I used to wonder why I couldn’t stop thinking about things that didn’t really matter. I dwelled on what I should have said to the bully at work, or turned over and over in my mind a disagreement I’d had with my mother. And I couldn’t seem to think about anything else, even if I was trying to distract myself.
Does this sound familiar? This is what a racing mind is, swirling thoughts that are repetitive but that you just can’t seem to get away from. Why can’t you escape from a racing mind? I wish I knew. But I do know that what is happening when your mind races is that stress levels are higher than usual. For me, this is was a symptom of anxiety. It got so bad I was replaying events from a year before over and over in my mind while I was trying to mediate, causing the idea of meditation to heighten feelings of anxiety. Yeah, that was intense. As was my anxiety.
Anxiety and The Racing Mind
If you have anxiety, and know you have anxiety, then you probably already know this. However, you might also be wondering if you have anxiety if your mind races. The answer is maybe. A racing mind does not automatically mean that you have an anxiety disorder. It could simply be the result of stress levels that are higher than normal. Possibly a loved one is ill and your boss won’t let you take time off from work. Or, you have an important exam coming up and you haven’t been doing well in the course so far. Your mind races on and on about the exam or sick relative, you imagine worst case scenarios, you feel badly about yourself, trapped, and the thoughts go round and round. However, while this uncomfortable, in these situations it might be expected. If you are experiencing racing thoughts most of the time about events that aren’t really worth dwelling on, such as what your co-worker really meant when they said you are good pet mom, then you may have some anxiety. You should analyze whether you have other symptoms of anxiety such as:
- feeling nervous or restless
- digestive upset or gastro upset
- feelings of danger, panic or dread
- brain fog
- feeling weak or fatigued
- desire to avoid things that trigger anxiety
- rapid breathing/hyperventilation
- rapid heart rate
- heavy or increased sweating
Looking back now, I had so many of these symptoms. I can’t see how I didn’t recognize my own anxiety. But it took me a long time to come to terms with the idea that I had anxiety. Likely because a lot of the time, I felt fine and happy. I believed that once X stressful situation was over, I would feel better. Less tired. I told myself I just needed a break. Some R and R and extra sleep. I was fine. But really, I wasn’t. And the more I lived with anxiety, the more I became anxious. Until I finally had nothing left to attribute the anxiety to but anxiety.
My Anxiety Story
I reached a point of such desperation that I went to my doctor wondering what on earth was wrong with me. I didn’t want to leave the house, but I was restless. I didn’t enjoy anything I was doing, and I would cry while pouring a cup of tea without knowing why. I just felt…wrong. And, nearly three years later, I have to say, I have no idea what I expected from the doctor. She suggested Cipralex (an SSRI) which caused me to burst into tears. It took me taking the medication to really come to terms with the reality that I suffer from anxiety. Because once I was taking the meds, I began to feel more like me. A me I knew was in there but just could never really be.
Taking anti-depressants is something no one really wants to do although we claim not to pass judgement on those who do need the medication. There is a certain level of resistance in society in taking medications for conditions such as depression, ADHD, or bi-polar disorder. Is it because we are ashamed? It is because these conditions are invisible? Yet, you could argue many conditions are invisible but there is no hesitation to treat them.
Why? I think it’s because these conditions are related to the mind that we resist the idea of treating them with medication. When the conditions are related to organs or hormones, such as diabetes, or hypothyroidism, no one hesitates to treat using medicine. We know we have no control over a pancreas that won’t produce insulin correctly, but we believe we have control over our minds. Do we? Don’t we? How much control do we have? I have no answers to these questions, but this is what I think is at work in the minds of people when it comes to mental health and medication. We seem to think as a society that we ourselves can “beat” the anxiety, or treat it with rest, proper diet and vitamins. I have come to believe that this is all part of treating anxiety, but you also need an understanding of what is happening to your mind and emotions. Some of which I gained through therapy. However, in my case I do believe I also needed to take the anti-depressants to really treat my anxiety.
Starting any medication is a decision you must make on the advice of your doctor. It is personal and there are many factors to consider. However, I am here to say not to be afraid of taking anti-depressants. I have found them freeing in that I am more myself now than I ever have been before. You are not weak, or wrong if you require anti-depressants.
Please speak with your doctor/health care provider if you are suffering from anxiety, or believe you are suffering anxiety. I am not a medical expert and am only relating my own experience with anxiety, and thoughts on the topic of anti-depressants.
Do you take medication for a mental health condition? Please share your thoughts below.