How do you understand when anxiety is finally over?
I’ve asked myself this question many times. Let me be frank: I have no answer to that.
Nevertheless, a few months ago I casually stumbled upon the following quote and I believe I couldn’t have found a better way to describe my feelings:
Once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.
— Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore
This is exactly what it feels like to me. Fourteen months after everything began, almost a year after I hit my lowest point, I still have no idea whether the storm is really over. But luckily enough, I haven’t been alone in my storm. I’ve had the good fortune to have a therapist by my side, guiding and reassuring me about the changes that were occurring to a still-unconscious self and explaining to me that those changes were proof of my healing process.
Yes, changes, because once you are in the middle of your storm, there comes a moment in which it all becomes about changes: letting changes happen, making changes happen, noticing and accepting changes as they occur. As I opened up to changes, first times became more and more frequent.
My entire journey down to the lowest circle of my hell and back up to my new life is paved with first times. When I look closely at this journey, I find proof of how important and formative it has been for me, exactly in the list of my many first times:
I had never fainted before. I’ve been living with low blood pressure and mild-to-strong anxiety all my life, but nothing — no exams, no competitions, no meetings, no embarrassments, no quarrels — nothing had ever made me collapse to the ground. I had never lost control over my consciousness, over my senses, over my body. I had never lost control over anything, that’s it. On that mid-March morning, I crumpled and I lost all of it in a moment, for the first time.
Paroxetine (Paxil) and Xanax.
The mere term “psychopharmaceuticals” made me shiver. It still does, actually. I fought against the idea of taking psych drugs until I realized I had no other options. I accepted paroxetine first, because it was clear to me that I was not going to make it by myself. I procrastinated on Xanax, but then I had to give in to my exhausting insomnia. And so I had my first time with those dreadful pills and scary drops.