Before I begin, I wan to share this powerful comic I found here, that was created by The Awkward Yeti. It is the most accurate description of living with anxiety and depression I have ever seen.
I have a habit of writing about hard days after the fact. But today I am trying something different. Today I want to punch anxiety in the face.
Mornings are historically tough for me. I have never leapt out of bed with a smile, ready to face the day. Even my wedding day, I groaned and pressed the snooze button for 9 more minutes of glorious sleep.
Some mornings are worse than others; particularly when I awaken with Anxiety lying beside me staring me in the face. Those days are the ones I know are going to be a fight to get through until bed time, so avoidance always seems the obvious answer.
Today is one of those days. I woke up with Anxiety spewing racing, worrisome thoughts at me. It began with a conversation I had over coffee 6 months ago. A conversation in which a friend jokingly told me she would never take me to a fancy place because of my inclination for saying inappropriate things. I lay there listening to Anxiety questioning my ability to be classy and elegant. Anxiety told me that being funny and charming and random are okay qualities to have, but I’m not really that good at those either. It assured me I would never be invited anywhere.
Then it began torturing me about my writing. Particularly about a recent description of my blogs as irreverent. Anxiety made me question whether or not the comment was intended to describe my musings as cheeky and making light of usually serious topics, or if the person meant that I am rude and disrespectful. Even thesaurus.com can make you crazy when your bedfellow is Anxiety.
Then Anxiety began rambling on and on about Mr. B’s upcoming class reunion. It reminded me that my dress will not appropriately hide all of my imperfections; which is really everything from forehead to cankles. It told me that Mr. B will be humiliated to have a fat wife on his arm. It articulated how awkward I can be and how I will surely say something stupid. It told me I’m a burden to have around… no wonder no one would ever invite me somewhere fancy.
And then the cycle began again.
By the time I finally stood up, my head was throbbing, my heart was pounding in my throat, and my chest was heavy with dread. I snapped at my family, who I was visiting. I told Mr. B to stop talking to me, and I was incredibly impatient with Little K.
That’s the way some days are. And because Anxiety is an asshole that comes around sometimes with no warning, I don’t always feel like there is anything I can do to help. Sure, medication helps. Yoga helps. Exercise helps. Writing helps the most. But sometimes Anxiety makes me feel completely debilitated.
It is hard for people who don’t struggle with this to understand how you can feel worried when there is nothing to worry about it. They mean well when they say things like, “Don’t stress out about it,” or “You’re being silly,” or “Snap out of it.” But those well-intentioned phrases make me feel worse because I can’t help being stressed, I am cognizant that I am being silly, and I don’t know how to snap out of it.
I’m fortunate that I can tell Mr. B when I am anxious. He will always, every single time, ask why. And that’s okay. Because sometimes I can give him a very concrete answer that I am nervous about an event or that there is too much clutter in a room. But most often I have to tell him that I don’t know why.
He doesn’t fully understand the concept of being anxious without a because. He isn’t sure about the abstractness of it. But I’m lucky that he can say, “I’m sorry you are having a rough day. I love you.” He may not get it, but he’s comfortable being aware.
Not everyone is comfortable discussing mental health issues. Even categorizing my struggles under the label of Mental Health makes me squirmy. We are directed to hide that part of ourselves and to not talk about it. Because in our society, mental health is shameful. Speaking and writing about it so openly about is unheard of, weird, and unacceptable. It’s weird. It makes people uncomfortable.
Recently I wrote about depression and my current struggle with binge-eating. Much of the feedback I received described the post as, “hard to read,” “scary,” and “worrisome.” And I am fine with that reaction, because I get it. But what those people are really saying is that I made them uncomfortable.
Our nature as humans is to help. To fix. Problem? Solution. Headache? Here’s a Tylenol. Indigestion? I have a Tums. Hangnail? Clippers. Tired? Take a nap. Thirsty? Here’s some water. Broke? Fundraiser. Anxious and depressed even though you take medicine and really have no reason to feel that way but your brain hates you and that’s just the way you are? Um………….. Try harder. Get over it. Don’t feel that way.
Telling someone with anxiety to think and feel differently is similar to telling my engineer husband to stop applying mathematical logic to everything he sees. Or like telling my 5 year old to stop moving all of the time. Or telling my best friend with ADHD to focus on one thing at a time. An engineer has an engineer brain, a kid has a spaz brain, and someone with ADHD has an ADHD brain. I happen to have a nervous hamster on amphetamines running the wheel of anxious thoughts in my brain. Sometimes she gets tired and takes a few days off, but not often.
Often people try to relate – which is usually great. But don’t brush off what is my daily reality as something that is what you felt one time. They say, “Oh I know JUST how you feel! The other day I was running late to pick up Jimmy from school and I almost had a panic attack!” Clearly you don’t know what an anxiety attack truly feels like, and because one time you felt anxious about something does not make you understand what anxiety is.
I would say that feeling anxious is my normal. Some days are worse than other. Some days, anxiety becomes a noun (Anxiety with a capital A) – a thing that thinks for me. But my steady is nervous and thinking too much. There are days when I have a handle on it. I can breathe and write and exercise and laugh and I can keep Anxiety away. But then there are the days when I can’t seem to get enough oxygen, I am certain that my friends have stopped liking me, I feel like I may have a heart attack, my thoughts are like a high-speed train with no next stop in sight.
I find that if people without mental health struggles try to understand at least how anxiety and depression affect the brain, then compassion becomes the response. People like me aren’t easy to be around on a bad day, but kindness makes it more bearable.
|I happened upon this at the most perfect moment today.|
Thank you, as always, for keeping me In Good Company.
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