When I first quit drinking in December 2012 I would get up at 5am. I would write for an hour, then I’d do yoga with the woman on PBS. I needed that time alone before anyone else got up to write, to move. Writing helped process the enormity of what I was doing for myself. Then doing yoga after got me into my body. I didn’t have the words for what I was doing then, I just knew it felt right and that it was keeping me sober. I was faithful to my practice.
Life happened- I changed jobs and started working at night. My sobriety became recovery, recovery stayed solid. My beloved early morning practice faded away. As time passed I practiced in different ways- I completed MindBody Centering trauma-based yoga teacher training. I started running again- long distances in the woods where I spent hours in silence putting one foot in front of the other. I read voraciously and practiced meditation. In 2015 I found a therapist. I got diagnosed with anxiety. Depression. OCD. PTSD. I did a year long life coach training and got certified. In 2017 after months of debate I decided to try medication. I got relief. My obsessive thinking slowed and almost stopped. My confidence grew. My emotions evened out. It was like someone had tuned me in- the static all but disappeared.
Almost year later I decided I wanted to stop taking it. I felt good, and clear. Able to handle myself. My therapist and psychiatrist gave me reluctant go ahead. After tapering for 3 months, I stopped. For 4 weeks I felt okay, then for 3 weeks fell slow motion apart- not sleeping, being dragged around by my emotions, endlessly working my thoughts- more and more. Struggling. Struggling harder.
I was out for a run, thinking about all the things wrong with me. Why did I feel like the uncertain anxiety ridden afraid-all-the-time self I knew from before? The person who couldn’t keep her thoughts arranged, who couldn’t drink coffee because it launched her into frazzled outer space? Who, when sleeping, woke up every hour with a deep feeling of unplaceable dread? Why wasn’t I reasoning my way out of it? How could I pretend I was okay, really well, while managing my obsessive anxious thinking and giant mood swings? As in: none of this is a big deal. You are absolutely not drowning in thinking and worry. I was running with my body, and running in my head. Physically and mentally dependent on searching ceaselessly for answers.
Abruptly I stopped in my tracks, leaned over, and started laughing with relief: I could go back on my medication. I could stop covertly scurrying around tying all my slippery loose ends together. Stop the mismatch of inside frantically bailing endless buckets of thoughts while outside being bland, nonchalant, or temperamental. I could stop creating a trap door masquerading as security that could fall through any second. I knew I had to go back on my medication.
I restarted without hiding- I saw my psychiatrist, and I asked for non addictive sleep help. I asked my therapist if it was okay. She said yes. I knew I didn’t have to come up with an answer- I already knew it. I already knew it worked. I didn’t hide. I asked questions. I made the right and reasonable steps to take care of myself.
I started evening out again. In charge of my thoughts, sleeping through the night. Feeling lighter. More capable. The relief I’d found when I’d first started taking medication came back and now I had the evidence: without it I’m wrung out, off kilter, messy. It isn’t a matter of willpower, or attention, or being good- it’s my chemical make up. And it needs help. I recognize myself again, not perpetually sinking, instead floating on the surface of the water, bobbing with the tide, breathing in and out.
What started in April as a bid for freedom succeeded, but not in the way I thought it would. I discovered what I’ve unknowingly known to be true: I am a human whose practice needs the help medication can give. Right now I need the help of medicine to make my life work. So I can start again, and stop again- see where I am, in all things. I know where I am, I’m capable.
I am showing up for myself.