Anxiety. I never claimed this word as my own. On the subway, when I’d look at the advertisements for churches, medication and hotlines, I’d answer their question “ ARE YOU FEELING DEPRESSED?” with an honest “yes.” When the same question was asked about feeling anxious, well, I didn’t even bother reading the full question.
I’ve had a couple of panic attacks before, sure. But that’s normal, right? There was that time my parents took me to the hospital because I thought I couldn’t breathe and my oxygen levels turned out to be better than average, but that happens to everyone, no doubt. That same week my parents took me to a hospital because I was having an allergic reaction to watermelon. Once the doctor administered steroids, I screamed “it’s making it worse!” and almost jumped off the bed. That too, I’m sure is an embarrassing story everyone carries with them. More recently I began to suspect that I had spinal cancer and lung cancer and months before that, had my first mammogram because of an ill-fitting bra. Also, I can never sleep with my left breast directly against the mattress because I can hear my heart and I start thinking that it might explode. All normal things.
What I also thought was that there was something inherently wrong with me, obviously not because I had an anxiety disorder, but because everyone was feeling just like me but somehow still writing books, having healthy relationships, going back to work after a death and generally conducting their life as if they weren’t wading through honey all the time. If everyone felt threatened every second of every day but still managed to do stuff, why couldn’t I?
After a diagnosis of a Generalized Anxiety Disorder, I now know that not everyone thinks they are dying all of the time. Or that their boyfriend secretly wants to leave them. Oh wait. That was actually my intuition kicking in. Can I tell you something? That’s the worst thing about anxiety – sometimes your fear voice speaks just as loudly as your inner guidance. It’s like they’re twins, except one of them starts screaming “FIRE!!!” whenever she sees a spark in a boy’s eye. And you never know which one is screaming, the one who’s always lying or the one who has never lied to you before. They both claim to be truthful, pointing a finger of blame at the other. They’re hard to tell apart and that’s so dangerous for someone like me, a person who lives by the rules and the pathways her heart whispers about. How can you even hear a whisper with all that crazy screeching?
A friend was telling me about a misunderstanding with her partner yesterday. “It’s like I put 1 and 1 together and got 43.” Add “???!!!!!” to the end of that 43 and you have the anxiety formula, at least my anxiety’s formula.
It’s just the worst. And it’s the worst when it’s piled up on top of grief. And it’s the worst when that grief feels like you’re a child whose parent just left, rather than an adult whose adult friend left because you have so much unresolved trauma.
But, (there is always a hopeful but in my world, no matter how dark it feels) I get giddy when I think about who I am underneath all of the trauma and grief and anxiety. Who is this girl when she’s not stuck in a pool of honey? As the healing begins, not just from the break up, but all of the other things, what will she do? What is she capable of? Time and lots of therapy will tell.