A few months ago, my Herbalist folded her hands in her lap and looked at me meditatively. I have been going to her for fourteen years, so I knew something hefty was going to be lobbed at my head. I braced myself.
“Let’s talk about your anxiety.”
“And how you don’t sleep.”
I examined the ceiling.
“Well, we’ve tried everything I can do for you, but we need to do something different. You’re getting worse. You know it, and I know it. And…” she nodded her head over to my fiance, who had decided he wanted to witness one of my appointments, “I bet he definitely knows it.”
He gave a weary shrug. Then, grateful that he had someone in front of him who might understand what I put him through, he let loose. “She never stops worrying, and she’s always panicking about things. I’ve never seen her relax and enjoy herself for more than a few minutes. Not once. Ever. And she never sleeps. I don’t know how she functions. I’ll get emails from her at all times of the night. She’s crazy. She vibrates with nervous energy. Sometimes I don’t know who she is from one minute to the next.”
I glared at him. He raised his eyebrows as if to say, Are you REALLY going to challenge any of this?
My herbalist smiled. Then, she handed me a card with information on a Psychiatric clinic in the States that would scan my brain and tell me my ultra specific brand of crazy. Gulp.
I have always been a little (lot) highly strung. I tend to over-think everything, worry about anything, and panic about absolutely nothing. But, as the years have passed, that turned into a seeming inability to relax, at all, ever, which turned into severe insomnia, which just heightened my natural tendency towards anxiety. It was a vicious cycle that seemed to be gradually overtaking me.
The thing is, since I had no experience of being anyone but myself, I didn’t really have any real gauge for “normal” and just ended up floating between bizarre coping mechanisms and being blatantly and stubbornly ignorant of my own insanity.
In many ways, I thought that I should just be able to “deal with it.” I can just FORCE myself to sleep. I can just DISTRACT myself from worrying. I can just BREATH through panic. I can just MAKE myself be calm.
In a sense, it became a matter of pride: there is something rather humiliating in realizing that your own brain doesn’t seem to want to listen to anything you tell it to do.
That could only work for so long, because gradually it seemed as if all of my energy was being focused on trying to calm myself down, all of my strength was dedicated to trying to control my swinging moods, and all my desires were being focused towards finding a way to sleep. Sometimes, I just wanted to bash my head against a wall until I passed into blissful unconsciousness. It was becoming harder and harder to do anything, because my brain wouldn’t stop, and I couldn’t sleep, and actual reality was becoming a dangerously muddy thing.
Still, I kept trudging along. I could deal. I could handle it. I didn’t have a problem.
And this is why man isn’t meant to be alone. Left to our own devices, it is almost impossible for us to come to any real knowledge of ourselves.
The first crack in my armour came when the man who I was beginning to realize I might really love, like for realzies, looked at me with a mixture of intense puzzlement and vague horror, and told me he didn’t think I was normal. And I felt the unspoken question: Can I deal with this?
Slowly, ever so slowly, as the months passed, I realized something important: this wasn’t just about me. Sure, I might be able to make myself push through things; yes, I have pretty good coping skills. But was it fair to make him deal with any of that when there was almost certainly something I could do to fix it?
I can hear the gasps of starry-eyed tweens. “But he should love you for who are. The good and the bad.”
But if I love him, why would I ask him to do that? Why wouldn’t I try to give him anything but the best version of myself? It was more painful to watch him deal with me, than for me to deal with me. Sure, I was miserable, but I was used to it. How could I make him miserable too? I couldn’t.
It’s really funny (ha. ha.) how our most intimate relationships not only bring out the best in us; we are also forced to confront our dark side without gloss or rationalization. Sometimes things come out that we would never otherwise have become aware of. In seeing ourselves as we are seen—the good and the not so good—we are presented with the opportunity to overcome ourselves and become who we could be.
And so, I hopped on a plane and endured three days of brain scans and exhausting and exhaustive testing. It was hard and it was overwhelming and scary. The strangest thing about it all, though, was that I made that trip so that he wouldn’t suffer because of me. In the end, my own life changed beyond what I could have imagined.