Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Anxiety and Me

So, I have this anxiety issue.

If you don't have an anxiety issue -- well, don't feel left out. You probably have other issues, and if you want we can talk about them later. Let me know.

I wish I could give a blanket explanation of what it's like to have an anxiety disorder, but I think it's different for every person who lives with it. I can only tell you what it's like for me and for me,  when I'm having a full blown episode, it's as though my system goes into full flight or flight mode. My heart beats too fast and I can't breathe. It's like having an asthma attack but my inhaler doesn't do anything (in fact, I have to be careful not to confuse the two --  panic and asthma  -- because my inhaler will actually make my anxiety worse), and I usually stop talking because I can't figure out what words to use. I feel isolated and stupid and my body feels wrong. My skin feels too tight. I want to find a warm, dark space and hide in it until it passes.

It's not, you know, the most fun thing ever.

I've figured out that some things trigger my anxiety. For example, I find large crowds triggering. I used to love going to concerts; now I know that I can only really go to small venues, because the idea of navigating in and out of, say, a stadium and being surrounded by all of the people is too much. I don't like being in super noisy places. I respond poorly to shouting and to conflict.

Can I take medication for this? Yes. I can. Medication helps manage anxiety. It does not control it or take it away. It helps to smooth it out, but it doesn't erase it. There's no magical pill that will rewire my brain so that it's not convinced that I'm going to die in a Chuck E Cheese (please, never ask me to go to a Chuck E Cheese) or if I attend a party where I don't know very many people. I would love it if there was, but there simply isn't. As a result, in addition to medication, I have tried to figure out some of the things that cause me to, um, lose my shit.

Because the reality is that if I'm NOT able to figure that out and I go into full anxiety mode too often, Anxiety's BFF, Depression, will join in the festivities. This, in case you can't tell, is the opposite of awesome. It's terrible when you spend a lot of time wanting to hide and then, when you don't want to hide, find yourself sobbing uncontrollably at the drop of a hat because you are too tired and sad to cope.

I'm a freaking party to be around, obviously.

The hardest part about anxiety is this: sometimes, the thing that causes it to spin and dance through your system? Isn't something you can quickly remove yourself from.

For example, it might be your job. Okay, my job. It might have been my job.

I worked with wonderful, kind, funny people who I adored, but I would wake up feeling like I needed to vomit and spend hours at work in "Can't breathe, weight on my chest, I feel like I'm going to die, I can't escape" mode.  Every. Day.

I don't think I need to explain that this is not good for one's overall health.

I was tired all of the time because, to add to the fun, anxiety also causes me to have insomnia. I would sleep for a few hours and then wake up with the "skin too tight, can't breathe, racing heart" feelings while I was overwhelmed by thoughts of what had happened at work and what would happen at work the next day and the realization that there was nothing I could do about any of it.

Until finally I realized, as I sat in the tub crying as quietly as possible for the what might have been the hundredth time: I cannot live like this. It's not fair to The Fella or my family or my friends, who are watching me very slowly fall apart. It's not fair to ME.

I was lucky. I was able to find another job in a field I love and in an environment that's perfect for me.   It's been four weeks since I left my previous job and I have had exactly two panic attacks since then. One was the night before I flew out to train for my new job (I don't love to fly), and one was a few nights ago. That one was random. They sometimes are. I know that I'll have them. I also know that I cannot tolerate any life situation that causes that every day. I deserve more than that.

Everyone deserves to have a life that brings them joy, no matter how disordered their brain chemistry.

So, I have this anxiety thing. I'm used to it, mostly. I don't expect that I'll ever not have it.

But right now? I feel pretty damn good.

I'll take it.

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