So there is this thing that I have been dealing with for a little over a year. It’s something that has challenged me greatly and, because it hasn’t killed me, I can only assume it is making me stronger. Seriously though, how much stronger could I possibly get?
Now, for the record and anyone who is about to lecture me, I have never been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, or any other disorder. Yes, I am perfectly aware that there are a million and a half other conditions that mimic anxiety. No, I do not want your diagnosis, I don’t care how many issues of Prevention magazine you own. Let’s just assume that I am responsible enough to have gone to the doctor recently and had enough tests run to rule out anything serious. Let’s also assume that I like to laugh at the things that are, shall we say “less than perfect” in my life and that I am in no way belittling you or your BFF, sister, or neighbor’s friend’s cat. We all fight our own battles. I chose to fight mine with laughter and mildly inappropriate blogging.
First of all, let me say that there is no specific thing that triggers an anxiety attack. Oh it seems like it at the time. At the time it seems perfectly rational that the dog is looking at me funny and therefore I must freak out. Or that I must burst into tears because my socks don’t match. Or that breathing is no longer a skill I posses because I added a little too much milk to the pancake batter. I should add here that normally I am a fairly strong, tough, easy going, not crazy human being. Just in case you were wondering.
So, something, or, in reality, nothing happens and I start to freak out. Here’s how that looks:
Brain: Something is wrong.
Me: What? I thought everything was fine.
Brain: No. Everything is NOT fine. Something is wrong.
Me: Oh, that is just a little thing. It’s no big deal. We can handle that.
Brain: I don’t think you’re hearing me. SOMETHING IS WRONG!!!
Me: Okay, something is wrong. We can deal with it. Ugh, why do I feel like I just walked into a junior high dance?
Brain: That would be me, dumping every bit of adrenalin I can into your body. You’re welcome. Now, I need you to listen to me. SOMETHING IS TERRIBLY WRONG.
Me: No, see? It’s just a little tiny thing! I can totally handle this!
Brain: You can NOT handle this! Some people might be able to handle this, but I can assure you that those people do not in any way resemble you. You are a person who cannot handle this.
Me: Let’s be rational. What is the worst thing that can possibly happen here?
Brain: Oh! You want to play that game?! Oh, I am very good at that game. I always win at that game. Let’s play!
Me: No, wait! I didn’t mean that! I take it back! I don’t want to play that game!
Brain: Too late, Mwah ha ha ha ha!!!!!
This is the part where some invisible elephant decides to sit on my chest. Breathing and willing my heart not to explode as a result of the hummingbird pace it is at takes up most of my concentration. I now get to listen to my brain list all of the ridiculous, totally self absorbed, irrational worst case scenarios. Scenarios that involve everyone wishing I would just go very far away. Scenarios that involve The Pastor taking our children and leaving me homeless. Scenarios that involve everyone I know being so repulsed by me that they all work together to ensure that I am a complete outcast from society. I know it’s ridiculous. I know it’s totally self absorbed. I know it’s irrational.
Now, I’m a tough girl. This is the kind of thing I can handle occasionally. The problem is, it was not just happening occasionally. For a while, it was happening every single day. Multiple times. Then, my brain decided to give me a special little gift. A little gift called “Middle of the Night Anxiety Attacks”. Oh, let me tell you, Middle of the Night Anxiety Attacks are SOOOO much more fun than run of the mill anxiety attacks. It’s all the fun of regular anxiety attacks, plus the added fun of exhaustion to make it EVEN BETTER!
Brain: Hey! Hey! Wake up!
Me: I’m awake! It’s 2am! What is it? Do I have to pee?
Brain: Maybe, but that’s not important. Something is wrong!
Me: Are you kidding me? Did you notice the time? I do not want to think about what is wrong at 2am!
Brain: This is serious! Stay awake! We really need to deal with this!
Me: Ugh! There is nothing that is wrong now that will not be wrong at 9am. Good night!
Brain: Here, maybe some more adrenalin will wake you up. Better than coffee, I always say. Now, do I have your full attention?
Me: Nooooo….I want to go back to sleep. I’m so tired.
Brain: Maybe you’re pregnant.
Me: I’m not pregnant. And even if I were, I would still be pregnant tomorrow morning. Now stop it!
Brain: Maybe The Pastor is having an affair!
Me: The Pastor is not having an affair. The Pastor does not have anywhere near enough time or energy to have an affair. And if he is having an affair, maybe she would be willing to move in and take on some of the laundry and cleaning.
Brain: Oh, I’ve got a good one. Maybe one of the children stopped breathing!
Me: What? Umm no?
Brain: Do you hear any breathing coming from the other side of the house?
Me: Fine! I’ll go check and then I’ll go back to sleep.
Brain: Haha! I win! You will not be going back to sleep! We both know that you are now wide awake until the sun rises. Then I will let you sleep as much as you want.
Me: …but…but…but… I need to be awake thirty minutes after the sun rises.
Brain: Wow. That was really poor planning on your part.
After a while this started to become a real problem. I knew it was a problem because I was so tired that I could barely remember my own name. It was time to ask for help. The problem now was who to ask. It isn’t a medical issue. I did have some tests run. So my super awesome medical doctor wasn’t going to be of much help. I know several therapists. Several really good therapists. You can’t go to a therapist that you have a personal relationship with and I wasn’t sure that this was really the right answer for me. Also I have trust issues. It would take a long time for me to trust a complete stranger enough to talk openly about stuff. So I confided in a few friends. “Oh, whenever I feel anxious I just praise The Lord! You can’t praise God and be anxious at the same time!” They said. Or “Your prayer life just needs improving. If you are anxious, it is a sign that you haven’t given it all to God. You really need to work on that.”
I tried their suggestions. It turns out, I CAN praise God and be anxious at the same time. I am either the world’s best multitasker or somebody doesn’t know what they are talking about. Also, my prayer life is pretty consistent. I would have loved to leave it all at God’s feet but I felt like He was telling me that I already had the skills to deal with this. He had given them to me. And that’s when I discovered it. I realized that about the time this all started, I had developed an urge to write. Nothing major. No big self help book or great American novel. Just to write. So I started writing.
I have written a lot of blogs. I have written a few stories. Most of the blogs are too funny to publish. I’m serious. You would hate me if you read them. The stories aren’t all that interesting. But it’s not for anyone but me. You have your own thing. Maybe it’s singing. Maybe it’s painting. Maybe it’s praying. Maybe it’s (eww) running. God has given you a special unique way to cope with things, and the great thing is that your way and my way can be totally different. As a matter of fact, if you try to cope with things exactly the same way somebody else does, it probably isn’t going to work well.
So I write. And you sing, or (eww) run, or swim, or paint, or pray, or wrestle with your dogs, or something amazing that I would never think of. Also, I sleep. All night. Sometimes the evil part of my brain still pipes up. It usually inspires me to write something. Something funny or something serious. And no, the irony of not trusting strangers enough to talk to a therapist but having no problem posting about these things on the internet is not lost on me. I’m kind of crazy like that.