Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Grateful everyday

I have written about my anxiety and depression before because I see no reason to ignore the reality. I've never really gotten too personal, though, and I only recently realized that was because I am a little ashamed. Inspired by this post I found, I've decided to change that and talk a bit about what happens. That's also a reality, and lately, it's been one that I really can't ignore.

My anxiety attacks usually last about a day, though more recently, I've had attacks that have lasted several days, and one lasted almost a week a few months ago. I will tell anyone who asks that is what's wrong with me that day - I'm having an anxiety attack. I always get the impression they think this is a work of fiction on my part, or they think it's just a case of the worries, and if I just focus elsewhere, I'll be fine. Or they tell me to calm down. Or they just don't want to hear.

When I say I'm having an anxiety attack, I don't mean that I'm just a little worried. I mean - I am worried - but by the time I've gotten to the anxiety attack, I'm well-past the point of worry.

My head hurts. Most of the time I am dizzy and feel like I may pass out at any moment. It's hard to walk, and it's hard to drive. That can make getting to work difficult, but I usually manage. Of course, it doesn't always matter, because I can't focus on anything. It's also usually hard to see.

My stomach also hurts. You've felt butterflies before, right? This is like that, except it's like the butterflies are being attacked like a swarm of wasps. I can't eat - which would be great for my jean size, but it never lasts. Anyway, not eating doesn't really help with the seeing, walking, and focus.

There's also the hot flashes. This is great. I could be standing outside in 40 degree weather with short sleeves and I'd be sweating. Very uncomfortable, and just adds to the fun.

Some people want to know why I get so worried. Not easy to explain. It's not like my problems or worries are worse than anyone else's. In fact, my life is probably easier than most. The difference is my brain and body physically respond to my worries. I can manage that (medication, vitamins, exercise, diet) but there is no escape.

So just don't worry, right? I wish it were that simple. Here's what happens:

Someone says or does something that should mean nothing. Maybe they ask a question. Or mention something might happen. It usually involves change, and with me, it almost always involves a relationship (because those are my biggest priority). It seems insignificant to the other person - and I'm the first to admit it probably is insignificant - but almost immediately, my brain starts worrying.

What does this mean? What might happen? What could this cause?

A million questions swirl in my head. Pretty soon, answers are coming at me from every direction - and every single one is negative. It's like if you were in a room listening to 100 people hurl insults in your direction. I try to replace those negative thoughts with positive, and sometimes I'm successful. But that is a lot of work, and I'm not always successful.

I have learned a lot of "coping mechanisms." They work - most of the time. Sometimes the anxiety is so overwhelming that it takes over even my best efforts and tools.

So what do I do in the meantime?

I remind myself how lucky I am. Everyday, I tell myself that it will be OK. I remind myself that my God is bigger than any of my problems. I pray. I hope. I talk to my friends. I let myself cry and then I move on because letting anxiety win is just not acceptable.

I have far too much to live for.

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