Category Archives: Anxiety
Doubt and caffeine.
The Bloggess tweeted today:
“Every time something really good happens to me I immediately assume the plummeting downward spiral is right over the horizon.”
since I got back from London since I wrote this post, I wake up with a sense of dread. A sense of dread that something horrible is about to happen (or worse, it already has, and I have yet to hear about it).
It’s not fair. It’s not fair that I got to this place with an incredible sense of peace, and yet all the familiar doubt starts fucking shit up. Seemingly out of nowhere this afternoon, I noticed the signs of a panic attack on the horizon with the only good reason being that I consumed an unreasonable amount of caffeine before lunch. I noticed the signs, though, and I stopped them in their tracks.
Hoping and hoping that reading the following quote on my commute to work did not trigger something else entirely, that it did not touch me where it hurts, that it was just the caffeine.
“Depression be like a bruise that never goes away. A bruise in your mind. You just got to be careful not to touch where it hurts. It always be there, though.” – The Marriage Plot, Jeffrey Eugenides
I don’t know how I got here.
And it scares me. But not enough to stop heading on this path, but not enough to say it out loud.
There is plenty of stuff going on that could upset me, that could drain me. But I fight fight fight through it, like I always imagined other people did.
I never thought I would get here. Not at 13, or 16, or 21, or 33, or even five months ago.
I’ve had two panic attacks since the end of August. I’ve had bad days since then, too, but not ones that send me into deep dark spirals of depression, as hard as my mind sometimes seems to try to want to crawl back into them.
It doesn’t mean I’m about to toss aside the medication that got me here or that I don’t need the light box. It doesn’t mean I don’t still have work to do or that I won’t keep seeing the spectacular mental health professional. It doesn’t mean I have to be stop being mindful of triggers that would send me back months.
I got here. A mind at peace.
June 2009. Social anxiety, be damned. Eleven years here, and everyone I know locally is either a co-worker or one of his friends. I need to meet other people.
It takes a lot for me to gain the courage to walk into that coffee shop and meet a group of women bloggers, that up until a few days prior I never even heard of before.
Just like the day I moved into the dorms my freshman year of college and managed to set aside all the worry for awhile to meet neighbors, I end up enjoying myself.
It is only now that I realize how much I needed to venture out that day. It is only now that I realize the impact of that day on how the next couple years unraveled.
The thing is, I had been unhappy for awhile before that day, but the scariest part of trying to do what would make me less unhappy was knowing that a local support system outside of work and his world was lacking. As I got to know a few of the women I met that day, I started to feel like maybe I could do it after all, even after my health failed me for a few months.
Thank you, JoAnn and Jen and Jolene and Denise. (And also to Aimee and Tracy, who were not there that day, but still have been a huge part of my starting over.)
Friday night high.
Friday night, and I am drinking glass of water after glass of water to quench a dry mouth.
All because of the 230 mg/dl staring back at me after a dinner of chicken, vegetables, and a smaller side of pasta.
I have not slowed down like I said I would, though the new thyroid replacement dose seems to be working. I ended up worrying more about the things I cannot control (work stuff), I ended up procrastinating more about the things under my control (finding a place to live in the city where I work), and I ended up taking on a new side project (studying for the GRE).
And, I thought I could go back to being mostly pescetarian, as I did briefly in my late teens. In fact, I thought I would be writing about my experience exploring lower carb vegetarian options, not writing about a blood glucose reading that really bites.
Clearly, I need to listen to the self who wrote that post six weeks ago. Slow down and stop complicating my life by worrying and procrastinating. It does not necessarily have to mean giving up on grad school or on trying to eliminate most meat and poultry. It does mean ignoring the things I cannot control and taking action on the things I can control. (But if I can rock the GRE and start developing a lower carb vegetarian recipe stack, all the better for doing the things I aspire towards.)
Because without slowing down, there is more opportunity for a Friday night high, which really crimps my style.
Crowds are not kind to the person with generalized anxiety disorder.
They are especially not kind to such a person who has been experiencing a flare-up of anxiety, enough of one that depressing feelings of hopelessness have appeared*.
Airport security lines are one thing – they are a means to an end. I cannot visit with family and friends without the hassle of the TSA.
Willingly heading into a crowd like the one at Taste of Madison is another story. I decided it would not so be so bad, not when it would allow me to spend more time with my parents on such a short weekend trip. And so, I chose not to take any anti-anxiety medication.
It turned out that I actually enjoyed myself (and the food). The only explanation is keeping track of the three-year-old nieces kept anxiety far from my mind. Even though there were three other adults doing the same, not all of us could be watching at every moment.
This is not the outcome to be expected with each experience involving crowds. It is good to know, however, that with the right attitude and distractions, anxiety in such situations can be managed without incident.
*Please know I am in good hands with the spectacular mental health professional. Overwhelmed has been an understatement the past few weeks, and that kind of feeling does tend to spiral into depression. Just trying to take everything one day at a time, and accepting that there are some things out of my control.
I found myself caught in the rain yesterday.
In a summer where rain has been lacking, where all the vegetation is dry and crisp, I went for a walk at lunch and got caught in a brief shower of rain.
I kept going, with damp hair and wet clothes. I just kept going. I kept going, until the sun began to shine through the clouds.
Someday, the sun will shine through the clouds of the anxious mind. The pause button will be released, and progress will finally resume.
Until then, I keep going. I just keep going, with the hope that the sun comes out soon.
After a few mornings spent laughing out loud on a bus full of strangers, there was no reason to believe a little lunchtime reading would not bring the same.
Except it did not, not with one particular chapter of the book I am reading.
“I know other people who are like me. They take the same drugs as me. They try all the therapies. They are brilliant and amazing and forever broken.” - Jenny Lawson, (aka The Bloggess), Let’s Pretend This Never Happened.
I knew that anxiety would be touched upon in the book. I knew because I had seen The Bloggess take leave inside the women’s restroom when the going got rough at one of the BlogHer conferences I attended.
I knew, and I kept reading.
I ended up crying alone in the women’s restroom at work.
Because I felt less alone, a little less broken, knowing that someone else who seemingly has it all together lives with this thing called generalized anxiety disorder.
Because there are very few people who understand it, even fewer who will talk about it or write about it. I understood it from a very young age. I started talking and writing about it a few years ago. I even disclosed it to my latest supervisor a few weeks ago, after a panic attack occurred unrelated to work but in the presence of a co-worker. (I know, right? I choose to disclose anxiety over diabetes, WTF?)
“It is exhausting being me. Pretending to be normal is draining and requires amazing amounts of energy and Xanax.” – Let’s Pretend This Never Happened.
Substitute Ativan for the Xanax, and I could have written this.
Just because I seem highly functioning in the workplace or a social event does not mean that it is not taking all the strength I do have (and some Ativan) to stay presentable, to be focused, to not panic.
And just because I may have held it together in public does not mean that I keep it together as soon as I am alone again. The aftermath of a panic attack that did not happen can be just as devastatingly exhausting as having one.
So here’s the thing.
Jenny Lawson will be at a book signing Monday night in Denver.
I want to go, really I do, but I think she, of all people, would understand if I cannot attend.
I wish I could say that every single workout leaves me feeling refreshed, leaves me feeling relaxed, leaves me feeling awesome.
Because, for the past couple weeks, nothing really made me feel refreshed or relaxed or awesome. Even as I worked out regularly and ate decently and reignited a spark in diabetes advocacy, anxiety was on the verge of swallowing me.
Finally. Finally. Finally.
Tonight’s workout kicked ass.
Came out of nowhere.
One minute, joking around with the co-worker in her car about the strange characters we might happen upon at the DMV. The next, utter panic as a key document was discovered to be forgotten at home. No name change was going to happen.
I became one of those strange characters. In front of a crowd – in front of a crowd which included a co-worker – I lost my shit and experienced a panic attack out of nowhere.
Okay, maybe not nowhere, looking back a day later. Hints of anxiety could have been creeping into the horizon, with all that I am dealing with personally and professionally. Coupled with the sight of a long line at the DMV, it must have been the right combination for this panic attack to occur. Knowing why a panic attack happens is key towards preventing, or at least, lessening the effects of the next one.
What is so much more draining this time is that this happened in front of that co-worker. It made the rest of our afternoon silent and awkward.
Here I am, being encouraged to go to graduate school, being encouraged to better myself and create a new career path I never thought possible.
The panic attack had nothing at all to do with work, but it did have to do with one of my chronic conditions – the one of which I am in the least control, the one that does the most damage to the rest of them. Anxiety is this bitch that I do NOT want affecting my career, and have worked very hard to avoid in the workplace. (When I cannot avoid it, I work very hard to deal with it privately.)
And then I go and have a very public panic attack that mimicked a temper tantrum in front of a co-worker. I absolutely dread facing her again tomorrow.
Resilience is written on my arm for a reason – for many reasons…
An icebreaker in conversation to explain a journey.
A reminder of the lessons learned along the way.
A quick glance to gain the strength I know is possible.
A deep long stare to lose the negativity in which I tend to drown.
A symbol of a woman doing as well as possible under all the circumstances life has presented her.
An indication of the incredible people around whom she surrounds herself – those who encourage and inspire her to bounce back from the scary, from the sad, from the uncertainty.
Resilience is just a word, but the word means the world to me.