Tracking my anxiety

(Wrote this three weeks ago, but did not think it was an appropriate time to post it.)

My last appointment with the doctor was in 2016 January, which means that it has been a good 1.5 years since I last saw her. Before falling down, dean’s list, before my internships and my job search, before going back to church, before my food allergies recovered. So much has changed and so much has stayed the same. Perhaps it was a good idea to skip all bi-yearly check ins, perhaps it was a bad idea. I don’t think things could have gotten better by themselves but I also don’t want to run back to medication the moment I feel uncomfortable, it is always a balance that I am trying to maintain, between self-reliance and living in a discomfort that others will not understand.

From what I remember, there is no clear line marking when I started feeling uncomfortable in crowds. I think it was in July 2016, when the new semester was about to begin and I was doing my internship at a small ecommerce company. I started being more reticent, lower energy levels and I started not wanting to be around people for too long. More closed up, like a small mollusc. The feeling of coldness and blushing more while talking in large groups started somewhere in February 2017, the anticipatory anxiety that I would get before each meeting and class presentation, staying out later and later at night because the night sky is calming and there is no one on the streets.

Then in July 2017 I started getting frequent panic attacks which were triggered by no particular reason. Imagine a golf ball that ranges from cold to icy cold, it is almost a whole-body experience. Sometimes I forget how to breathe because it is so painful and uncomfortable, and my breaths are really shallow. Sudden movement is not possible, I just want to stay all huddled up and make micro actions with my mouse on the excel sheets.  Sometimes my throat closes up, swallowing saliva is painful and it is easier to not talk and I just nod like a goldfish. Then the manager asks me a question and I recover just in time, but the voice is all scratchy and I think ‘fuck what if it gets worse and I am doing a client presentation and I can’t even speak properly’.

It is a deep fear that something is wrong and it is something that is in my bones. I don’t know how to describe it and I wish I could, but now I guess it comes and goes. Sometimes it is manageable and I can go on, sometimes it is just so uncomfortable that I have to stop what I am doing and cough just so I can move my throat. It doesn’t make sense, I am not afraid of anything, everything is going well, there is no reason for it to come back and be worse than before. There is no reason for me to be afraid to get into a car, even though I know that the air will feel heavier and I will feel so out of place in there, with my friends, even though I have always been fine with it.

Sleep is bad too. It is difficult to sleep, too easy to be disturbed by noises in the middle of the night. My neighbour has a dog that is very keen on making random noises. Sometimes I wake up without feeling like I have actually slept, especially after a long day of feeling like my nerves are on the outside of my body and I am so tense.

But I guess I have matured as well, I don’t give up when things get difficult or boring now. In the past I would just switch to something else, but now, I am in this tough space where I am doing things but am not getting better at them, there is not much in the way of hope for my mental health but I am still staying on track. I used to have this mentality which was all or nothing, either I got well or I would end this on my own terms. Which is really melodramatic but also practical because I would rather live a short life, than a life that is drawn out with half the day being affected by feelings of gloom and a really low mood. The isolation doesn’t change even though I am much more connected to people now, in the sense that I know more people and am doing more activities than what I used to do. Sometimes I am just so tired of the life ahead of me. It has been so long since the last episode- I define an episode as something that affects that way I live and work and something so sudden and painful that I will remember it for a few years at least.

Don’t surrender all your joy to an idea that isn’t true about you anymore.

-Cheryl Strayed