Earlier today (yesterday by the time you read this), I had an anxiety attack. Despite this attack, I knew I had to write a post for this website, as I have a firm Monday/Thursday night deadline each week.
The following is what I cobbled out during my lunch hour:
“It’s apparently been a bit of a roughtime as of late for some of the xoJane editors, and never one to be left out, I’m hopping on the “kind of freaking out and having a semi-nervous breakdown” bandwagon even though doing so is not really my thing. Correction: Admitting it is not really my thing. Rather, my “thing” is NOT emoting. I like to skip anything therapy-related and instead defuse actual feelings with fun things like sarcasm and booze, humor and cookies.
But here I am, sitting at my desk, going on hour five of what’s starting to feel like a full-fledged anxiety attack. And I can’t stop shaking. And I feel like I’m either going to throw up or have a heart attack. And everything feels completely and utterly overwhelming. And instead of dealing with it, I’m beating myself up. Because I am tough. I don’t break down. I keep my shit together. And I CERTAINLY don’t write about having a nervous breakdown on the Internet.
But just because I’m having an anxiety attack and feel like I’m on day 12 of a crack binge doesn’t mean the world stops turning. I still have work. I still have deadlines. I still have appointments to keep. And bills to pay. And a To-Do list that doesn’t stop. So I can’t just go home and crawl into bed with a book. But apparently I CAN totally ignore the fact that I’m supposed to write about sports and, instead, ramble on about me me me me me me me me.”
I can normally write three paragraphs in three minutes. That took me four hours.
I’ve suffered from anxiety for the last decade. I can’t remember the last time a week passed where I didn’t wake up at 3 a.m. in the midst of a full meltdown. There are certain triggers: rich food, alcohol, saying something stupid, deadlines, being alive… But I can rarely predict if or when I’ll be hit by one.
Luckily, they almost always occur in the middle of the night, so no one except me is affected by it.
However, today I woke up with one. My eyes were barely open, but I could feel the weight on my chest. Like I was going to throw up. But I’ve never woken up to an anxiety attack before, so I didn’t even know how to diagnose it; I thought I was getting sick.
But then I got in the car. And I was terrified to drive. And then I got to work and realized I could barely speak, much less write. My body was physically shaking. My heart rate was through the roof. I felt completely and utterly scared, helpless and paralyzed.
That moment (can one call eight agonizing hours a “moment?”) has now passed and it almost feels silly to try to write about it or explain it. To tell you that forcing myself to go outside and get a sandwich for lunch was a complete ordeal I didn’t think I could accomplish sounds ridiculous. It’s a sandwich. I mean, to be honest, I almost don’t believe myself when I say that it was hard. But it was.
How can I explain to you what it was like to drive to the gym after work and find myself completely unable to park the car? San Francisco is not an easy city in which to find parking spots and yet I passed SEVEN parking spots before I finally found one I was able to make my way into. It sounds ridiculous, I know. I couldn’t park the car? That doesn’t make sense.
None of this makes sense and yet, it’s my life.
I don’t talk about my anxiety often. First of all, I assume most people don’t actually want to hear about my problems. Walking around with a fractured spine for a good part of the year taught me about how boring it is to talk about my medical issues. I mean, let’s be honest: If it doesn’t directly affect the person to whom you’re speaking, most likely he or she doesn’t give a shit.
So I try to keep things light. Try not to complain too much or get too deep. I never want to be THAT girl, ya know?
But when I do mention that I barely slept the night before, people sometimes ask why.
“Oh, I had anxiety,” I say.
“About what?” they ALWAYS ask.
But that’s the thing about anxiety. It’s not ABOUT something. It just IS. When I told my mother I suffer from anxiety, she said, “Daisy. Worrying is an advanced form of suffering,” in a way that meant: Get that shit under control.
But, sadly, that’s not how it works. I can’t control my anxiety by writing a “To-Do” list or journaling about the things that lay heavy on my mind. You can't use mind-over-matter when your mind is a compete and total irrational mess.
No. My anxiety has no rational explanation. It’s totally selfish and narcissistic. One night it’s a combination of deadlines and relationships and the fact that my life is so very far from what I want. Another it’s a panic about something I said earlier that day or even 10 years ago (seriously).
And the night after that? It’s just an overwhelming feeling of dread and panic that starts deep in my bones, accelerates into my heart, and then spreads out to the tips of my hair.
My obsession with football certainly doesn’t help as football season tends to be when I experience some of my worst anxiety. I’m automatically exercising less and drinking more.
And the Niners. Oh, the stupid Niners. I know it’s unhealthy, but football gets me so riled up. If you’re not a fan, it’s probably hard to understand, but during the course of a three-hour game, I experience almost every emotion known to man. If I could afford a therapist, I’m certain he would say it’s a very unhealthy relationship.
Take yesterday’s overtime loss to the Cowboys, add in day drinking (a classic anxiety causer) and an early Monday morning deadline (I write about the 49ers for a local SF website), and I guess it makes sense that I was so panicked and miserable before I was even fully awake?
Except, ugh, not really because I’m not dealing with anything more than every other person who has a job and a life and a heartbeat. In fact, I’m probably dealing with less!
Which was what I reminded myself of when I forced myself to leave work and go the gym instead of running back to my apartment to hide under the covers. I know it sounds trite, but the treadmill followed by an impossibly hard spin class was just what I needed to clear my head, end the anxiety, and get back to normal.
Some people exercise to be thin; I exercise to sleep at night.
I know my life is good. I also know that it’s not everything I want and that there is so much more I can and WILL do. I know I say ridiculous things and that I often fuck up. But as my spin class instructor serendipitously said tonight: a baseball player who fails 70 percent of the time ends up in the Hall of Fame.
I am far from perfect. I am too hard on myself. I forget to appreciate what I have. But I always try. And I want the best. For me, for my friends, for the people I love. For everyone. It’s not like me to say that without a joke afterward. And probably I’ll wake up at 3 a.m. tonight having a panic attack about this post.
Not probably. Definitely. But I mean it. So there.