Every muscle in my body is tight. One knot on top of the other binding together. I swallow hard until my throat feels like its forcing down a softball. Curled up on my side, my eyes are squeezed shut. Maybe if I change position I will be able to breathe. I have to do this quickly, no slow movement will be successful. I heave myself over from my left side to my right, while simultaneously gasping for air, that didn’t help. Maybe if I stretch, just reach out and unknot myself from this ball I am in and find the full length of my five foot nine inches. Pull air into my lungs and allow it to circulate throughout. I am sweating and I can’t open my eyes. Just go back to sleep, maybe in an hour it will be gone. Why is this happening? What is going on?
There is only one explanation for it: It’s morning. It’s Anxiety.
I don’t recall how long this has been going on, it seems like forever now. I wake up each day with this panic that is indescribable. It is a full body, full mind, completely overwhelming monster that engulfs my being. Just writing about it now starts the rumbling in the pit of my stomach that threatens to bring it up again. I once asked my psychiatrist about this. I told him that when I got anxiety attacks I was stopping everything and stepping back through to moments to look for what triggered them. He told me to stop doing that. He said that I had ‘free floating anxiety’ and that I would make myself more anxious looking for a trigger that wasn’t there. I am not convinced. This morning thing has got to mean something. Maybe it’s this new life without a job? Knowing I am about to face a day with no structure? Maybe it’s the change that’s been caused in my financial picture? Maybe it’s knowing I am going to have to take the dogs out and I don’t want to go outside?
Maybe Maybe Maybe. Once upon a time there was a lady who ‘Maybe’d’ herself to death. Well… maybe not, but it could happen soon if I keep this up.
Some of my worst anxiety happens in my bed, and that is really strange because I can’t tell you how much I love my bed. My bed is a very special place for me. It is important to me that I have pretty sheets and wonderful pillows. I sleep with special blankets and I need to know that my dogs are near. I set things up just so. I know what you are thinking. For someone with anxiety THAT is a recipe for disaster. If one thing gets out-of-place, there it is, the anxiety attack, but that isn’t even what is happening.The first really bad sleep disturbance I can remember happened when I was a kid. I will tell you this story and you are going to think that this slightly quirky chick you follow on the interwebs is a total whack job.
Welcome to a big, and growing club.
I was probably in junior high school, (hey kids, they call it middle school now). My parents were having Bible Study in our dining room that night, and I had gone to bed. I was laying quietly, trying to fall asleep, when I heard a voice. The voice was very definitely coming from inside my head, and was very definitely not my own. I was not old enough to consider that I may have just had my ticket validated for crazy town. I just kind of thought it was annoying, I wanted to sleep. The voice was one of those you would use for a horror film if you needed the stereotypical ‘Voice of Satan’; Very deep, very distorted, ugly, and mean. At first I could not understand what it was saying. As I listened more carefully, I could make it out. It was a mean fucker. It was telling me I was ugly, useless, stupid. All kinds of pleasantries. Well at least it wasn’t speaking Latin or some other language I should not have known. It was speaking a language I knew very well: self-hate. I tolerated it for a few minutes, then I went out to the dining room, where my parents and all the pals of Jesus were and told them what was going on. I, of course, did not consider the implications of either A) sounding crazy or B) sounding possessed. I guess I should have also considered that I may have embarrassed my parents. In retrospect, I think I was having some early symptoms of bi-polar and some anxiety and insomnia. My Mom took me to bed and sat with me until I calmed down. I know she talked to me and whatever she said helped, I just don’t remember what she said.
Fast forward to this crazy every morning anxiety attack business. I get anxiety all of the time. I get it as I’m facing going out in public. I get it at times when one might expect it (waiting to get news from doctors etc). I get it when I think someone is mad at me or in crowds or when things are stacked up and cluttered. I get anxiety when it is very windy out, I get anxiety when we run low on paper products in the house. I am not exactly your model of mental health when it comes to anxiety. The thing about all of those anxiety attacks is this, they seem to make sense in their own peculiar little ways. This bed thing makes no sense to me and if I get out of bed, there is no lingering anxiety. If you have had an anxiety attack I am sure you know what I am talking about. That lingering feeling when it is over, the ‘whoa, I just had an anxiety attack and it really sucked’ feeling. I get out of bed, go downstairs and feed the dogs and start my day, and it’s like I have amnesia for the anxiety attack. The bad thing about that is that the next day, when it happens again, it’s like it’s all new, starting over again. I can’t remember what made me feel better or what didn’t help. I don’t know what to do about anxiety anymore. I don’t know how to deal with the inconsistency of it. Why do the same things sometimes make me anxious and sometimes don’t?
I also don’t know how to deal with the stigma of anxiety. People think that agoraphobia is never leaving the house. That’s not true. I leave the house. I only do it every few days but I do it. I have to prepare for it. I have to really psych myself up for it and if I decide one day I want to go out, I better just get up and do it before I lose my nerve. I have had people say that they can’t believe I have social phobia and anxiety because I have such a big personality. Ladies and gentlemen, meet the me that goes out in public and compensates for the fear that real Jules carries inside. If I did not act the way I acted in public, I would be a mess. So, you are going to get one me, or the other me. You are going to get quiet, scared me, that gets confused, and lost, and near tears everywhere we go. That’s the one that texts as she walks (so she doesn’t have to make eye contact), and cannot remember where she is in the middle of the mall (because she is so afraid she is focused on not crying). OR Compensating Jules who will hug the sample lady at Costco and make conversation with everyone. That is the Jules that takes control of every social situation. When I am in control, no one can control me: a person with a great big personality to use as a great big bubble of protection. I wear confidence like a huge lie to protect me from the wolves. And if I don’t: No breath. Hands in balled up fists, Teeth clenched, Eyes squeezed shut. Total confusion due to the hysteria in my head. I get lost walking around in my own neighborhood, that’s some seriously jacked up anxiety.
So here is what I hope. I hope that writing all of this out, really giving some thought to this anxiety, maybe tomorrow morning will be different. I will use the comment area here and let you know. Maybe you can tell me what you do for your anxiety? I could use the advice.