The anxiety was painful. Depression and anxiety co-exist most of the time.
I would feel my heart start to race. Thump-thump-thump to thuthuthuthump in no time. I could hear it in my ears pulsing into an outrageous headache. I could also hear in my ears conversations on fast-forward, many being played over and over all at the same time. Some real, some not. Tornados of stress. There was no control over the images and memories that sped through my brain. My eyes would strain, my legs would get week, numbness in my hands and arms. Sit down or lay down, whatever was available to do. Eyes closed, I’d pray for it to be over. I’d cry for it to be over. Could have happened at home, could have happened at a restaurant. Anywhere, without warning. And it was exhausting.
It would only take a mere thought to bring on these panic attacks. A memory that happened (or didn’t happen), a casual bump in the road, anything. Then my mind and imagination were off and running.
A few months after I had moved home, my sister urged me to come stay the night at her place in New Orleans. It’d be good for me. I pulled up to the gas station to fill my tank. Something was missing…my gas cap? Boom. Just like that. Too much to handle. Panic attack. Back to my parents’ home, broken down. Uncontrollably crying in their dark bedroom. Wait for it to blow over. Just like taking shelter from a natural disaster.
Sleep was impossible once weaning myself off the help to fall asleep. I’ve always been a creative person, and I think that’s why my dreams got so out of hand when combined with the anxiety. All of my biggest fears combined together into one dream, one situation, was more than I could handle. Every feeling of deceit, stress, disappointment and anger all at once. I’d wake up on purpose just for relief, but when awake the paranoia was so pressing I’d beg my mind to go back to sleep again… you always want the opposite of what you have.
The anxiety took over my personality. Again with the paranoia. I was awkward. Anti-social. Could have been from my isolated months too, but the anxiety made it difficult for me to converse with anyone. Even best friends. The phone would ring constantly and I’d get nervous sliding my finger across to answer. I’d have to learn how to talk to someone all over again. I didn’t want to be Debbie Downer all the time either, and I avoided as much contact as possible for that reason as well.
The anxiety couldn’t be turned on and off. I was able to choose to be happy versus sad as I explained earlier. Chose to fight the depression. But the anxiety wasn’t in that same category. My mind needed peace. The energy bottled up inside my head needed to channel something else. I needed to focus on other things during times when I was alone.
That’s what helped. Although hard to motivate yourself to do anything that sucks the energy out, baby steps. A book, a job, a hobby. Baby steps and time. Time heals many things. I’ll talk about these baby steps further in upcoming posts.
Those baby steps, turned into strides, and strides turned into leaps. The anxiety lingering but subtly. Panic attacks nowadays are few and far between. And I have a new gas cap.