May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Years of therapy have taught me to recognize the signs of feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, or needing something different from my relationships with people. I've learned how to label my feelings. I've learned how to talk about them with others. And—perhaps most importantly—I've learned put many "tools in my toolkit" (as my therapist would say) for improving my own mental health.
Yet, there are times when nothing in the toolkit will work.
My official diagnosis is generalized anxiety with an element of PTSD. I think I was living in varying states of stress and anxiousness for years, but when Nelle died it pushed me over the edge. Then Iris died. Then pregnancy after loss and a constant state of fear for nine months.
The anxiety I felt during that time period was debilitating at times. I would sit on the floor of the bathroom and cry. I took up hot yoga, letting the intense heat act as a punishment on my body that I felt had betrayed me. I wrote obsessively and saw my therapist weekly.
Eventually, the feelings subsided. I was no longer in a state of constant anxiety. Time passed, and Ger began to struggle with some of his own issues around mental health. While I spent the better part of two years trying not to fall apart, he held me up. Once I pulled out of that dark place, he came crashing down. But we worked through it. We've learned how to take care of each other.
Then in 2019, I was faced with another incident that kicked my anxiety back into high gear. In the moment, I felt unsafe. Scared. "Fight or flight" at its maximum. It took weeks for me to calm down.
Even with all the tools in my toolkit, and knowing what was happening, I couldn't control my body's response.
But at least I recognized what was happening. And could tell myself, "This too shall pass."