For as long as I can remember, anxiety has been a huge part of my life. Way before I even understood what it was, my panic disorder affected me in countless ways. I dissociated, had panic attacks that felt like I was dying, and was anxious about being anxious.
It wasn’t until my senior year of college that I got help. I was extremely fortunate that my school provided psychological services at no cost for full-time students. I started taking 10 milligrams of Lexapro daily and saw a therapist weekly. Through the sessions with my therapist, and the two I’ve seen at different times since graduating, I learned how to use coping techniques to work with my anxiety.
It’s been almost two and a half years since I finally received a diagnosis of a panic disorder and started regularly taking Lexapro. In the past few years, not only have I taken Lexapro almost every morning, but I’ve also learned how to care for my mind and body.
I’ve found there’s no one solution when it comes to managing my mental health. In my case, I need medicine and self-care techniques to cope with my anxiety.
Going on medicine has given me the ability to reach a comfort level where I can test out these coping techniques. While the medicine allows me to live comfortably, adding in mental practices is what gives me the chance to thrive.
These two things can only work by building on the other, working side by side to give me the life I want and deserve.
Part of this is asking others what they do for self-care and testing these methods out. Personally, I’ve noticed that meditating regularly, journaling, and reading are three things that really help me.
Implementing these things into my life can sometimes feel really hard, though, and honestly, there are instances where I wallow or blow them off. But, when I do them, I can feel the difference.
If I’m feeling lazy or mentally turned off, I’ll make a cup of tea or go for a short walk. When I can, I go see a therapist and talk through how I’m feeling. Even when there’s not something significant going on, having that space can make a huge difference.
Also making a big difference? Knowing it’s not all on me and there’s medicine working to help with the push. It’s truly what gives me the strength to get through the moments where anxiety can feel suffocating, because, let’s be clear here, there are still plenty of times when it overwhelms me.
I have bad moments that sometimes turn into bad days. But I’m at a place where I have so many really wonderful times. Looking back at that summer before my senior year, more days were bad than good. I couldn’t eat most meals, as my throat would close up from anxiety. I was terrified to tell anyone what I was feeling and delayed getting help.
But I found the strength and did. Having a proper diagnosis allowed me to take control of my life again. In the time since, I’ve traveled to Asia three times, and I moved to Australia by myself for a year. I graduated college, have worked as a writer for amazing companies, and fell in love.
None of that would’ve been possible or successful if I hadn’t been properly diagnosed with a panic disorder.
I’m still a work in progress. It’s taken me a long time to learn different coping mechanisms that work. Sometimes I’ll finally find one that helps consistently, only for my anxiety to do something totally new that I’m unprepared for.
I’m stuck with my panic disorder for life, though, so I’m trying to find ways to live side by side it instead of being freaked out every time it appears.
Taking medicine and practicing self-care allows me to do that.
Sarah Fielding is a New York City–based writer. Her writing has appeared in Bustle, Insider, Men’s Health, HuffPost, Nylon, and OZY where she covers social justice, mental health, health, travel, relationships, entertainment, fashion and food.