For those of us about to tear our hair out…

Anxiety is normal.

It’s good, even. It’s a survival mechanism. It’s a hallmark of our evolved brains — if our ancestors hadn’t been afraid of predators, starvation and other humans with really big rocks (and the wheel), they wouldn’t have known how to survive and they wouldn’t have lived long enough to beget the succeeding generations. Or, possibly they would have and we’d all be in picking nits off of each other in zoos being stared at by marginally-interested dolphins (or mice, depending on which Douglas Adams book you favor).

It’s good. But you can overdo it.

I never had consistent severe anxiety before I moved to Chicago. It came in sporadic bursts at rare high pressure moments (Ex: not knowing how to turn off the car alarm in my father’s Cougar while me and two of my friends were in it three weeks after he died). And because it was so rare, I never knew how to deal with it. I screamed at people. I cried. I withdrew and tied my nerves into knots with an ever-growing list of minor grievances, pet peeves and colossal, devastating fears. When I moved to Chicago, I did the same thing..only now it was every day. I worried about working, about passing my classes, about not pleasing my fiancée then wife. Eventually the anxiety coupled with the depression threw me into such a state I couldn’t rally on my own.

You can overdo it and it can run away with you — there are physical manifestations of anxiety that those lucky enough to not suffer from it never think about: sound sensitivity, touch sensitivity, light sensitivity, nausea, space issues, fear of engaging with others, fear of interacting with your environment. Aversions to stimuli that again, for people who’ve never seen experienced it seem ridiculous. The ubiquitous “It’s all in your head.” When people have said that to me, I’ve often wanted to turn around and say “yes, it is. That’s the problem.” The heroine in a horror movie can run away from the monster. She can shoot the zombie. She can stake the vampire through the heart or dump a bucket of water on the wicked witch. When the thing stalking you is inside your own head, it’s slightly more problematic.

Counseling has helped. Crafting has helped. Being able to talk about it honestly with other people always helps. But I still worry. I still get frightened and feel my nerves fray. That’s not going to disappear any time soon. So long as I’m in Chicago, so long as I’m not on medication, so long as I’m alive, I will have anxiety. But I’ll also deal with it.

This past Wednesday was a great day to remember that in a way. I was awake at one in the morning, biting my nails and twisting my hair around my fingers, wired and unable to sleep because 1) I’d found a dead roach on my kitchen floor and 2) the refrigerator — having moved it to sweep the floor behind it and spray for bugs — appeared to be broken, its little light dead to the world. That was at one in the morning. At six in the evening, two phone calls later, my building manager had already had the exterminator sweep the place and my fridge appeared to reboot on its own. It was unexpectedly uplifting.

Not always, but often enough, the things you worry about at half-past dead in the morning end up being the easiest things to resolve. And that makes the matters less easily resolved a little easier to deal with.

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~ by blackmoodcraft on August 4, 2012.

One Response to “For those of us about to tear our hair out…”

  1. I hate it when people dismiss anxiety. I didn’t start having issues with anxiety until I was with Jeff, and it started with all the various types of insecurity settling in because of his behavior that I couldn’t do anything about. My brother being in jail and then prison didn’t help because in the beginning phases, there were cops — corrupt and rude ones — who were coming around, wanting to ask questions, and it made me afraid to stay alone in my own apartment. After that, the wedding, the move to NM where I didn’t know anyone but his mother and grandmother, who didn’t really like me much anyway. Eventually the move back to CC, finding jobs, not having jobs, customers screaming, Jeff snarking. I had my first actual anxiety attack while I was unemployed but attempting to work from home (prior to having a computer and the internet), and one day, I tried answering the phone and couldn’t breathe. I knew that it was almost time for the ex to come home, so I called him at work to tell him what was wrong. He wasn’t very sympathetic. “What do you want me to do?” Um…just tell me that you’ll be home soon and that everything will be okay. Jesus. Later on when he was less than friendly (and there were other people around who were just as unsympathetic who said this same thing), Jeff said, “I think you’re imagining these anxiety attacks because you want attention and you don’t want to go to work. Well, the breakdown around the month before my brother’s execution seemed to change attitudes a bit when I one day started crying and couldn’t stop for probably two hours. That was when they realized that lack of sleep and stressing over Robert (when, you know, THEY weren’t losing a brother to a corrupt system) and me trying to shoulder it all by myself had pushed me to the last limit I could handle.

    The physical problems with anxiety, I think, are some of the worst. For me, they manifest in not being able to sleep, being sensitive to sound and touch, inability to eat even though I might be hungry, and all I -want- to do is sleep. Combined with depression, having anxiety might just be the worst feeling in the world.

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