About six months ago, I started having an increase in anxiety symptoms. I have panic disorder with agoraphobia and so sometimes, I just get really anxious for reasons that I’m not aware of and, if I don’t succeed in using coping skills to deal with the anxiety, can progress into having a panic attack. So I started wanting to avoid things that I normally enjoy and was procrastinating on a lot of important tasks. About four months ago, the anxiety skyrocketed seemingly out of the blue. I couldn’t leave my house, I was dependent on prescription anxiety meds to survive the days, I basically spent entire days underneath my weighted blanket to keep my skin from crawling. And then the depression hit. It started off as a subtle shift from the extreme anxiety I was having with my mood beginning to change and then hit me like a train.
I saw my mental health providers and decided that even though it was early on in this depressive episode, I’d seek out intensive treatment with the goal of preventing it from continuing into something darker where I might become actively suicidal again. I picked a PHP (Partial Hospitalization Program) in a program designed for queer patients, meeting for five group therapy sessions per day. The people at Triangle were great. The mixture of patients was really well suited to my needs and after a few days of silently nodding and snapping my fingers when I identified with something someone said, I began to feel comfortable enough to open up to the group. And gradually, with structure and group sessions and a medication change, I started to feel better.
I’ve been at home full time for about three weeks now and while things aren’t 100% better, I feel like I’m on pretty stable footing. I started volunteering once a week with an organization that does important work that I feel makes a difference in people’s lives. Even though it’s usually just one day a week, it’s made me feel a tiny bit productive and I feel like I’ve gotten as much out of the relationship I’m forging as they might be getting from me. I haven’t really felt this way since I started with OCEMS (Ouray County EMS) in Colorado years and years ago. Life has changed and I’m adjusting to the changes in my own crotchety, skeptical manner. But I am adjusting.
Tomorrow I leave for a four day camping trip in rural Maine. I’ll be spending time with friends that I’ve known for over a decade now, many of which I haven’t seen in years. I have to admit I’m a little anxious about the trip, regardless of my excitement for it. It’ll be the first time going on a trip without Aria since I went to Philadelphia four years ago. I get anxious when riding as a passenger in a car on highways because of the speed and this trip involves several hours of highway driving. And I’m anxious about meeting new people, of which there will be many. I’m managing by reminding myself that I have the friends I know already to feel comfortable around, and that I can medicate myself in the morning before we leave to help with the car anxiety. I am really looking forward to hanging around with a bunch of friends lakeside, getting to use my tent again, bonfires, and sitting around in the sun in a pair of shorts and no shirt.
I’m packed, except for last minute things like my cell phone and my alarm is set for 6:15 tomorrow. The only thing left to do tonight is stop worrying so I can fall asleep. Hah. If only it were that easy, but you know what I mean. It’ll be a good trip and I just need to keep reminding myself of that until it happens.