I struggle with anxiety.
It sucks. It sucks the big ‘ol suck because there’s not a whole hell of a lot I can do about it. A few years ago it was at its peak. I ended up hooked up to a 48 hour heart monitor to figure out why I was having heart palpitations all the time.
The diagnosis was, of course, anxiety. Not madly surprising.
I can remember things I was anxious about as a child – things kids shouldn’t worry about. Things like death, like people disappearing. My parents went out for New Years once when I was younger. We were staying at my aunt and uncle’s in Valley City and they weren’t back at midnight. They weren’t back at 12:30. I sat awake, trying not to cry, thinking something had happened to them, terrified that something had happened to them.
Yeah, this anxiety thing? Not a new thing for me. Not new, not realistic. Really…really not fun.
Today it took over in a bad way. It robbed me of my control so horribly that I couldn’t even pull myself together and force a brave face for my seven year old. It clamped its jaws down on my nerves and gnawed away, destroying any sense of calm, any rationality. I sat in a doctors office, telling my daughters pediatrician about the fact that even at seven, she was still dealing with migraines and that she was waking up in the middle of the night from them now. I watched concern take over her features and my heart constricted. I listened to the words “sedation” “MRI” and “rule out” and felt like the ground had just disappeared from under me. Everything went straight from okay to pure hell.
Because this is what it’s like. This is the bitch that is anxiety.
It’s not being over dramatic, it’s not being unrealistic. It is having zero control over what your mind chooses to do with scary words or things thrown at you. Anxiety doesn’t bother making pit stops at possible rational scenarios. It does’t bother seeing any kind of silver lining. Anxiety rips all of that away and takes a first class ticket to the worst case scenario. Then it festers there. It takes all of your worst fears, elaborates upon them, makes breathing hurt, makes your head spin and does things to your heart that make it even worse because then, you’re not just worrying about other peoples health. Now you’re worrying about yours too and the worst case scenarios surrounding heart issues.
Think any of that sounds crazy? Well, guess what? I don’t want this. I wish I didn’t think like this. No one wants to think like this. And as much as I didn’t want to get all kinds of real in a blog, tonight I’m exhausted. And I know I’m not the only one out there who struggles with this day in and day out, that feels this level of bone deep exhaustion just from thinking too much, from worrying too much.
The coping mechanisms have varied – art, writing, creating projects for myself at work, goats (haha! there here for a reason!!) and smoking. I was out having a smoke break with a co-worker a few months back and was in the middle of a slightly vicious anxiety attack. I didn’t know what triggered it or why it was happening. I just knew that my chest felt tight, that I was shaky and had to do something to make it stop. So out for a smoke I went. And the person I was with, once I explained what was happening, just looked at me blankly and said, “why are you doing that?”
They asked like I was making a conscious decision to do what I was doing. Yeah, I had nothing better to do at work then fabricate a bunch of dumb crap to push myself over a self-created edge and dive into a full blown anxiety attack. That’s what I do when I’m bored. (You guys can’t see this, but I’m giving a huge “Hansen” roll of the eyes right now).
I don’t fully understand anxiety myself. I was diagnosed by a physician, not an actual counselor, psychologist or any type of person who has a degree in such things. I was diagnosed, given the options for medications and declined, saying I would find a way to deal with it on my own.
One day, on a whim and because I’m also morbidly curious about all matter of things, I picked up a nearby DSM 5 and looked up generalized anxiety disorder. Mostly because my daughter had been diagnosed with it and I wanted to know what the criteria was for generalized anxiety disorder. Every criteria I read over hit home. And not for her. For me.
I don’t want to be treated any differently by anyone with throwing all of this out there. I just want people to know that I don’t want to think like this. I don’t enjoy reacting to situations the way that I do. I wish I didn’t. And as much as I wish I didn’t, as much as I don’t like it…the problem with anxiety is that choosing whether or not you have it and how you react to things because of it is is not up to you. The disorder gets to control that.
That’s why there’s a diagnosis for it, why there’s treatment for it. Because those suffering with it don’t get to call the shots. They need help getting to a place where they can.
But I want people to know. I want people to understand it better. To not see someone just freaking out for no reason or overreacting. I don’t want to deal with this anymore than you want to. But I have to.
And I know others have to as well. They probably hate it just as much as I do. They’re probably just as ashamed of it as I am.
But you know…we shouldn’t have to be.
It’s a mental disorder and I get that mental disorders are widely misunderstood. A lot of them are ignored, or downplayed because mental health has such a stigma attached to it. My hope is that this particular post is a small voice among many to raise awareness of mental health and speak out about the importance of better supports and better understanding so that those dealing with mental health issues know they’re not alone and that they don’t have to be afraid to talk about it.