“I exist as I am, that is enough” – Walt Whitman
It always crept in at the same time. Piled onto a friend’s floor, the light from the T.V. bouncing off the walls of a den or living room that wasn’t mine. When the conversations became fragmented, quieter, when one by one, everyone was nodding off to sleep. It always happened in the dark, in the deafening quiet.
I would gently wake up my friend, explain I wasn’t feeling well, cry, & call home. My parents were getting used to the late night phone calls, I could tell by the subtle sigh on the other end of the line. I felt guilty. I swore every time it would be different. I would make it through. “Will you stay the whole night this time?” my friends would ask, but I never could until much later in my adolescent career.
There were other times where it was really bad. The memories are blurry. It happened sometime after my paternal grandparents passed away. That silent panic, crept in like clockwork, after the lights went out, after my parents said goodnight. I would cry and cry. I would hyperventilate. One of my parents would lay with me in my bed until I calmed down. But as soon as they went to leave, it happened all over again. I was convinced that if I fell asleep, I would never wake up again. I remember pushing my head against my headboard, something solid to ground me & just sobbing.
I would put off bedtime. I remember sitting on the couch watching Emeril re-runs on food network with my Dad until he couldn’t keep his eyes open anymore. I can’t imagine how my parents felt. How stressful & exhausting that must have been to deal with. How scary it must have been to see their child scream and cry & not be able to make it stop. My heart still breaks for my sister, who had to hear that happening through her bedroom wall every night.
I wish I could take it back.
I remember talking with my family doctor, explaining how I felt when these attacks happened. My mom helping me remember all the things I had told her about it too. I felt crazy, I felt like my doctor didn’t understand. I honestly, don’t remember what came of these appointments. It was such a long time ago. But I am thankful that my parents took me somewhere for help.
I also remember stomach problems, horrible cramping. Horrible digestive issues. Laying in my sleeping bag at a girl scout all-night party & just praying the feeling would go away.
These are my first memories of my anxiety. At the time I didn’t have a name to put what was happening to me. It was my normal. My secret terror.
I am twenty-six. I’m an “adult” (whatever that means). Anxiety hasn’t been around for years, except for a few subtle moments here and there.
I am experiencing extreme stress at work and from school. I am crying. I can’t sleep. I am angry. My stomach constantly aches & cramps. My head throbs. I worry my boyfriend is going to leave me for someone who isn’t crazy. I’ve gained twenty pounds. I don’t recognize myself anymore.
One morning after a fitful nights sleep. I get out of bed and become so light headed I sway and fall right into my bedroom door frame. A bruise already starts forming on my shoulder. I can’t focus. That’s it, I tell myself, there’s something really wrong with me. Something serious.
I call the doctor’s office. I haven’t been there in over five years. I hate going there. I sob on the phone from the basement of my work. I explain in broken sentences that I’m scared. That I always cry at the doctors. To please apologize to the doctor in advance for me.
I know now, that I was having a panic attack. Pure and simple. It probably had started during the night & carried over to the next morning. My heart was racing so much & my blood pressure was so high that I became light headed when I got out of bed.
I somehow made it to the doctors office. I really shouldn’t have driven myself. I’m a mess. I can’t breathe. I, once again, am convinced the doctor will tell me I am dying.
His voice is calm. He crosses his arms. He asks me, “Why are you here today?”
“I was lightheaded this morning, I swayed like I was drunk”, I tell him. I blow my nose. He waits. “I was worried. It’s not normal.” I say in a sob.
He nods. Still calm. He reassures me I am safe. He wants to run tests. They are going to bring me something to calm me down.
I take the pill in one swift motion.
My heart rate is extremely high. It doesn’t come down even with the Xanax. My EKG is normal. My doctor is back in the room, arms crossed again. He explains the severity of my heart rate, that I need to go to the emergency room. Now. Who can I call to take me.
“I’ll be right there.” my Mom says on the other end of the line.
I have generalized anxiety disorder. I am on medication. My blood pressure is high because my brain is in fight or flight mode more than it should be. I’m on medication for that too. Some days are better than others. I am learning what triggers attacks. What helps me. Which I hope to share with you.
This post has taken me forever to write. There have been so many drafts & so many tears. Feeling vulnerable is something I avoid like the plague. My anxiety made me ashamed at first, it made me feel weak. Like there was something broken inside of me, that I wasn’t healthy. I am still coming to terms with that. It’s a long process.
I want others to know they aren’t alone. That they aren’t broken. That it is okay to have anxiety. That there are people out there who will support you & understand that you just can’t leave the house today. They’re out there.
I’ll be there for you if you need me.
Talk to you soon,