The Anxiety Beast

I have anxiety problems. Have I told you that?

It’s just a part of my personality, so it’s not usually a big deal. I don’t do crowds or talking to strangers or god forbid talking on the phone if I don’t have to, especially to a stranger. It’s part of my life. I manage it. I’ve even gotten to the point where I can stand in front of a classroom three days a week and not panic.

I’ve been having some trouble lately, though.

It built really slowly. It sometimes does. Over the summer and part of the fall I was almost ridiculously relaxed. I was pregnant and mostly unemployed and bored. And then I had a baby and had to adjust, and then I got a little work, but I was still at least half unemployed and bored. The only anxiety problems I had were of the social sort—I have a really hard time meeting new people—and nothing that actually gives me much trouble.

But today was hard. It’s been adding up all week. I’ve got a book that I’m copyediting, so I’ve got to get a certain amount of work done each day to meet my deadline. And I knew that I was going to be coming to Oklahoma this week for my cousin’s wedding; I’ve known for a year. And I built time into my schedule to accommodate this. But somehow I just can’t let myself let go of the work while I’m on this trip. When I’m not working, when I’m doing stuff with my family—which I’m supposed to be doing on this trip—it always feels like it’s looming. It feels like an oppressive weight.

And then there’s this other freelance job writing copy. It’s a really small job; I really only have to work a few hours on it every couple of weeks. But the problem is I don’t feel like I’m getting it right. I’m supposed to write in a certain voice to fit the image of this company, and I know I’m not doing it well enough. This isn’t just my usual self-deprecating I’m-not-doing-good-enough-but-really-I’m-doing-just-fine deal. I know for sure I’m not doing good because my supervisor has scheduled a TALK later this week. And that makes my heart hurt; it literally squeezes something in my chest. And it messes with my head. It activates the shame spiral that medication is supposed to help me get away from.

Today, though. Today there was a breaking point.

We were scheduled to fly out of Oklahoma and head back to our normal lives. Even better, really, than our normal lives, because my husband is still on leave for the rest of the week and I’ve got an interview for an adjunct position at a local community college.

But our flight got delayed. And then, when we had finally gotten on board, after I had realized that my husband wasn’t sitting with me and I would therefore have to sit with the baby on my own, after my careful plan to feed the baby as the plane was ascending fell to pieces and the baby demanded to be fed while we were hanging out on the runway, after I had dutifully tried my very best to keep the baby from kicking the seat in front of me and the nice man sitting next to me, after all of that, we were still sitting on the plane, on the ground, for an hour.

And the baby kept squirming. And I kept thinking about all of the stuff I had to do this week and the ways I felt like I wasn’t quite holding it together. And a chubby little fist grabbed the earbud out of my ear. And I wanted to hurt that little chubby fist for taking away the one thing that was comforting me. I wanted to squeeze the little body in my lap to keep it from moving. And I broke. Luckily for everyone involved, I had the soundness of mind to calmly ask the nice man sitting next to me to switch seats with my husband (he fled to the seat where there was no baby) and hand that baby over.

I did the right thing. But the thoughts were still there, and the guilt for thinking them was there, and my heart was still being squeezed, and although I could still breathe, I was definitely at a breaking point. I took a damn pill, watched my husband perform some sort of witchcraft to entrance our child, and cried.

Plane Ride from HellThe flight was cancelled.

So I’m still in Oklahoma. And I’m thinking about what happened.

Although I had a bad time, and although I’m still hurting, still being squeezed by my anxiety, I know I’m going to be okay. That’s sort of the beauty of a long history of depression and anxiety (ya know, as opposed to being new to it, not in relation to being without it, which would be SO MUCH BETTER). Once you’ve been through the shit and gotten better, you know that you can get better. You know that with the right combination of medication and coping mechanisms you can get through the hard shit and that you will get back to feeling good again.

So there’s that.

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4 thoughts on “The Anxiety Beast

  1. Abby, I’m so sorry that you struggle with this. My mother suffered from anorexia most of my adolescence for many reason (one of which was because my father was an alcoholic) but stress and anxiety loomed like a grey cloud in my home. I never suffered from anxiety but when Paloma was three she began to have tics and was later diagnosed with a tic disorder. This diagnoses felt like a brick on my chest for almost a year. Thinking of the suffering that would come to my little girl was overwhelming and more than I could handle. I used to just melt down every couple of days with the thoughts of how her life would be. As a parent to think that anything could cause pain to your child brings those feelings. We started doing Tai Chi together and prayed a lot. We talked, meditated, exercised and learned what things caused her to tic more than others. It was a long ten years for the both of us. Eventually as she grew older she learned to deal with stress and anxiety and you barely even see the physical or vocal tics ever. It was a long process but we never lost hope. I pray that you will never loose hope in those circumstances when things seem so very overwhelming. I pray for peace for you. Love you!

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  2. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I appreciate your perspective and would like to hear more about your experiences and coping mechanisms. My daughter is struggling with her own depression and anxiety. We are at the beginning of her journey, and if you are willing to share, it may help her see that it can get better.
    All my best wishes for an uneventful leave for you and your family. Text me for a coffee date soon! I’m usually free!
    Missy

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    • I will definitely be glad to share my experiences with you. I may write more about it on this blog over time, but I can chat over a coffee date, too. I’m sure it can be a harrowing experience from the mother’s side (when I think about what my sister and I put my mother through…!)

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