It’s taken me awhile to write this post, because it is so personal and such a real struggle for me. I don’t want to be too dramatic, but it is a real daily issue for me. And I think it is for a lot of others as well.
Please note: These are my experiences, and I am not advising anyone medically. I have no medical training and if you are experiencing severe anxiety or depression, please seek medical help.
I always remember being one of those children who was afraid of everything. EVERYTHING. Mascots, characters, heights, old people, ghosts, dead people, lizards, snakes, dogs, alligators (I grew up in Louisiana, y’all. This was a legit fear), darkness, monsters, etc. You get the idea. Some of it was because I was an early reader and had an active imagination. Some of it was just my personality. I am still afraid of some of the things I just listed.
What was once a quirky little characteristic has become a difficult, daily battle. I didn’t think I had panic attacks until I read more about them. I thought panic attacks meant you curled up in a little ball and basically hid, but I’ve discovered that MY panic attacks come in the form of my mind and heart racing, and coming to unrealistic conclusions. I know I being unrealistic, but I can’t help it.
Example 1: I don’t like driving in cities I’m not familiar with at night. It stresses me out. I was at Stanford University with my son, and after having dinner with friends, we headed back to our hotel. My GPS kept telling me the hotel was right there, but I couldn’t find it. I panicked and started freaking out. My son tried to calm me down, and it turns out the hotel sign was placed very low and I just didn’t see it.
Example 2: This one is super embarrassing, but shows how unrealistic I can get. Last year there was a bunch of very mean people who were dressing as clowns and just standing around on corners to freak people out. I heard they were in my area, and my head started spinning. Ultimately, I came up with the story (in my head) that some friends were going to show up at my front door dressed as clowns to scare me. I then went through a bunch of scenarios: Would I call the police? Where would I hide in my house? Who would I call? I then TEXTED said friends and told them I was so mad at them and they better not try anything. I sent SEVERAL texts. After I took a Xanax and calmed down, I had to send a lot of apology texts and phone calls.
While those stories illustrate “triggers,” or situations that cause a flight or fight instinct, I actually have Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Social Anxiety. I think I always have. And I can usually control it, but sometimes I find myself in constant flight or fight. It is exhausting, and spirals into depression. I have found myself overwhelmed at the thought of cleaning the kitchen (which would take about 10 minutes), doing the laundry (which I am sure is very, very common!), going out, taking a shower, or putting on makeup. I get up, get my kids breakfast and to school, workout, come home, and go back to sleep until I have to pick my kids up. As luxurious as this sounds, it is not normal. It is frustrating, and I feel like I’m taking crazy pills.
I have seriously never been disappointed when someone cancels plans. It simply means that instead of dressing up and talking to people, I can stay in sweats and not leave my house. I am very socially awkward. I like talking to people one on one, but have a hard time in large groups. I come across as very snobbish and rude, but in fact I have no idea how to approach people. And I get paranoid that people are talking about me and think I’m weird (which I am).
So part of this blog will be about my journey to get healthy, and some of the tricks I use to stay balanced. I don’t think I’m alone with this disorder. I think many of us deal with this on a regular basis. And plus, we all have our “things.” The journey is slow, but there are things that can be done to help the stress/anxiety/depression get better.