I know it has been a while and I sincerely apologise for that, my loyal unicorns. I also apologise because this post isn’t going to be as funny as my usual (excuses for) writing.
I am going to try to talk to you guys about my anxiety so that you can gain a greater understanding of what it means to have an anxiety disorder. For those of you also suffering, please know you’re not alone.
If anything happens to me that I have never experienced before (emotionally and physically) then my mind can’t cope and I feel like I am the only inhabitant of the world’s shittiest holiday island.
(like this only imagine the house is filled with the Ebola virus for the duration of your stay)
Feeling alone is one of my triggers. When I am heading towards a panic attack, I have to search for others that have experienced my symptoms so that I can feel normal again. I once had my finger smashed up by a bowling ball and all I started running around asking if anything like that had happened to others. Because if it has happened to someone else and they’re standing in front of me, healthy and happy, then I might be able to pull myself out of the black hole that I’m speeding towards. If I cannot normalize something, the dark recesses of my mind close in and block out my sanity. Abnormality is not my friend.
There are a number of anxiety disorders, but I personally suffer from generalised anxiety disorder, health anxiety and several specialised phobias that pop up from time to time. The one that I struggle with the most frequently, however, is health anxiety.
Now, before I continue, I want you all to understand that even writing about this now is making my heart race and my mind go in very dark directions, so forgive me if I’m not quite as eloquent as usual.
One of the reasons I haven’t written lately is because I’m just getting over a cold that refused to stop mutating and bitchslapping me until my mind broke and I went bad.
Going bad is my neat little phrase. Like it? It’s my way of acknowledging that my anxiety disorders have gotten the best of me for a while. Usually it lasts a few weeks and wipes me emotionally and physically. It starts simple enough, I begin to notice aches/pains that had never bothered me before. Those issues become so pronounced that it becomes my sole focus. For days, even weeks. Every inch of my body becomes targeted by my own 24/7 surveillance until I can’t concentrate on anything else. I stop sleeping and eating properly and my physical symptoms worsen and escalate until I achieve a level 1 state of emergency, independence day plateau.
Imagine if your mind one day decided that you were terrified, so it tensed certain muscles in your body and then kept them tense. For days. Except then imagine that it is a symptom of Ebola to have an ache in this particular area and BOOM, you realise you’re going to die. This is how I’m feeling right now. Without the Ebola.
My darkest day was yesterday so based on previous ‘bad’ times, it’ll be around 2 weeks to 2 months before I’m normal again. Day by day it gets easier to normalise what my body is doing and my mind opens the prison doors that my brain has been living behind. But by this point, my brain is exhausted and weak and so it takes a while for me to be good again.
(I don’t really have a quip for this picture because I never watched the show so *fill in blank*)
Everyone experiences anxiety attacks differently. For me, it is an overwhelming clarity that I am going to die. Some people are a little more demonstrative that I am when experiencing an anxiety attack.
(except imagine more actual terror and less Kristen Wiig)
My experience is a quieter one and it takes place inside my head. I do have physical symptoms like everyone else; sweating, uncontrollable shivering and heart palpitations/flutters but the real battle is happening where no one can see it.
(except imagine less choreography and more Ebola victims)
Yesterday, I had a full blown panic attack at work that lasted hours and no one knew about it. I managed to keep my certain and impending doom from public awareness so that everyone didn’t think I was being ridiculous.
I always tell myself that I’m being silly; that I’m fine. It never works. Once I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole, there’s no escaping the experience. I have to wait it out and allow my anxiety to take control until it has run its course. I’ve tried drugs, counselors, psychologists, doctors, meditation and self help books. The difficulty comes with mastering these techniques when I’m ‘good’. You must be a pro at breathing exercises if you want to stop an impending panic attack. Yet whenever I try to practice mediation when I’m better, it makes me remember how it feels to be worse and I go bad again. Vicious cycle.
(except imagine less awesomeness and more depression and terror)
For weeks and sometimes months I feel broken; as if the light at the end of the tunnel will never come.
Now here is some advice for you, loyal followers and curious strangers:
Never say to someone with an anxiety disorder that they need to calm down or stop worrying.
That is like telling a Chinese person to just stop being Asian. Perhaps if they were more Hispanic or Caucasian, they would be fine.
Anxiety is not – I repeat NOT – something that you can just switch off like a light. It is a disorder that one must fight against every single day of one’s life. It makes me so frustrated to have to validate and legitimise my anxiety. People say to me all the time that I should be less stressed; that I need to take a few deep breaths and it’ll go away. How about telling someone with depression to be happy. I think you might find that this kind of statement will not be well received.
I am not a hysterical female, pining for attention and needing people to pity her.
I am a human being suffering from something that there is no cure for. I’m not saying I have Motor Neuron Disease or Cancer, but anxiety is a legitimate disorder. It’s not the vapors or my time of the month. It’s a fucking hulk, beating the shit out of me whenever I try and live my life.
I just wish I was normal. Or that psychologists weren’t so fucking expensive. But then again:
So there you have it. Of course, I’m only scratching the surface on this one. I get as deep as the Mariana trench when it comes to anxiety, but I’ll keep it brief or else you’ll all stop reading my blog. I promise next time I’ll talk funny for your reading pleasure. Please feel free to comment if you have any questions or you just want to not be weird on your own.
PS – sorry for all the Ebola references. I was trying to be topical.