I shared a little about my anxiety in 2013 – My Best Frenemy, Anxiety – and today I would like to revisit that topic. You see, last week I had to take a sick day off from work because my out-of-check anxiety made me physically ill (overwhelmingly nauseated, if you are curious). I could tell it was a mental health issue and not something viral as soon as I woke up. Didn’t stop me from having to take the day off though.
It is my own fault. I know better than to let my anxiety build, but with the busyness of the holidays it was easy to keep blowing it off. Anxiety, that powerful and irrational master.* For me, this is always a mistake. If I try to write my anxiety off as the irrational thinking it is, it will only grow deep down before popping up to ruin my day. Regardless of how irrational it is – and, yes, I know it is irrational – I have to deal with it head on. Simply saying, “Go away, silly” doesn’t solve a thing; it won’t go away.
I’m going to plagiarize myself here and pull something from the post I linked to in the first sentence: Here is the big problem with anxiety (it is similar to my problem with food) – you need it. Anxiety is a normal, healthy human response to stress. Unfortunately, when it gets out of hand anxiety is also a cold, heartless bitch that eats your last oreo without asking. If anxiety liked cookies, I mean. Let me give an example: On a good day, my anxiety causes me to concentrate on preparing for a lecture so I’m more comfortable speaking in public. On a bad day, my anxiety causes me to drive around a location a few times to work up the nerve to park and go inside. I’m not really sure what I am worried will happen when I go inside; I’m not always privy to that information and just have to trust the anxiety is rationally motivated [spoiler alert: it isn’t].
When I took the day off, I stopped at Starbucks for some hot cocoa on the way home from dropping my daughter off at school. After drinking it on my couch while browsing the internet, I slept for hours with my little dog Marv cuddled up on my stomach (the bigger dog, Leela, didn’t leave the cozy bedroom). I still wasn’t feeling “normal” when I woke up, so after picking my daughter back up from school I took a Xanax from my emergency supply. I also took an anti-acid pill, just in case. The two seem to feed into each other: anxiety = acid = anxiety = acid = explode. I was starting to feel better, but completely stupid for letting my mental state deteriorate to the point of needing medication (I very much dislike taking medication of any type). I know better; I know the signs and I ignored them. I felt a bit like a kid who has a stomach ache after eating too much candy – he knew he should stop, but couldn’t help but unwrap one more piece.
But life goes on. I apologized for being a bitch to my husband the night before I woke up ill (oh boy, was I ever a bitch), did some laundry, started the dishwasher, then gave myself permission to sit on the couch and finish the book I was reading (Child 44, if you are curious).
What else can you do? I am an incredibly rational person almost every moment of the day; rational to a fault, I might argue. Maybe that is why the anxiety catches me by surprise sometimes? It is so out of my ordinary.
I write about my anxiety because I know other people experience the same thing and feel alone. Other people have loved ones ask them why they “worry” so much and just tell them to stop. It feels silly to write about something so irrational, especially after the fact. There have been times in my life where I left the anxiety envelop me completely. I accepted it as my new normal and succumbed to the depression that accompanied it. I know better now. I found my way of coping and hope others can find their way too.
“Even if she be not harmed, her heart may fail her in so much and so many horrors; and hereafter she may suffer –both in waking, from her nerves, and in sleep, from her dreams.”
― Bram Stoker, Dracula
*Rocky Horror Picture Show reference for those of you in the know.