Anxiety is like snowflakes. They say no two people have the same exact symptoms. “They” are probably right. Mine usually include a terrifying dread when I wake up every morning that I am going to get to work and I will have messed up something very important that can’t be un-messed up. And then I spend the remainder of my day cringing every time the phone rings hoping that it’s not someone calling to bite my head off. Around 4 when the calls slow down or stop completely, I have a this little window of let down. Not let down in the sense that I’m disappointed that the calls are over but a let down of panic, it all starts to recede like the ocean tide.
Around that time, I feel like there is a hand inside my chest squeezing my heart. It’s like the hand wants it to just stop and then it changes it’s mind and squeezes it really fast a few times before stopping it again. I take a deep breath in and out a few times. I watch the clock tick by until I can turn the phones off. In the midst of all that, every time I have to interact with someone either in person or on the phone, customer or boss, I keep a smile on my face pretending that everything is fine, because really it is fine. It’s just all falling apart in my head.
And then I drive home. I sit on the interstate in traffic holding back tears because I know if they start, I will have to pull over on the side of the road and gasp for air while I feel like my lungs are going to collapse. And I don’t know what I will say or how I will explain my behavior to the police officer or good Samaritan that decides to stop and see if I need help. Because I will look like I need help and I will feel like I am dying, but really, there is nothing wrong. I’m just falling apart in my head.
So I go home and sweep the floor and dust my bookshelf in my naked living room. I’ve already thrown away my coffee table and boxed up all the random trinkets that mean anything to me because a clean house makes you feel good and clutter clutters your mind. But I keep adding self help books to the bookshelf to collect dust after I read them and don’t find what I’m looking for. And even though the floor is swept and the dust is gone, I’m still falling apart in my head.
So I answer a text from a guy who I said I’d never text again. And maybe I waste too much time on him, but for a few minutes or hours, I’m not in my head at all. And it’s safer than liquor. And not as damaging to me as drugs. Though, I’ve taken drugs before to deal with my anxiety. Not illicit drugs. The prescription kind. The kind you take in the morning and again at night. The kind that takes all the color and give a fuck out of the world and makes everything gray and lifeless.
I decided the moods and the mini panic attacks and semi-self-destructive behaviors were worth the trade off for a life full of color and feelings.
And I learned to deal with my anxiety. I learned to mask it so well that I probably couldn’t convince one single person I know that I have it – not even my best friend. I just keep smiling. And then I break down and cry until I can’t breathe anymore when I know that I’m alone and nobody will be knocking on the door. I stop calling people. I stop calling people back. I stop blogging. And then just for the hell of it, the time has to change and it has to get dark at 5 pm so now the darkness inside my head is on the outside for 14 hours a day sometimes more if it’s cloudy. And I pray for sunshine. I want to save it in my water bottle and drink it. But instead, I get out of bed, turn on my fish light, feed them, feed the dogs, shower, get dressed, eat something, go to work, smile, and when people say, “how are you?” I just say, “I’m great! Thanks.” And I do it all over again tomorrow and wait for it to go away.
And it will eventually. But it’s usually in Spring unless I can jet away to Florida at some point, but I don’t think that’s in my near future. And so I seek distraction and comedy and sometimes I find it in all the wrong people, but sometimes the wrong people come along at the right time and it works.
I’d like to say that it helps knowing that I’m not alone and that lots of other people have anxiety and panic attacks, but it doesn’t. I’d like to say that when I wake up tomorrow the day will go differently. But nothing is certain. So I just keep falling apart in my head until I can get a grip on it and I get a temporary reprieve from my crazy or until I can meditate long enough to make the hand in my chest go squeeze someone else’s heart. And sometimes I can. Not every day is like the one above. It’s just been for the last month that my anxiety has been at an all time high. But I’m sure, before I know it, when someone asks how I am and I reply, “I’m great! Thanks!” It will be true.