Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Anxiety is a Bitch

https://www.everydayhealth.com/anxiety/anxiety-and-depression.aspx (Getty Images)

Generalized anxiety doesn't play by any rules. It can strike when you have a ton of stress in your life, or it can strike when you're relaxing at home on a Sunday afternoon. It can also be surprisingly absent during your darkest or most challenging moments, and absurdly ever-present during what you would otherwise describe as some of your happiest times. The randomness of it is its most frustrating aspect.

This has been a summer of anxiety flares. Who can say why? I have a wonderful husband, and we are stupid happy together. I have a job/career that I love and find meaning in almost every single day. I've surrounded myself with positive people and relationships. My finances are in order, and we're able to travel somewhere exciting every year. Our health is good. Our cats are good. Sure, we live in a gigantic sprawling metropolis, and we're witnessing escalating climate change, and our president is a monster, and it feels like the world is unraveling, and social media is completely skewing all of this and messing with our psyches yet is totally addictive. But otherwise life is really excellent! 

I struggle with anxiety every single day of my life, and have for as long as I can remember. Sometimes it's totally manageable, just a little nagging doubt or worry in the background, and I can fairly easily distract myself and carry on. But it's still there. If I'm talking to you, or you see me leading a tour at a museum, or laughing in the hallway, or swimming with sharks in French Polynesia, or wearing cat ears at the local pumpkin patch, or quietly sitting at my desk sipping tea -- I guarantee you that in every one of those moments, I'm hyper-aware of the sensations in my throat or stomach or intestines, and I'm worrying about what will happen next. Will I be sick? Will I humiliate myself somehow? Are you judging me? Should I be doing something different? I think it's obvious to everyone that I'm a bit of a control freak, and a bit high-strung/high-energy, but I think I do a very good job of disguising the worst of it!

Every 7-10 years, the anxiety flares up, and I have a harder time than usual controlling it. I had a bad spell shortly after my parents divorced, again in tenth grade, and again at the end of college, and again about ten years later, and now again about 10 years from the last time. To be clear, I'm having issues all the time, and Xanax is my best friend (what a cliche), but these flare-ups send me home from work early, my eyes full of tears and my heart full of shame. They keep me up night-after-night, my body tied in knots on the couch, wishing I could curl up beside my sweet, sleeping husband, but feeling too sick and insane to relax into sleepiness. They make me fear all the good things in life that I would otherwise look forward to: new challenges at work, an exciting vacation, hanging out with friends.

So I'm back in therapy, which I HATE. And I'm supposed to wean off of the Xanax, even though it's the ONLY thing that's ever given me peace. And I'm supposed to start taking some fancy psychiatric drug that may change my life if I can ever get over my fear of the potential side effects. Wish me luck!

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