Back when I was a more frequent and prolific writer here on this site, I was pretty straightforward about the emotions that accompany a life-changing event such as a sibling death, divorce or career change. Obviously there was a lot of anxiety and stress – managing it was a daily task.
The rawness of those emotions is long gone. Yet here I am, still working to manage my anxiety each and every fucking day. And it is crippling, overwhelming, constant, and doing everything in its power to bring me down.
That’s the fun thing about anxiety (or more specifically, a panic disorder). The anxiety doesn’t go away as external forces shift and change. It is with you, all the time. And I mean all of the time.
Most of the time, it’s all I can think about. Whether I’m working, doing nothing (you know, “relaxing”), at the store, teaching, exercising, it doesn’t matter – my anxiety engulfs me. And you can all hold off on your recommendations of breathing exercises, therapies, meditation, medication, yoga, etc. – tried them, thanks, but they have not provided a long-term solution for me and my brain wiring.
Instead, I get the pleasure of constantly feeling like there is an anvil on my chest and someone is squeezing my heart at all times, with an occasional stomach punch to sweeten the deal. My breath labors (and given that I have asthma too this is super fun), my heart races. All I want to do is curl up in bed with my animals and let the rest of the world forget about me.
Unfortunately, that isn’t an option. Snuggling in bed all day with my pets doesn’t pay the bills (and trust me, I’ve tried to make it happen). For better or for worse there is nothing to do but keep slogging forward, hoping that the pressure will release at least a little bit, and to fantasize that there might be one single day in my future when I live in a magical world where the most pressing thing on my mind isn’t my anxiety and I can go to bed knowing me, not this condition, came out on top.
It’s fun to think about whether or not there is one thing that could change to make so many of these issues evaporate. Most of my true stress is financially driven – perhaps if I win the lottery, my anxiety will vanish! But alas, it’s one thing to be stressed out about something like money, it’s another thing to have a panic disorder. There doesn’t have to be an actual stressor to feel like you’re spiraling out of control. Rather, you just are.
As I sit here and plot how I can bail on training, on work, on a party this weekend with friends, on a vacation, on any other number of commitments, I know that there is no real reason why I shouldn’t do these things. The thought of having to pull myself together and pretend to be all right can just be overwhelming. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll (most likely) go to all of the things on my schedule, and I won’t regret appearing at any of them. I’ll even have a blast and be happy while doing them. But physically, mentally, emotionally getting to the point where I can get myself there is always a battle.
So apologies in advance to the people in my world – you never just get me in any given situation. My anxiety always accompanies me, and she is far more brave and extroverted and outspoken and daring and bold than I can ever possibly be.