I know this is a book review blog, but it’s also somewhere where I can dump my thoughts onto a page. So I figured, why not.
I’m not trying to come off as whiny, or looking for sympathy or anything, I just wanted to share my story of dealing with Anxiety. Whether or not this will help anyone or whether this is just going to be for me, I don’t know. But I personally find that hearing about other people dealing with Anxiety makes me realize that I’m not going crazy and it’s not just me.
So where to start?
I think the biggest thing for me to get out there is the fact that anxiety can go undiagnosed for years. My family always said things to me like “you’re so high strung”, “you’re clingy”, “you have bad nerves” and it wasn’t until I was probably 21-22 that I started to realize that it’s actually anxiety.
These are things that my mother and my grandmother said to me since I was really young (somewhere around 11). And it only got worse throughout the years. Of course there was times that I just ignored it and I was able to function as a normal human but the older I got, the worse it got.
The big ‘trigger’ of my anxiety was my mother dying. I can almost pin point the exact second where it went from just feeling kind of anxious if I couldn’t get a hold of someone to taking full blown panic attacks over everything or over nothing at all.
I had experienced a panic attack once or twice before hand but it had to be an extreme situation. Like if I had stayed up all night and then tried to do something other than lay in bed all day the next day. Or if I was really sick, I could end up having one.
After my mother died, though, it would come out of no where. One minute, I’d be perfectly fine, the next I would actually feel like I was dying. Shortness of breath, dizziness, weakness in my limbs, feeling my check get tight, nausea, tiredness, cold sweat. Did you know that everything I just listed there is actually a sign of a heart attack? And you wonder why people get so freaked out when they happen. On top of that there was that bone deep exhaustion that comes after having a panic attack.
When my mom died, I obviously had a hard time adjusting. My husband and I were living with her while we got on our feet. I had just finished college and was working at my first full time job since before school. My husband had just lost his job after the company pulled out of Canada. She died unexpectedly at the age of 45. I didn’t think I would’ve lost both my parents by 22.
Since we were living with her and she passed away at home, I couldn’t stand the thought of living in that house anymore. So I informed the landlord that we were going to move, had a bag packed for my husband and I and spent a few days with my sister before moving everything out of the apartment and into a new one. I think the whole situation was a huge reason for how bad my anxiety is. It was non-stop for weeks, cleaning, moving, funeral arrangements, estate meetings, on and on it went until I felt like I was going to lose it. I remember laying in bed talking to my husband after the first week and talking about how I couldn’t believe everything that had been done. The week felt like it lasted months.
Luckily, my work place and my doctor gave me something like 6 weeks off. I was diagnosed with adjustment disorder (or situational depression). It was probably one of the hardest thing I will ever deal with in my life. When I finally went back to work, it would be weeks before I’d be able to come home and not cry until bed time. Not to mention weeks before I could laugh at a show or movie without immediately crying after because I felt guilty about experiencing any sort of happiness.
I was lucky. I’m still lucky. I have an amazing support system with my husband and a sister who went through much of the same thing as me. My husband seems to know exactly what to do when I’m feeling overwhelmed or if I’m upset.
Books ended up helping a lot. The first book I was able to sit down and read was Ink by Amanda Sun. Interestingly enough, that character also found her mother dead. Seeing some of my exact feelings reflecting on paper was a huge eye opener for me. It helped.
So this all happened two + years ago. So since then it’s basically been a slow descent into general Anxiety and social anxiety. With my mom being gone and neither my husband nor I with a car or a license, I started working from home. With no requirement to go outside, I stopped going out at all. So going out in public is a struggle anytime I have to do it. I tend to go grocery shopping late at night or super early in the morning just so I don’t have to see anyone. It took me days to build up enough courage to call and make a doctors appointment because I knew that it was going to force me outside.
There was for a few months that my job was getting to me. And the anxiety started to build and build. I had panic attacks for no reason, I couldn’t sleep at night because my brain wouldn’t shut off. I would worry all weekend about work because I didn’t hit the numbers that were expected of me. I think the worse ones, though, were the periods of anxiousness. I would get this overwhelming feeling. It’s hard to describe, but it felt like my skin was crawling.. or vibrating, my knees would feel like jello and I start shaking. Every little noise would make me jump, I would have to turn down the volume of everything just so I could function.
Once, there was a work get together that I went to. I lasted all of an hour before I felt like I would go crazy if I didn’t leave. The sad thing is, it’s easier to lie and say you have a stomach ache than it is to tell someone you’re on the verge of a panic attack. I really do hate how it’s more accepted.
It finally got to the point that it was too much. I was tired of living like that. I have a wonderful marriage, a good job, a great family, why do things feel so wrong. That’s when I finally ‘gave up’ and went to the doctor.
She prescribed me anxiety medication that I take religiously and also ativan and a sleeping pill. Those two, I don’t take. I take melatonin to help me sleep and I have the ativan for back up if I really need it.
It took me a while to not feel embarrassed that I was on medication. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Would you tell a person who has diabetes to not take insulin? No, you wouldn’t. So why would someone who has a mental illness be told not to take medication. Medication is an important tool to help treat and control it.
Things are better.
I’ve had some things happen in my life lately that would of completely wrecked me, but I’ve dealt with it.
The best thing I ever did for myself was give up and go to the doctor. I also learned some pretty handy grounding techniques that I employ if I need them. It’s one of the reasons for a tattoo that I have on my collar bone. “I’m the bait and the predators my mind.” A little reminder to myself that it’s in my head. One of the grounding techniques is to run your hands under cold water. It’s supposed to bring you out of your head. I find it works a lot, so since most sinks are in bathrooms, I had the tattoo placed on my collar bone so it was easy to see. It’s almost become a mantra for me know.
(If you guys have never listened to the song StopRewind by Nathan Sharp, I highly recommend checking it out. I have never related to a song so much)
Things are looking up. I no longer feel as if my anxiety is controlling me. I don’t feel as if it’s my identity. It will always be a work in progress. Mental illnesses are treatable, but they take a lot of work.
I also want to add in some of the things I use to help my anxiety. Maybe these will help you.
- Cutting out or minimizing caffeine
- Taking a few minutes each day to just lay down and let my brain think of whatever it wants. Maybe that’s technically considered meditating, but I find it helps.
- Running my hands under cold water if I’m feeling anxious
- Name 5 things you can see, 4 things you can feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste. There’s many many variations of this one, but its one that I really like.
I hope if nothing else what anyone gets from this post is knowing they’re not alone. Anxiety is so hard to verbalize. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve been told to calm down, or that I have nothing to worry about. It’s frustrating and it makes me not want to talk about it. But talking about it is normalizing it and I think that’s one of the most important things that can be done now.
If anyone ever wants to chat, my inbox (both Twitter and email) are always open.