The Day will Come, The Sun will Rise and We'll be Fine
I've eaten more in the last week than I did in all of August. It's unreal to think back and see where I was... who I was. I can't stress that enough, especially to myself. Panic attacks arrived regularly alongside the most basic tasks of my life: eating, sleeping, showering, and going to the bathroom in addition to bigger hurdles like leaving the house and being alone. Talk about uncomfortable. Mentally, I had all but given up. I had no real understanding of what I was going through and I hated hearing how "it would all get better" because I simply didn't believe it. The only real solace, if I had any at all, was in looking to the next day in hopes I would feel better. Those hopes still continue, but now they're a little differently focused.
After dropping three of five classes this last semester I spent most of that "extra" time turning inward. Since I was incapable of much else I basically put myself through an anxiety boot camp, reading all I could about anxiety as well as people's individual experiences with it. I've learned quite a bit about how it all works...most importantly how it's a shapeshifter, regularly altering how it looks and feels to ensure its relevancy and inject the most impact.
I've learned that the word anxiety comes from the Latin word angere which can be loosely defined as "to choke" or "to strangle". I find that connection extremely interesting given the fact that most of my anxiety stems from feelings that my body isn't functioning as it should. The feelings of pressure in my chest, or the idea that I can't catch my breath or swallow is basically my mind strangling me from the inside out.
I've learned that some 40 million Americans (18+) have been diagnosed with some sort of anxiety related disorder; and that means almost 1 in every 5 people. That statistic is staggering. That number, the 40 million adults here in America that regularly deal with some form of anxiety, can be broken down into more specific categories relevant to what the fear stems from. Social, PTSD, Obsessive Compulsive, Panic Disorder, Specific, and Generalized anxieties cover just about any form of fear one might face. This could be anything from puppies to the repercussions of abusive settings to fear of fear.
I would place myself into the latter category. "Fear of fear" or Panic Disorder basically means my fears of a potential panic attack keep me from functioning normally. It causes me to "protect" myself. At my worst, I became actively afraid to do things that I normally do. I had all but sequestered myself to the house. The problem with that solution is that it didn't solve anything. If anything it made me all the more depressed because I felt as though I couldn't do what I liked, much of which obviously involves my leaving the house. I don't want that to happen again.
I've always been pretty fond of living life and having fun; and this summer I basically convinced myself that I was better off watching episode after episode of The Office. And while that type of "therapy" had its place in the initial onset, my panic attacks didn't stop. They just continued. I wasn't "safe" anywhere (according to the ongoing replay of ways my mind told me I could die); and as shitty as that sounds it was that exact thinking that became a turning point for me.
Since I wasn't ever really comfortable anywhere or doing anything, I began making myself do more. I started real simple. Ridiculously simple. I walked the pups around the neighborhood by myself. I drove to the mailbox. I exercised with some super beginner yoga routines. I didn't bring my phone into the bathroom with me even though I was sure I was going to pass out. I forced myself to engage with others. I treated each of these events as successes...as wins. Sometimes my mindset faltered and I looked beyond the now and all of the progress; and I became beyond frustrated...deeply depressed.
But other times I was able to see it. Just like in this moment.
I gradually increased the size of those baby steps. I went to school by myself. I stayed home by myself (for short periods). I went on longer walks with the pups. Step by step. This has been my life for these last six months. The thought of my doing nothing with my life as each day passed was an even worse feeling than the anxiety itself. I decided that even if I feel like shit, even if I make myself have a panic attack as a result, I am going to make myself keep on.
All of this began when my body reacted badly to medications I was given. I can't change anything about it. It was like dominoes. One medication led to the next which led to the next and all of the sudden I wasn't me anymore. Just like most others who encounter similar difficulties, I didn't decide one day that it was a bad idea to leave my house. It was a progression and I absolutely hate that it happened. Sometimes I wish I could "Butterfly Effect" it making it so that first domino was never pushed. I think that's a natural thought process. But the reality is that if I focus on the shit of it, I'll never move on.
And so I ignore stuff in my body when it feels weird. I make myself do stuff I don't really want to do. I actively try to take the good from this experience by slowing down, looking around, and acknowledging what is truly important to me. I like this thinking.
I feel better. I feel stronger. I feel more like me. There are even moments when I don't think about any of it...and those are the most glorious of all.