It’s funny to think about where I was a year ago. Actually a year ago I was in a hospital bed trying to convince the doctors I rarely saw to let me go home. But on the other hand, I was also dead set on getting out of Maryland and moving to Colorado. And now, I’m here and I’m not sure why. Funny how something you thought you were so sure about ends up being the one thing you’re completely unsure about.
I was so sure that I just wanted to be here to figure my life out and just work. Well, I am doing that but it’s not nearly as glorious as I thought it would be. I did figure out where I want to be and want to do, but in the midst of that, I realized I needed to make an even bigger decision. Should I stay, or should I go?
Truth is, times are pretty tough. This whole “starting a new life” thing kind of has ended up being financial suicide, which is pretty untimely now that I’ve decided to go back to school. I keep wondering to myself, why didn’t I figure this all out BEFORE I decided to move here? Well, I guess I was just a bit naive. And that’s okay. Sometimes learning things the hard way is the only way. I followed my heart instead of my mind. In doing so, while this whole concept is incredibly freeing, it is incredibly terrifying as well. Staying out here is what my heart is telling me because I am free and I am afraid. My mind tells me to go back to Maryland because I might find myself out on the streets trying to teach my pet rats to do tricks to earn money if I stay here. But the fear and freedom I’ve found in being here in Colorado and finally figuring out what I want to do with my life has made me realize I’ve finally begun to think with my heart instead of my head. As irrational as the heart can be, I now feel free. Decisions are hard. I decided to follow my heart.
And I did make a few decisions. First, I made the decision that it really is time to get off of my meds and handle my anxiety in more holistic ways through meditation, tai chi, yoga, acupuncture, and of course the biggie: limiting alcohol. After dealing with this bitchy psychiatrist that I decided I never wanted to deal with again, I went to my primary care doctor who ACTUALLY LISTENED TO ME. He was completely on board with my decision and after telling him that I’m applying to acupuncture school, he was in complete support of me using acupuncture as an alternative treatment to my anxiety. Coolest doc ever, right? Doctors who actually support the lifestyle that you think is best for you is what every doctor should be, unless your lifestyle is hurting you, of course. He’s also the first doctor who hasn’t tried to scrutinize me for eating a mostly vegan diet by pushing me to take supplements and get my blood tested to make sure I’m healthy etc. etc.
Basically, I decided to take control of my life for the first time. Getting off of benzodiazepines is really tough, I won’t lie. There’s the physical withdrawal in which sleeping seems impossible because you feel like you’re heart is going to thump thump thump its way out of your chest because it’s beating so hard, and then waking up feeling hungover every morning even if you didn’t even have a sip of alcohol the night before. And there’s the mental withdrawal. Always on edge. Always afraid. Finding your anxiety worse than you can ever remember it being. It sucks, but I know that this too shall pass because I now know how to control it. I will be free.
Earlier this week, I had made plans to go hiking with a couple friends. Today, I woke up to get ready for the hike and I felt awful. Racing heartbeat, suddenly not wanting to go out, and still feeling hungover even though I didn’t drink last night (unless I’m getting Buffy hangovers, maybe I’m binging too much, possible?) Still, I wasn’t going to back out on plans because I wasn’t going to give into my anxiety. Once I got outside and we were on the trail and I’m 15 minutes into the hike and dying and hating myself (see JP Sears’ video about Boulder: The Consciousness Capital of the World, which also sums up what Boulder, CO really is like. Goddamn trustifarians, aka rich hippies), I looked out at the mountains and breathed in the fresh air and felt an immediate sense of peace. Sometimes it really is that simple, sometimes not. For me, getting outside and feeling the sun hit my face and breathing the fresh, clean air of the mountains reminds me to just be here, now. Sometimes it isn’t that simple. Sometimes you have to go Buffy on a punching bag until your knuckles are bruised and blistered and your mom yells at you that you’re going to get arthritis to get out that nervous energy. Because that’s all anxiety is for me: pent of energy. I guess also slowly dying on a beautiful hike uses up a lot of the anxious energy too. But hey, the mountains are still beautiful even if you’re surrounded by an entire forest that was completely burned away in a fire about 5 years ago. Deciding to live with my anxiety is freeing, while also being ultimately terrifying.
The other decision I made is that I still want to be here. For a few months, I had convinced myself that nothing was ever going to work out here. The job market out here is horrific and I’ve found myself losing money instead of making money. Finding friends that I actually like in a town full of college kids is pretty hard too, especially when you don’t like people your age. But when I see the red light shining through my window in the morning as the sun rises, and seeing the sun set over Horsetooth Rock after a snow storm, I feel peace and I remember why I wanted to be here so badly in the first place. Maybe not being here in Fort Collins, necessarily, but being in a different place where I’m surrounded by mountains and being away from the place that I had grown too comfortable with is enough. I’m trying so hard to give myself reasons to stay because it is freeing and terrifying and I don’t want my head to make me go crying back to my mom in Maryland because everything out here isn’t working out.
How did I decide that applying for a graduate program in acupuncture here in Colorado was the right decision? Well, I felt freedom and fear. Freedom in the sense that I finally figured out who I really want to be and what I want to do, and the fear of everything that goes along with applying to grad school when you’re pretty low on funds and looking at a $60,000 program.
Here I am now, a year later. This time last year, the only future I saw ahead of me was my delusional relationship with Blob, feeling sorry for myself, not knowing who I was or what I was doing, but only knowing that I wanted to run away, and so I decided to do that. Now, I’m away from everything. Free from my past life, mostly, ambitious to follow my heart and take the next big step in my life and willing to take control of my anxiety instead of hiding it under medications.
I found peace on a mountain top. I found it letting loose on a punching bag. It can be found even when everything seems dark and scary. 23 years later, I am free.
*Most people know JP Sears as that guy who appears on your newsfeed once in a while sarcastically talking about veganism or how to be gluten intolerant. I found out the other day that he’s actually a certified holistic health coach who specializes in self-empowerment. See his video How to Follow Your Head (not your heart).