Something Was Wrong, It Was Me

High Anxiety

High Anxiety (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It arrived every evening like a suspicious stranger, its presence like black fog slipping under the door. It was deceiving at first, mist, started slowly and then it changed in a split second and attacked me. I felt like I was being stabbed with an ice pick, repeatedly, the chill of cold anxiety running up and down my spine. The goal apparently was to shock me and knock me totally off-balance. It won, I didn’t stand a chance.  I don’t know why it came. I certainly didn’t invite it nor could I prevent it and its malicious presence only showed itself to me after dark.

I don’t know why it happened and I never completely understood it but the displeasure was here, every single night. I tried every trick I knew: deep breathing and meditation, but I did not stand a chance, it felt like I had been swept up by a tornado. Actually, I  lived in the eye of that tornado, I felt helpless, yes, out of control, out of control, out of control…

In past years during this same time period I felt sad, weepy. In the past eleven years I have known grief and a feeling of longing but not anxiety. Major life events happened, I felt loss , my dad was deceased but fear? This year without the regular Thanksgiving plans, control escaped me and anxiety with its octopus legs strapped me in and squeezed me so tight I could not breathe properly. Maybe Thanksgiving, without check lists and red lines crossed off made me feel undone. Would it be five people or nine? Last minute? I used to be so flexible, what happened to me? I missed feeling in charge, in control. I was alone in the world, it put me off-center, dizzy with fright.

I had trouble sleeping and eating and with my chronic pain disorder, Fibromyalgia, I questioned if this could have been a flare-up? Very possibly but I don’t know. The physical pain is the same but the IBS and the anxiety are on over drive.  Anxiety rolls in my stomach like one of those slippery aqua blue water park slides that I hate, wet,  flying down way too fast. I went on one of those once when my children were little and pleaded me to go on one of the rides with them. Trying to be a good mother and show them that fear should not stand in one’s way I relented, seeing their shiny little faces. Big mistake. I laid on my back and flew down the twisting spiral of hell screaming all the way down only to see them at the bottom, laughing. “Why did you lie on your back, Mom, didn’t you know that is the fastest way to go down?” OF COURSE NOT!!!

I felt like I have been on that water slide for at least two weeks except in my head and my body. I’m in my own zone of panic. Nothing worked, nothing helped, my last resort was to try to listen to music which has helped in the past. No luck. Maybe I’m just so excited that tomorrow I will be seeing my children, home for the holiday? Maybe I am feeling out of control not knowing if we will be five or nine people? Or maybe the last four, stressful weeks have finally caught up to me: my husband got laid off, I had to have painful uterine biopsies and on the way to my doctor’s appointment I had a flat tire. I found out my friend and her husband both needed surgery, I took on my friend’s problems too.

Maybe I’m anxious now because I couldn’t allow myself to be anxious before. The food lists are really not important, there will be plenty of food, no matter who comes. My friends will be fine. My husband will eventually find a job and we are not living out on the streets. My tests results came out perfectly. AAA apologized for dropping my call, twice and they paid for the private road side assistance. I’m taking a deep breath, it feels good. All of a sudden, I feel like listening to music and I’m getting a little tired. That’s got to be a good sign. I hope.

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*Woody Allen’s Other Sister

English: Woody Allen in concert in New York City.

English: Woody Allen in concert in New York City. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was practically BORN thinking about my mortality. It is amazing to talk to people older than I am (and I’m pretty old) that go into a sudden depression realizing they are getting old for the first time. Did they not know this was coming? I was born to be old, born worrying, born afraid. I could definitely be Woody Allen’s little sister. *Relax lawyers, I KNOW I’m NOT but I am so like him, it’s scary. I’ve always been a pessimist despite years of therapy. I thought for sure I failed every test when I aced them and any irregular (or regular) symptom had to be cancer. Describing myself as a “worry-wart” is too kind.

I have tried prescription drugs to alleviate my stress and anxiety but nothing works all the time. Even with medication I still see gloom and doom. I was fortunate to hide it from my children when they were younger, I tried so hard and it worked. Why can’t I do it again?  As they got older, they knew me better and have seen the real me. Plus, it’s a more dangerous world now than it was twenty years ago. I can’t hide anything from them, especially my son, who picks up vibes about me with just a “hello” and vice- versa. (He got that from me). My mother used to call me “over-sensitive” a word which I have always hated. I may not have known WHAT was going on but instinctively I knew something wasn’t right. I can sense things before they happen.

There are some days where I wake up and automatically go through the Rolodex (Google it) in my mind. It can go from a doctor’s appointment, a friend who is dying to security issues (the world is coming to an end, pork has salmonella, don’t eat at any restaurant (did YOU see 20/20?) a plane crash….) I categorize them all under the umbrella of: Health and Safety.

I’m my own damn movie and I can’t ever seem to have a happy ending OR  when I do, I’m afraid I will jinx it. I always play out different scenarios in my mind. What if “my fill in the blank”_______ husband, daughter, son, mother, sister….dies? What if I die first? Will my children be alright, how can I do this to them, I’d feel so bad, and guilty too. I’m feeling pangs of anxiety in my stomach even writing this….just so you know.

The clinical term is  “anticipatory anxiety” it’s no fun but it doesn’t happen all the time. I can’t help it when it does but I do try; sometimes deep breathing works or focusing on something else or playing with my dog, even walking. If you don’t have it, consider yourself blessed. Try to be an optimist or as my dad used to say “Worry when there IS something to worry about, not before.” Try and look at the glass half full, as the expression goes, not half empty, cracked and overflowing with mold and deadly chemicals, like I do. You’ll be happier and have an easier life. Trust me, I know.

Plinky Prompt: What Stresses You Out The Most

    • So Stressful!
    • “You Worry Too Much” DUH.
      stress I stress myself out by worrying. Worrying about my kids, my husband, my dog, my mother, my sister, my friends, victims I don’t know and I worry about myself. I worry about sickness, death, and the flavor of the week on the news i.e. terrible shootings. Worrying about worrying. I “pre-worry” when I have absolutely NO CONTROL over any outcome. In psychiatric terms it is called “anticipatory anxiety.” What good does that do me? IT DOESN’T DO A DARN THING. Yes, I know this but sometimes it’s hard to switch the channel. I am too sensitive in both a good way and a bad. I am incredibly sensitive to others, compassionate and intuitive at the same time I take on other people’s issues to heart and feel for others. A lot. I have tried to change a million times with no luck. I have heard “You are too sensitive” so many times I could scream (especially when it is said by totally insensitive people) I KNOW THAT, I DID NOT CHOOSE TO BE THIS WAY. So, give me a break. I do deep breathing, I’ve tried all the tricks but this is who I am. PLEASE, TRY TO BE understanding, know I worry because I love and I care. Maybe I care too much but don’t you think that’s better than not caring at all? If I could be a cold-hearted, non-worrying-bitch I’d have a much easier life. Sorry, no can do. I worry. I care. And that’s okay.
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What Makes Me Nervous

Biting one's lip can be a physical manifestati...

Image via Wikipedia

Jasmine tea

Image via Wikipedia

nervous

I go through periods of time when I could say “what doesn’t make me nervous?” Luckily those episodes don’t happen too often. I was also a nervous child, fearful and anxious. I was born premature and spent six weeks in the hospital without my parents; sometimes I wonder if that was a factor in my anxiety. I know sleep deprivation is definitely a reason that adds to my anxiety and unease so I try to get a good night’s sleep. During these brief albeit intense phases I: obsess about health and safety issues for myself, my family, my dog, basically those I love. I worry about mammograms for myself and every family member and friend that I love. Sometimes I worry about heart disease because my father had some heart problems. As you can see, when I worry, I worry about health issues and life threatening diseases.

I have Fibromyalgia and an auto-immune disease of my thyroid but I don’t worry about what I have, I worry about what I could get in the future. I do tend to worry in advance “What if this happens?…” A very old friend once gave me her advice: “Don’t meet trouble half-way.” Alas, sometimes I can’t stop it. I will ruminate about a certain subject. For that, there is medication that my doctor prescribed, used cautiously and only when I am in a very bad state; I am not at all ashamed of that, many people have this disorder and I don’t think you need to suffer in silence the way I did. The medication doesn’t knock me out at all, it just takes away the rough edges, like a camera blurry and fuzzy. The medication acts like a focusing mechanism, making things not as traumatic as they seemed, the sense of urgency gone. I am once again, in focus. It takes the edge off and I can feel my breathing change when it begins to work.

Sometimes, at the very start of feeling anxious, doing deep breathing exercises helps. I say I want to meditate but I have said that for years and haven’t done it yet; I’m not sure why. In addition and as often as possible, I list, in my mind, all that I am grateful for in this world. That, with a warm cup of jasmine tea, kissing and holding my dog, listening to music I love and singing out loud are other things that help me.

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Bad Habits that Need to Go

there's no need to worry this is just a vacation

Image by Robert Bruce Murray III // Sort Of Natural via Flickr

A Buddha, I’m Not

 

I worry sometimes like a mother-trucker and it is not good for me (or anyone else). Of course I have tried to stop doing this but I was born worrying, straight out of the womb, six weeks premature (immature too?) and into the incubator for another six weeks. I am convinced that the separation from my mom is a cause. Perhaps I never felt soothed or comforted in the hospital, that’s just my own philosophy. The effect? I was also an anxious child who had to have my “questions” answered by my father every single night. Anticipatory anxiety, intense worrying, convinced something bad is going to happen before I have actual facts. I’ve tried the occasional anti-anxiety drug (which can take a slight edge off) but mostly, I try to breathe, sing, distract and write. Will I ever stop worrying? Doubt it.

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Optimist or Pessimist?

Just call me a “wide-eyed POPTIMIST.”

Bird Houses / 20071230.10D.46705 / SML

I think the word to describe me would have to be “Poptimist.” Let me explain. On the outside I am, without a doubt, a pessimist. I worry, I feel stressed, I imagine the worse. I annoyed my college friends when I thought for sure I had failed a test and then got a 98. I used to be so nervous every time I took a test that I thought for sure I had failed miserably. I held my breath when the professor handed the tests back. I sweated and trembled and thought I would vomit with anxiety. I always expected a 54, circled in bright red marker to further call me out as a loser. Honestly, that is what I really believed. I’m a horrible test taker and I never knew how I did. I just assumed I had failed even though I studied for hours on end. It was always such a welcome relief to get, not only a passing grade, but a really good grade. Self-protection? Of course. Defense mechanism? ABSOLUTELY! As I got older I became more of a pessimist; my mother is a die- hard pessimist and I know I got a lot of that from her. Nature and nurture. My father was an optimist for most of his life. Perhaps I have a tiny, hidden bit of my optimistic father deep inside me. I worry BEFORE I know the outcomes of things, call it anticipatory anxiety if you will. Yes, I do meet worry half way. I actually go up and greet worry and practically invite it home for lunch. But, way deep down, once in a while, there is a small voice, like a tiny, quietly chirping bird, hidden by a brightly colored bird house, that makes me feel if I make it through the stressful process, it just might turn out to be alright in the very end.

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