A friend (? she pretty much ignores me these days, so former friend? Meh, she’s got her own mental shit going on, I won’t make it all about me) would often nod off while we chatted on line and she’d called it ninja sleep. Comes from out of nowhere and launches an attack, you’re down before you know what hit you.
THAT. That’s my anxiety.
After a very rough night trying to sleep in spite of physical pain and irritating cats either trying to lay on my head or murder me, I got about 4 hours of sleep, interrupted into about 6 seperate pieces. Needless to say, start of the curse, exhaustion, and the humidity suddenly rising after a few cool rainy days…my discomfort is palpable. Still, after 4 days trapped here in Armpit, I thought a chance to go to town (thank you to those who donated, I paid car insurance on time for the first time in 3 months, you guys are amazing!!!) would be a welcome change.
Instead…I got a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach on my way out the door. I figured it’d go away once I was out and about. Instead, like a gang of ninjas it swept in, and metastasized like a cancer. Bad juju, I call it, when I get those gut feelings that something bad is going to happen in the absence of any proof. Needing to make multiple stops, including Hellmart (for cat food and litter, and oh, a cheap new litter box cos I cracked the old one when I was trying to chisel and clean it out), just made it worse. Like I was racing a ticking clock. The one saving grace was the self check out at Hellmart didn’t fuck up on me for once and I was out of there pretty fast. Onto the next and next stop.
Gas is up to $2.99 a gallon. I balked at $2.69. It was a moderate issue living in town but out of town…egad, I am literally stranded by dollar signs, considering one trip to town to the necessary stores is 28 miles round trip. Only 16 of that is highway, so I’m looking at about $5-$6 a trip. (Broken gas gauge, iffy other gauges, not sure what kind of mileage I am actually getting.) And the place where I usually get gas has had a cash only sign for a week and frankly, I am too lazy to drive 6 miles to the ATM that doesn’t charge me for withdrawals, so I just get it wherever now and that contributes to my anxiety. I have this thing about using the same place, the same gas pump, every time. If this routine is disrupted, well, more bad juju.
It’s ridiculous, I know.
I was supposed to get something for my kid at the dollar store, but…it was all I could do to make the necessary stops then flee town like flames were chasing my bumper. The inner voice just kept telling me I needed to get home NOW. Back to my safe space. In my crypt. Which these days isn’t so peaceful or safe thanks to my interloping fraternal family faction but it’s still better than being out in the open feeling like I have a target on me. I got done what had to be done-pay insurance, get milk and cat stuff, gas, and I was supposed to get my med refills but I said fuck that, I NEED out of this bad mental space, I need my crypt. (That’s what my dad has always called my homes cos my light sensitivity dictates dark curtains to soothe me from screeching sunlight during my high anxiety periods.)
Now I am in my safe(ish) space, praying my brother doesn’t barge in to use the internet (seriously, people, is a call or text first too fucking much to ask????), everything’s out of the car, insurance is paid for another month and we have milk for our cereal and stuff. I can breathe. I took 2mg Xanax, to my chagrin, but once the anxiety ninjas attack…Bad Thoughts aren’t far behind and if Xanax wards them off…So be it. Though I am must admit to being curious about the use of beta blockers for the physical symptoms of anxiety attacks. My insurance wouldn’t pay, no doubt, and whatever quacktor I am forced to see at the center for psych health wouldn’t be on board, but if anyone who reads this has tried beta blockers or knows someone who has for anxiety, I’d be interested in hearing about it.
It’s old hat, knowing full well I am not going to die from panic attacks and generalized anxiety, even though it’s terrifying, crippling, and miserable.
It’s the physical symptoms that hinder my ability to cope. Today alone resulted in foul smelling sweat, churning stomach necessatating urgent trips to the bathroom, trembling, paranoia, feeling my heart pounding in my head and throat…Xanax has been my wonder drug for calming my mind from the anxiety and panic, but the physical stuff is immune to it, no matter what the doctors say. There’s how a med should work, how it works for millions, and then there’s how it actually works for some of us. I’ve tried all the benzos and non benzos and only Xanax calms my mind, quiets the paranoia and fear, and doesn’t render me a drooling half comatose simpleton. (Which reminds me of a draft, well, a title I saved, wanting to explore why so many people experience cognitive impairment from benzos like Klonopin, Xanax, etcs, because honestly, it makes my mental clarity sharpen. Another post.)
So, yeah, panic and anxiety attacks aren’t going to kill me, this I know, I accept it.
But when you’re looking for work or trying to make friends, or god forbid, meet someone and try to date and form a relationship…the random trips running to the bathroom doubled over with gastric distress, the stinky body drenching sweat, the paranoia- not attractive. Definitely does not make people want to be around you, let alone hire you for a job. I’ve tried excessive bathing, layering on body washes, lotions, sprays, prescription anti perspirants, absorbent powders, deep breathing, the STOP sign method to slow my mind….I’ve tried EVERYTHING and still the physical symptoms come. I’d had high hopes, based on what others had told me about good experiences with gabapentin, that that might have been my magic drug for anxiety. Instead, it was an epic fail that even jacked up my blood pressure all the while heightening anxiety and decreasing my cognitive function and lucidity.
So, anyone? Information on the efficacy of beta blockers to treat anxiety? I understand its primary use is for social anxiety, with the end goal of being able to face that anxiety without the beta blockers, I am desperate here. Feedback is always appreciated, I don’t ask for it incessantly. Chime in if you have any info, firsthand or secondhand or whatever.
I am calming down. Safe space and Xanax, my heroes.
The most important thing is that in spite of my gut instinct and bad juju on my way out the door…I didn’t flake out and decide to stay home. I faced the fear…until it manifested as icky physical stuff and impacted my clarity, which are not things that work out well in traffic or public places. I didn’t avoid, I faced it. I just did so like the devil was hot on my heels and rushed back to my safe space.
Oh…For anyone not familiar with the above mentioned stop sign method for anxiety attacks…I can’t remember which therapist taught me that one, but basically you picture a big red stop sign in your mind and focus on that. Because anxiety disorders totally respect therapeutic tricks and obey. NOT. But I try it. And sometimes at night when the racing thoughts set in and the anxiety rises, I utilize the stop sign method, only I tweaked it to suit my own needs. I picture that big red sign, I picture those big STOP letters, but I repeat a mantra I concocted from the letters. S.T.O.P Serenity Tranquilty Offer Peace. STOP. And some nights it helps soothe the savage beast that is my spinning mind and it’s just a first step toward calming down enough to sleep but I think sometimes it helps. Then comes the counting. I count backwards from 1000, in odd numbers. 999, 997,995, all the way down to the number one. If I am still awake, I start back over at 999 and just keep doing it.
The flustering part of that is that my mind wanders so I’ll find myself counting the same sequence two or three times before realizing, hey, I already did all the odd numbers from 699 to 601….But I’ve been using this method for about 15 years and it helps, if not to sleep but to at least keep my mind focused on counting instead of worrying about, well, every tiny thing. I also picture an old school thermometer that’s red from the top to the bottom and red is my anxiety and stress, so I have to picture the red slowly lowering to the bottom, then I work my way up filling it in with blue, because, well, for whatever reason, blue is a soothing color for me.
I am aware how nutty I sound, but it’s just a hodgepodge of things learned in therapy that while not a cure, they can be of help sometimes. Mostly, though, safe space, dim lighting, low noise, and people free zones are what help the most.
I think the anxiety ninjas have left the building at least for now. I can’t help but feel like an epic failure, though. It would have taken all of five minutes to grab my refills at the pharmacy but…that inner voice was unrelenting, telling me to get the fuck out of dodge and back to my safe space.
I had enough trouble in town being outside my safe space for more than an hour. My escape hatch was always that I was rarely more than 15 minutes from being able to flee back to my crypt. Now I don’t have that quick escape hatch option and it’s terrifying. Living outside of town is feeding my anxiety disorder. If leaving my safe space is the trigger, and not being able to quickly return to it amplifies it…living in Armpit may render me unable to cope with trips to town very often. With gas so expensive, this might be a good thing, but then being further crippled by my disorder and turned into an uber hermit here isn’t healthy, at all.
I’m hoping today was a fluke, stemming from hormonal and physical agony, lack of restful sleep, financial strain, the fact I’ve had my family faction in my face 9 days straight…This cannot be the new norm. Up til today, the trips to town felt like jail breaks or being paroled. Except ya know for driving a car with a broken gas gauge and the other gauges are either broken or possessed by an automotive demon that makes me them go all over the place even when the car is in park. I don’t want to be an uber hermit. It feeds the anxiety and depression, fills me with guilt and self loathing, makes me feel weak.
The one constant that is very real and inescapable are the nasty physical symptoms that accompany my anxiety. They’re embarrassing, they hinder me in so many ways, and while it’s easy for the professionals and peanut gallery to tell me it’s not that big of a deal…I am pretty sure someone wanting to work showing up drenched in sweat and reeking in spite of a carefully designed hygiene routine to not smell bad, and the abupt bathroom trips…doesn’t instill confidence or scream stability, hire this woman! No excuses, just facts. I’ve been ditched by friends and dates because my physical symptoms embarrassed them and dealing with me was too much trouble for them.
Employers have to be even more discriminating.
At least the depressive cloud isn’t enveloping me today. Just the anxiety ninjas.
Final note…My kid has a freaky phobia book (I had no idea people could be fearful of long words!) but a show I watched said the DSM hasn’t considered these things phobias since the 80’s. What used to be a fearful phobia of snakes or clowns or enclosed spaces…are all now considered anxiety disorders.
Seems like a disservice to those of us with free floating generalized anxiety disorders. We don’t fear simply one thing. We don’t always have triggers.
I know the diagnostic manual has to change and thankfully, it has and continues to do so, because I was not on board with women being called hysterical when depressed or anxious, and being gay as some sort of mental illness, are you off your nut? BUT at the same time, this whole new ‘behavioral health’ slant seems dangerous and unhelpful to many of us. Not doing so well adapating to that one. Mental illness isn’t exactly a glowing description but at least it acknowledges the problem stems from imbalanced chemicals as opposed to poor behavior.
All that venom now spewed…I am going to sit back (lay back, my spine is killing me when the cramps aren’t) and breathe and then try to face some housework. I want a helper monkey. And a therapy goat. And a floor mopping Roomba. Dishwasher. A dryer that doesn’t take 4 hours to dry one load. And most of all…one.good.night’s.sleep.
I am a demanding little snowflake, I know. But really, a therapy pygmy goat and sleep would be awesome.
I am going to update the fundraising page later, with receipts and every cent accounted for-just as I vowed. We’re not out of the woods, but the kind people who cared enough to donate…they made a big difference for me and Spook and we are eternally grateful. Free pegacorn rides for those awesome people!