I’ve written about my anxiety before, but the anxiety I have today is not the same as the anxiety I had 5 years ago . . . or 2 years ago . . . or even 6 months ago. The way it affects me is constantly changing, sometimes by the day. What never changes is the fact that it does affect me. Every. Single. Day.
A little over five years ago, the panic disorder was at its worst. I had two nervous breakdowns a couple of weeks apart. My ex-husband thought about admitting me to a hospital. I went catatonic. I couldn’t speak. I screamed inside my head, but my brain could not make the connection to my mouth. I almost felt drugged. Like the world was hazy and I was just floating through the fog.
I snapped out of whatever that was but proceeded to have 4 or 5 panic attacks a day. Some of them lasted for an hour or more. I remember facing the hair care aisle at work. I was vaguely aware of the music over the loudspeaker. My hands were shaking so hard I could barely pull the bottles of hair spray to the front of the shelf. My heart felt like it was going to come out of my chest. I had to remind myself to breath.
Lorezepam and later Prozac helped quell the panic attacks. I moved on.
A few years ago, the general anxiety took the lead in my trifecta of anxiety disorders. To be fair, GAD has taken that lead through most parts of my life. It’s that gnawing in the back of my head that tells me everything I do is not good enough. It tells me that nothing I ever do will be good enough. It tells me not to sleep because I have whole lists of things to do and they have to be perfect or I won’t be good enough.
My GAD is not about being stressed over a big exam or a job interview or public speaking or the end of the month bills. It’s about feeling anxious every moment of every day because nothing’s right. It’s about a lack of trust in other people because everything needs to get done a certain way and I’m the only one who knows how to do it. It’s about questioning every compliment, every word of praise because I feel like the world’s best bullshit artist and I’m just waiting for everyone else to realize what an immense failure I am.
Then I went back on Prozac. And I felt better and I moved on. That’s not to say the anxiety went away. It lessened it to a manageable amount. It made it so I could see it and understand it and work through it. It’s like walking in the rain. The meds were my umbrella. Sometimes the rain still came sideways and I’d get wet. Or it would be really heavy and my legs and feet would still get soaked. But I still stayed dryer than I would have without the umbrella.
Recently (and by recently, I mean the past year), my social anxiety has taken the front seat. I’m not currently on medication. I’ve known for a while that I need to go back on meds (though not Prozac – the side effects became way too much, but that’s another post all by itself), but going back on meds requires a phone call to the doctor. It requires two bus rides there and two bus rides back. It requires me to be able to meet a new shrink and talk to her about how fucked up in the head I feel. And all of those things are social things that cause me the most ridiculous and illogical but completely heart-pounding fear.
I think the social anxiety disorder is worse than the general anxiety disorder and the panic disorder (though it’s quite possible I’d change my mind about that if one of the others were in the driver’s seat right now). There are so many things I want to do, places I want to go, activities I want to be involved in, organizations I want to volunteer for . . . but it’s always a battle. The prospect of having to interact with other people is so daunting that I end up hibernating in my house as much as humanly possible.
It’s easier with my daughter. It’s easier to leave the house when it’s for her or with her because I never want my mental disorders to affect her. I’m also painfully co-dependent (but I think it works out for the best here). When I only have to worry about myself, it’s not worth the effort. So I stay home.
When the social anxiety is under control, I have an easier time seeking help for the general anxiety and the panic. I can take a deep breath and make that phone call. It’s amazing how such seemingly simple tasks can become so fucking difficult.
It’s not that any of my anxiety disorders go away. It’s not like I have one at a time while the other two go on vacation. They’re all always there, always affecting me. It’s just that sometimes one affects me a bit more than the others. It’s an exhausting race to watch because the only one who loses is me.