Progress Isn’t Linear

I finally had the anxiety attack I had been expecting.

With a global pandemic, an economic crisis, and a flood in my apartment, I am surprised I didn’t have a breakdown sooner. Those of you who follow my blog know that I have generalized anxiety disorder, which can (an has) triggered my depression, cPTSD, and pseudo seizures. While therapy has helped me manage my mental health symptoms, I still have to face the inevitable truth that progress isn’t linear.

The fact is, mental illness don’t disappear.

As much as we want to believe that a few therapy sessions and a new prescription will be a magical cure, those of us who struggle with mental illness know that’s not the case. The human mind is extremely complex, and unfortunately very stubborn as well. Like a physical chronic illness, most mental illnesses require a lifetime of active treatment to manage symptoms, but that doesn’t mean that your treatments aren’t working. Just because it’s not easy, doesn’t mean you should just give up.

Progress is rarely a straight line.

One thing I have learned, forgotten, and had to learn again (and again) is that there are few things in life that only move forward. Life is complicated. We will experiences lulls, setbacks, and great leaps forward. Sometimes we feel like we take 2 steps forward then 1 step back. That’s completely normal, and it doesn’t make you a failure. We can’t control everything that happens to us, and we are human. We aren’t perfect, we make mistakes, and we are sometimes emotional and irrational. That doesn’t mean that trying to become healthy or grow is a waste of time. Stumbling along the path, getting lost, or taking a break doesn’t make you a bad person. Sometimes we need to rest so we can regain enough energy to pick ourselves up again. As long as we want to keep trotting down the path, does it really matter how long, or how many detours we take?

This week I had a setback.

I had an anxiety attack that I would rate as a 7/10. I started ruminating on past traumas. I was shaky and nauseous, depressed, irrational, and could feel myself spiraling into a longer (and more dangerous) episode. I was disappointed in myself for slipping, and felt like a failure for becoming an anxious and depressed wreck. But, as a close friend of mine pointed out, I hadn’t failed completely. When I felt myself start to spiral, I reached out for help. With her help, I was able to overcome my dark and obsessive thoughts within the matter of hours (as opposed to weeks) and managed to recognize the destructive behaviors before they took a deep hold.

What matters, is that we keep trying.

My GAD, depression, and cPTSD is not going away anytime soon. Even when things are going well, I know that my mental illness is still there. Over time, with a lot of work and constant self-reflection, I’ve become better at managing my symptoms and pulling myself out of ruts. I am still going to slip and fall sometimes, like I did on Monday. I am still going to have to go to therapy, practice calming techniques, and be patient with myself. I have to remind myself that progress isn’t linear.

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