I was trying to explain anxiety and what’s been going on with me to my husband last night, but he just couldn’t get it.
He was like,
“But anxiety is a normal part of life. I get anxious before a meeting.”
“Yeah, I get anxious before a workout sometimes.”
“Yeah, I get it, I get anxious when XYZ scenario happens.”
“I just handle it. And you usually perform really well under stress, what happened?”
Don’t run off with your pitchforks and your torches just yet, he wasn’t trying to be rude, even if it came off that way.
And I get it. I actually understand what he’s trying to say, because I used to say the same things about weaklings who dealt with anxiety.
“I’m working two full time jobs and going to college full time as a single mother! Get your crap together, pussy!”
I’m pretty sure that at some point in my life, those words actually came out of my mouth.
I didn’t get it.
Just like he doesn’t get it now, and scores of other people who have never dealt with anxiety or panic attacks don’t get it.
So what, exactly has been going on?
That part is easy to explain. The why is a little tougher.
The what is this: I’ve been dealing with heart palpitations that make it difficult to breathe. I’ve had these for a few years and I recognize them as anxiety, so I’ve learned to close my eyes and breathe deeply for a couple minutes, which usually calms my head and my heart.
Lately, they’ve become really intense.
I’m not sleeping well, I’m waking up startled a few times a night, I’m exhausted, and I’m kinda shaky and weak feeling all the time.
But the worst part is that I’m completely paralyzed professionally.
I can hardly get out of bed in the morning, let alone open my computer to write. I haven’t checked my email in exactly 31 days.
I know stuff is coming in, I know I have things to do, I know I have obligations. I can’t bring myself to face them. Whenever I try, the room starts spinning like the Gravitron and breathing becomes even more difficult and the taste of metal fills my throat so I’m left willing myself not to puke and to please, please breathe.
I’m sure knowing I have things to do, knowing that I’m letting people down, makes it worse. But I can’t get past the spins and the lightheadedness and the inability to breathe in order to do those things.
My coping mechanism is still to breathe as best I can, but I’ve also learned to retreat inside myself which cannot possibly be healthy. I often feel like Plankton from SpongeBob SquarePants, just a little version of myself driving a larger vessel that helps me get from place to place.
I don’t know how I survived New York or San Fransisco, or even managed to take pictures that showed a happy, thriving version of myself.
Because that is not reality.
Reality is a bit of a crying, soggy mess with a rapid heartbeat who is going through the motions.
The last time this happened to me, I had a good reason to feel this way. It was 5 years ago, in the middle of Kyle adopting Styles. The very short story is that the court clerk told me the adoption would take 6-8 weeks so I relayed that information to my ex.
Well, court clerk misspoke when she gave me that information, so after 8 weeks, my ex began threatening to kidnap Styles. He was telling everyone he possibly could that I had kidnapped Styles across state lines when we moved to Georgia and then North Carolina (not true, and I had emails to prove it). The man was known to be all talk, but the thought of losing my child to this man made me physically ill.
I had good reason to be a little mental.
But right now, I have absolutely no reason to feel this way, at least none that I know of.
This is different than situational anxiety. Sure, it’s normal to have some healthy anxiety before a performance, an interview, a big move, meeting new people, etc.
This is different.
And the only way I know how to explain it is this:
When you have allergies, you have an over-active immune system. Your body ramps up histamine production and you turn into a sneezing, watery, itchy mess.
That’s what this is like, except with emotions.
My body is on high alert and for some reason has set off the flight or fight response. The problem is, I don’t know how to turn it off.
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