So many metaphors...hard to choose just one.   (detail from "Anxiety" 2011)

So many metaphors…hard to choose just one. (detail from “Anxiety” 2011)

I’m saying good-bye to an old friend.

A steady rain falls this morning, like a lifetime of tears falling in a day; the sort of respectable rainfall that farmers count on, and that quickly turns a pleasant walk into a test of endurance. I like rain. I especially like rain from a warm, dry vantage point with a hot cup of coffee. I’ve got my coffee, the rain, and if I want to reach into my heart and touch something that hurts, I have my share of tears, too. I also have a headache. The headache is part of this particular good-bye.

You see, after more than a decade, I am finally saying good-bye to prescription anxiety medication. Aside from this headache, and a few somewhat surreal days, it hasn’t been too difficult. I was most concerned about some potential that I’d suddenly be taken over by the level of anxiety that was my everyday experience before I embraced Big Pharm’s tempting sales pitch. A decade is a long time to take a drug, and I’m not surprised that the experience of withdrawing from it is more profound than the assurances and platitudes the literature provides; nearly all the research I’ve been able to access is based on clinical trials of short-term use (6-8 weeks), and none of it is based on a decade or more of continuous use.  Actions have consequences. A decade is a long time to take a drug.  There is too much information available, and a lot of recent reporting, regarding how business interests have resulted in a substantial amount of medical research being suppressed, or actually manipulated for a desired outcome, and similar sorts of things that frankly scare the hell out of me every time I look in my medicine cabinet. I’m painfully aware, too, that doctors are people, not gods, and just as prone to fraud, deceit, greed, error and simple incompetence as anyone else. I am serious about embracing a genuine experience of who I am – of being myself. Really being myself. So, the time had come to back up my recent progress with real trust that my experience is improved, and that I am more whole than I had been, and am capable of continuing to grow and improve my experience, and heal my ancient hurts. I decided to take care of me in a different way. Big Pharm didn’t fix my issues, and couldn’t – they had 10 years to make it happen. lol. My turn. For real. I’m learning, healing, growing…and I am happy to see 50 without having to take mind-altering drugs to endure my experience, pacify my fears, or ‘make me presentable’ for the rest of the world. The headache today is worth it.

...not going to dwell on it... (detail of 'Broken' 2012)

…not going to dwell on it… (detail of ‘Broken’ 2012)

I’m still human. I still feel anxiety. I still have things to work on, to work out, to understand more clearly. I have more to learn. I still have PTSD, and I’m still learning new skills for managing that experience more effectively. I still have a TBI, and I’m finally learning things that address that part of my experience directly, and that matters more than I ever know how to describe.

There’s always another lesson in life’s curriculum, isn’t there? My morning thoughts and contemplation are interrupted. I am finding that my concentration is limited for now, as I say good-bye to this ‘old friend’. I’m not sorry to see it go. But it is a complicated good-bye.

...each having our own experience.  (detail of "Emic" 2012)

…each having our own experience. (detail of “Emic” 2012)

It is sometime later, now. The serenity of the  morning didn’t last, and while that is disappointing, I’m finding that I am ok, myself.  Anxiety is what it is, and I’m ok. My own experience, right now, right here, is one of relative calm; concerned, aware, and finding significant perspective in the beauty of a rainy day, and the many shades of green I see. Some experiences have more value than others, and for the moment a rainy day trumps anxiety and ‘what if’ scenarios.

Respect…consideration…compassion…reciprocity…openness…my ‘Big 5’ only look easy on paper. I’m finding that getting there is still a destination, and the journey requires an everyday commitment to mindful choices, and awareness. I want it to be easy. I accept that both effort and will are required; this is not about easy.

I’m tired and my head aches. That’s worth it, too. I’m giving myself my self for my 50th birthday.

"Who am I? Wait...I had something for this..."  (detail of 'Kronos' 2002)

“Who am I? Wait…I had something for this…” (detail of ‘Kronos’ 2002)