My blog may be pretty personal – but there’s a lot of things I’ve never blogged about here. Some, I never intend to, others – like anxiety – I’m going to try write about but I’m not sure when – or if I will publish these posts.
[Note: It’s a whole three years later and why the fuck not post this]
I’m writing this post on a sunny but windy Tuesday. It’s 30 December 2014. I’m healthy, I have a paying job that I’m pretty good at, a comfortable studio apartment [2017: two jobs and one apartment later…]. I have no debts, no immediate threats to my health or safety. I’m smart, I’m young, I have an excellent support system of friends and family.
And yet I am overwhelmed by crippling anxiety at least once a day. I’m writing this post in one of those moments when my anxiety is reaching it’s suffocating level where I’m almost unable to think logically and make rational decisions – even something as simple as whether or not to Whatsapp one of The Besties. I feel like I may cry at any moment – and really, I have no reason to want to cry today [edit later: I totally cried and then wrote a long, long post on depression]. Today is not a bad day, today is generally a day where nothing much at all has happened.
We’ve all heard of GAD – General Anxiety Disorder – when Oscar used it as a defence in the killing of Reeva, his girlfriend. But it’s not something that’s easy to understand or explain. But I’m going to try.
I can never tell when anxiety is going to strike. Or what will cause it. Or how long the grip will last. But as soon as the feeling latches onto me, I can physically feel it in my chest. It’s a clawed monster that digs into my lungs, making it hard to breathe. it sits in the middle of my chest, right next to my sternum. It feels impossible to breathe evenly. When it gets really bad, it wraps its snakey tail around my belly. I can’t think of anything apart from what’s making me anxious – it could be why someone hasn’t responded to a Whatsapp (Are they mad at me? Did I say something wrong? Are they dead?) to what to cook for dinner (But should I go shopping? What if I go to Woolies? But maybe really I should go to Pick n Pay because it’s cheaper. But Woolies is closer to walk from home. But what if they don’t have what I need and I have to go to Pick n Pay anyway?) My brain spins round and round and round on this roundabout and I just cannot get off it. It can last from 15 minutes to almost a whole day. For example, I got hit by a wave sometime around 11 when deciding what to do about dinner tonight. It’s now almost 3pm and I can still feel The Monster in my lungs even though I did make a decision and I did go to Pick n Pay and I did buy what I needed to (after initially going to PnP, then Woolies, then PnP before going home. And going back to PnP).
You’d think now that I’ve finally fucking decided what to do about dinner that the wave would go back, that the tsunami of anxiety would recede. But it hasn’t.
Now it’s just a thunderstorm in my lungs looking for something to latch onto. Because the things is, it’s not that I’m overly (and weirdly) obsessed about my choice of supermarket. My brain flips into fight or flight mode at the strangest triggers – and then it can’t stop producing the chemicals, leaving me bewildered, anxious (read: also scared), tearful and restless. And quite what these triggers are – I don’t even know, Maybe if I knew I could stop them from happening (great, now I can be anxious about what makes me anxious.)
And there is nothing I can do about it. Not a thing. I do deep breathing, I do yoga, I do mindfulness techniques and I try distract myself with videos of kittens, but the loop of panic and fear keeps going. My psychiatrist (that’s a whole other blog post) keeps trying to get me to go onto anti-anxiety meds and for someone who’s taken antidepressants (like I said, that’s a whole other post), I’m strangely resistant. In the past, they’ve either made me into a zombie or given me violent nightmares (and by violent, seeing everyone I love being murdered in graphic, horrifying ways and dismembered or chopped into bits). Which, you know, doesn’t do much to help my anxiety. Kinda the opposite.
And I don’t know what to do about the monster in my lungs. I’ve considered naming him (seems right that it’s a dude monster), but I don’t think even that would help.
Unlike my post on depression there currently is no happy ending to my anxiety attacks. They just are what they are. They’re there. They take me down. And there’s not a damn thing I can do about them.
Image: Original lung image is from this Wikipedia article, created by Patrick J. Lynch, used under a Creative Common licence. The monster is all my own.