Is anxiety the first thing you are aware of when you wake up in the morning? It’s that way for me sometimes, but it used to be that way every day. Almost before my eyes opened, my heart started to pound and I got that feeling of a brick sitting on my chest. My mind began skittering around trying to remember and organize what I needed to do that day. The thoughts varied, but they always coalesced into one question: “How can I get out of this?”
“This” didn’t have to be anything big for me to feel like that. There were many times that “this” was one simple (to most) task such as getting my daughter to school. I hate to remember the many mornings I acted pathetic enough to get my husband to take her instead (after all, all he had on his schedule was a commute into the city for his full-time job providing our single income.) Assuming I chose to take on my Herculean task, I would come home and get back into bed until it was time to pick her up at 2:30. By noon or so my anxiety would begin to rise again.
One of my greatest gifts from recovery is the moderating of my anxiety level. As I racked up some time away from substances, my limbic system gradually simmered down to a much more manageable level. Ironic, since anxiety was one thing I thought I was using the drugs to treat. There are still bad days or even bad groups of days, but that old level isn’t the norm anymore.
My daily life still fluctuates quite a bit; where I am on the mood spectrum can affect my choices and my capabilities. How severe my sleep problems are affects the day as well. I’m asking for trouble if I compare my daily accomplishments with those of the “normal” folks I know, because in order to find some peace I need to learn to be okay with the fact that it’s a pointless comparison. I want to spend the rest of my life learning and growing and becoming able to contribute more to the world, but it can’t be done in the hope of measuring up to others.
When I’m feeling inadequate, I try to encourage myself with a reminder that my to-do list does, after all, have two extra items on it every single day. No matter what, no matter if I’m sick or depressed or anxious or someone has just hurt my feelings like hell. The first two items on my list are always:
#1: Don’t kill myself.
#2: Don’t use drugs.
Do you have either of these on your list every day? Of course, for #2 you can substitute whatever is your personal poison, be it alcohol, food, gambling, calling that abusive ex or anything else. If you have them, I know how you feel, and I hope that you do what I do and remind yourself that you’ve accomplished something when you end a day with those checked off. I also hold the hope that you slowly get more and more days when your brain and soul can handle a longer list, one that gives you a richer life. Just don’t ever forget the first two items.