a lot.
Once I have a chance to sit down and put aside some money for my budget, I’m going to let myself indulge in a few more “self-care” things that I can put towards taking some of that stress off of my brain — a new tea, a new candle, some new audiobooks, maybe new colored pencils. But the fact remains that I’m someone who likes to hide from addressing their feelings, and I would never have thought I would have the courage to take control of my life with medication. I owe a lot of that to my friends who have been steadfastly supportive, most of whom are in the same kind of boat I am and understand what I’m going through.
But I guess everything is progress. And I’ll accept that bottle of pills with pride, because progress means I’m finally learning to ask for help.