Many of you may know I have struggled with anxiety my whole life, or at least you know that in my adult life I have suffered from it. Lately (again….4 planets in retrograde) I have felt an overwhelming sense of dread. Rarely has depression trailed my anxiety but lately I have been wrestling with both. I have become well acquainted with anxiety and embraced that it’s a life long partner that will sometimes raise hell. But depression…I have less experience. Despite all the traumas I have endured I have always been able to keep the darkness out of my personality or thoughts. So I thought, what better way to overcome it then wade through the muddy waters and figure out what is going on beyond the obvious. To do this I like to go over my personal history of overcoming anxiety so I can remind myself that I have done it before.
I had my first panic attack that I can remember when I was 6 years old. I was at my mom’s house laying on the bed trying to sleep and felt like I couldn’t breathe. I quite literally believed that was the end and I was dying. My dad is an RN and I made him drive to come get me. What became apparent to the adults in my life would not sink in until I was 14 and got put on my first round of anti-depressants. Imagine struggling with an anxiety disorder when you aren’t even mentally mature enough to process things like adrenaline rushes, extreme fear, and physical discomfort. At 6 years old you should only know pain when you fall off a bike and skin your knee. You shouldn’t experience hyperventilation, insomnia, and stomach aches from anxiety.
From 14 on I have been on and off anxiety medications. You name it, I’ve been on it. Effexor makes me stop eating, Paxil makes me angry with mood swings, Zoloft, Prozac,Trazadone to sleep, Ativan to calm down, Buspar, Lexapro, Cymbalta makes me have nightmares and puke, and finally Celexa. Whenever I am having a “bout” as I call it…I always go back to Celexa. SSRI’s are not pleasant drugs to get on or off. The side effects getting on are such that this last “bout” I struggled a whole year before I bit the bullet and went back to the doctor. It took having full on night terrors (sleep walking, screaming in my sleep, gasping for air) to get me in. The doctor eased me into it really well and within weeks I was sleeping and the night terrors had stopped. I HIGHLY dislike any sort of drugs. I don’t even take ibuprofen for headaches, but my body was responding so terribly to the anxiety that I had no choice, and for that I feel angry at myself sometimes.
I was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder when I was about 23. In my many hours of research I have learned that OCD is such an extreme anxiety disorder that many practicing psychiatrists and psychologists consider it not even on the anxiety disorder spectrum, but an entire disease on its own, with anxiety as a side effect. I have also read many times that in order to live a functioning and normal life I might have to stay on medication my whole life. I used to feel fearful or angry over that. I have gotten in many fights with my brain and my inner voice over this. But then I accepted it. OCD is not me but it’s a small part of me.
I started cognitive behavior therapy along with my medicine and things were going smashingly! I graduated college, bought my first little house, and enrolled in real estate school! I even survived a break up I thought would destroy me and came out stronger than ever. So why this “bout”? Why now. Here is where the processing comes in. As I have written this I have been processing why I feel this way and the fucked up answer is because I am happy.
I do not like to wear my tragedies on my sleeve. I don’t like to seem like a victim but it would be foolish to deny that I have endured more than some do in a lifetime. This past year alone my cousin took a gun to his head and shot himself. My brother relapsed on heroin and I had to go pick him up and bring him to a sober living house to get suboxone. His eyes were sunk into his head, he smelled like chemicals and was sick. I was sick. I couldn’t stomach looking at him like that. Hugging him goodbye as he booked a flight for his 16th rehab.. it brought me back to the Easter morning i sat by his bed holding his hand as he was in a medically induced coma breathing through a ventilator. He didn’t overdose but his heroin bender and had prevented him from taking his insulin and he went into ketoacidosis and nearly died. His “friends” dumped him in a puddle on the side of the road that day and left him for dead. That was 4 years ago and we are still fighting this addiction.
And then there was the break up. It came out of nowhere, with no warning. There were no fights, there was no love lost, it just died a natural death. Like a shooting star that burned so bright for too long and lost its energy and fizzed out. I am no stranger to abandonment but it doesn’t make it any more easy to deal with. I KNOW HOW TO LIVE IN SOLITUDE AND SADNESS. I know what to expect….but when you are happy….what if something comes and takes that away? What if my brother comes home and this time he doesn’t survive his relapse? I already buried a brother. I can’t do it again. What if I find myself in the same place I was earlier this year, watching someone I care about open the door on a random Friday afternoon and never come back? The killer here is WHAT IF. What if is the killer of hopes, dreams, and happiness and WHAT IF is OCD’s best friend. This is the cause for anxiety. This is why I feel depressed. Because I am happy and don’t want it robbed from me. But in effect I am robbing myself of it anyways. & that my friends is what living with anxiety does to you.
Thank you for sticking with me to the end of this very long, personal, and painful post. I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I am so glad I am capable of sifting through the shit show that is my brain now to come to a conclusion and set myself straight.