Todd and I had our annual check up right before we left for Chicago and while we there our doctor pointed something out to me I did not realize. We were finishing up my exam, checking the ears etc and she said So it has been two years since we weened you off the Lexapro, how have you been feeling? I told her I have been great, she was already aware of some of the life style changes I have made in regards to having an exercise routine, healthy eating habits and having a bedtime routine so I did not go into great detail. She said she was glad to hear it and that was that.
When I was leaving the office I was thinking about the last two years, has it really been that long? Yeah, I guess so. I was diagnosed and prescribed the Lexapro by a doctor that was not directly involved in my counseling at the time, it was about a 5 minute visit. I saw my counselor a few days later and he said that while the Lexapro will help short term he did not feel I would need it long term and continuing to work on myself would be what ultimately makes things better. He was right.
In the last 4 years, since first being diagnosed with anxiety and depression I have made a lot of important changes. The exercising and eating definitely play a role in my over all well being. When I first started counseling I was absolutely someone who would numb my emotions with food. I did not realize at first and once I did it was very intimidating because that is how I had been dealing with things for so long I did not even know where to begin my work on that area. It was gradual, we started (I say we because this change impacted Todd as well) by eating better. This made me feel better physically. I felt less tired and lethargic after eating, which really helped with my initial motivation to work out, I actually started to enjoy it. Once I was more active and eating less processed food I felt so good the need/want to emotional eat really wasn’t there. To really drive the new routine home and help prevent any back sliding we stopped keeping the food in the house that I would go to for comfort. Now it is not even something I crave. That was a huge hurdle to overcome, that alone would be enough to be proud of but I didn’t stop there.
Taking more time for myself, time to be quiet and reflective, time to write down my thoughts and feelings.. This has all be a integral part of my growth as well. Before, during my dark time I was very reactionary. I think part of that was because I was hurting so much at the time that everything was spilling over but I also think it is because I was not paying attention to what was really going on in side of me. It is not that I don’t still experience frustration and anger and other negative emotions occasionally, I just do not immediately react. I take time to reflect, figure out why I am feeling this way, what exactly is causing me to feel the way I do. Since being diagnosed and being in counseling I have not had a single episode where I allowed my negative emotions to get the best of me. No hysterical crying, no fury driven lashing out. I have been completely collected and calm in situations that would have previously sent me into a tailspin.
On that same note Todd and I have been together going on four years, he has been with me through the entire growth process, sometimes involved and actively cheering me on but more often watching proudly from the side lines. In that time we have never fought. For a while I was waiting for the other shoe to drop, because inevitably, in every other relationship I had been in it would. I finally realized I was different, this was different and I was doing things right this time which meant that other shoe was never going to drop. It is not that we never disagree. We are both fiercely independent people, who believe in autonomy and have our own outlook on life. It helps that our values are in line but nevertheless we do not always see eye to eye. That has never been a problem though. we discuss our differences, we discuss ways in which we can improve, nothing in our relationship has ever been taboo. We do not ignore issues that arise, we do not leave anything unsaid. And if a discussion begins to feel tense or emotional we take a break and shelf it for a while. It has worked every time. It allows us time to cool off and it also allows time to really reflect on what the other person was saying. Sometimes in a discussion you get so stuck on your own point you aren’t really allowing the other side in. We have a pretty great communication style if I do say so myself.
One of the biggest healthy changes I have made is learning how to say No. It goes back to what I was talking about yesterday with boundaries. I think flimsy boundaries may have had a lot to do with why I would experience anxiety earlier on in life. In other relationships, at work, in social situations.. I think I had boundary issues which can absolutely be a huge source of anxiety. I always had my values, what I didn’t always have was conviction. Saying No isn’t easy. It was something I had to learn how to do, it also helped that I cut ties with some of the people that continually tested my boundaries. I think first and foremost it is important to have healthy relationships with people who also believe in healthy boundaries therefore yours are rarely being tested. In cases where that is not possible, like with family who maybe don’t have good boundaries you just have to learn how to protect your own. Having boundaries does not mean always saying No either, I like to be able to say Yes as well. For me it is knowing that I have the right to say No and if I choose to say Yes I have the right to define my Yes. Someone asks me for a favor I am not comfortable granting? I have the right to say No, if I would like to help though I have the right to define what kind of help I am comfortable giving.
Having strong boundaries and a partner who supports them as well I think has made the biggest difference. I feel strong, healthy and unafraid. I really could not say any of those things a few years ago. I am owning my life and my decisions, I need no validation now from the outside world. I know I am actively and mindfully living my life and I have never felt so good.