What was I working on?
I look to my left and then to my right. I stare at the monitor in front of me, barely recognizing what is on the screen.
I think I know this project… what was I doing on it?
My brain is foggy, drawing a blank. I struggle to remember what I was doing and am getting frustrated. When it finally hits me, I focus on my work once again. Five minutes later, the misty dew lingers inside my head. The fog has returned.
I can’t focus.
Even with the fog, there are a hundred thoughts going through my mind playing like commercials on TV. Each lasting a split second before the next thought enters and then rapidly leaves. I am trying to recall all of them, but it is useless. I just can’t focus.
And then my stomach starts churning. Strangely, I feel hungry and nauseas simultaneously. Now all I can do is think about my stomach and how ‘vomitess’ it feels. Then I get up and run to the bathroom. Gastrointestinal problems.
When I return to my cubicle, the hundreds of thoughts in my mind racing the Indy 500 slow just a little. I begin to think this anxiety attack is leaving. But, I am wrong. Instead of giving myself relief, these thoughts plunge into the depths of worry. Every one of them is now falling fast ready to hit the hard earth that is catastrophe. Simple thoughts of I need to get milk turns into Oh no, if I don’t buy milk at this moment my child’s bones will deteriorate. FYI, my daughter is not a big milk drinker. This time, I am focused on the latest major life event to hit me… selling my house.
My house was put on the market last weekend. Since then, there have been 8 groups of strangers who have walked through the door and a few more who were supposed to, but didn’t. I feel violated by their presence. The only feedback we received was from one person who thought the house was a bit small. Enter catastrophe! I instantly saw this as my fault… No, the house is not going to sell because I can’t make it bigger! Next up was the people who backed out of their showing… It’s my fault, they didn’t come; they must have seen something in the pictures that turned them off, something I did.
The worrying persists and with it I begin to notice my breaths are very short and quick. I am hyperventilating. I am trying to acknowledge my body by using mindfulness as my therapist has suggested. It’s not working. I attempt the 4-Square breathing exercise (breath in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, breath out for 4 seconds, repeat 4 times). Nope, still not working.
Now, I am rocking back and forth. I can’t stop moving. I am in constant involuntary motion. I get up to heat my food for lunch and notice I am still rocking while standing at the microwave. Back and forth, back and forth. My body is like a pendulum. Returning to my desk to eat, I am still rocking. Then I realize my hands are clenched into fists, the latest in my Anxiety annoyances, I mean, symptoms.
I look at the clock. This attack has been going on for over an hour now. Not unusual for me recently. I take a quick body scan and notice my breaths have returned to normal. A few moments later, my hands become unclenched and I open and close them to stretch out my tense muscles. I am left rocking and still feeling terribly nauseous but forcing myself to eat. An hour later, I am fine. After 2 full hours and zoning in on my project while listening to my favorite Golden Girls podcast, I am back to ‘normal’, my normal.
This permanent house guest, my Anxiety, showed up a little over two years ago and with it came my Generalized Anxiety Disorder diagnosis. The horrible thing is that this stubborn little bugger never ever leaves. It waits, lies dormant for a bit, goes on vacation occasionally, but always returns. When it thinks I am ignoring it, it throws a tantrum, the kind of tantrum a toddler throws in a store when you tell them “No” because you are not buying them something. Instead of dropping to the floor kicking and screaming, my Anxiety gives me the above. When my attacks leave, I am drained, mentally and physically. I am always amazed that people do not think there are physical symptoms or reactions to having a Mental Illness. I can relate at least 4 of my worst Anxiety/Panic Attacks to having the flu. I become an empty void that just needs to rest. Muscles ache. I am so fatigued. Sometimes, I even spike a fever.
It is not something I can stop. I can’t “just get over it”. I wish I could. So now Anxiety has pulled up a chair next to Depression in my head. I’ve accepted that they will never permanently vacate, but hope they will begin to treat me better.
Stephanie Paige is a 30-something who has struggled with Major Depressive Disorder since age 14 and Generalized Anxiety Disorder since age 34 with Postpartum Depression and Postpartum Anxiety mixed in there. She is mother to one beautiful preteen daughter. With the strength of her husband, parents, and her child, she has survived 6 bouts of Severe Depression and has become a huge advocate of Mental Illness. She advocates through words on her blog, spaigewrites.com, Stigma Fighters, The Mighty, and Postpartum Progress Inc. She wants to let others know they are not alone and that is her striving force to sharing her story.