I feel like I have a dirty secret, even though nothing about it is dirty or much of a secret. It’s more like something I’ll throw out in conversation, but I definitely don’t go into much detail once it’s been brought up. Ok, so here it is (deep breath) I live with anxiety, and panic disorder (frequent panic attacks) with depression for the cherry on top. Insert eye roll for the people who think these are made up things that attention seekers proclaim they have. Trust me, I wish they were in the same category as unicorns and men who change the toilet paper roll. Unfortunately, some people add to the illusion that these mental health issues are a myth, and give us legit disorder having peeps a bad name. There are in fact those attention seeking basic bitches who love ugg boots with booty shorts in freezing temperatures, pumpkin spice lattes (nasty, no one makes a good one) wear way too much makeup, all around plastic and fake inside and out, and CAN NOT WAIT to tell you all about their anxiety and how shook they are because their latest Instagram selfie only got 8 likes, so they had to buy three new pairs of lululemon leggings to calm themselves down. ( I do love leggings though) But, enough about them.
When I was fairly young I knew what depression was. The circumstances I was living in as a child could chip away at any amount of joy or happiness that tried to make its way inside me. Sadness was so a part of daily life, that to me it was normal.
My father made every second of every day a lot more difficult than it needed to be. He was a bitter, angry and manipulative man. He never took a day off from his mental and emotional abuse. School wasn’t exactly a safe haven either. It’s the classic story of fat girl with glasses gets bullied. Ya know, mean girl (boss) tells mean girl (minion) to spit in my face, and then everyone has a good laugh. Classy, am-I-rite. However, was any of this the cause of my depression or was I born this way? I don’t know.
I didn’t know anything about anxiety, or panic disorders until 2012 at the age of thirty-four. I had my first full-blown physical panic attack three days after my mother died. I had every symptom of a heart attack and it sucked. I went to the doctor and had tests done and all that good stuff. For the next 2 years I was in and out of the doctor’s office quite frequently. Anxiety was now a part of my daily life and the panic attacks kept coming, so I started on some medication. I had also started doing extensive research on anxiety and panic disorders. And even though I don’t recall having a panic attack before that day, I started to realize anxiety may have been with me since my childhood. My mother would always call me a worry wort, or a nervous nelly. Turns out, it went a lot deeper than that. I felt I had it all under control for a while. The medication I was on seemed to be a good fit, and the first year I came off the meds everything seemed to be stable.
Unfortunately, my anxiety and panic attacks are currently far from under control anymore. It’s all back and worse than before, taking on different twisting, puzzle like forms. I-kid-you-not, looking up at a tall building has triggered a panic attack. Like, excuse me! How grossly rude is that! I mean seriously, I can’t even look up! Such bullshit. I can barely drive anymore, not that I was ever amped about it before, but now except for taking my kid to school it feels like an impossible task. Literally, impossible. That’s another thing everyone needs to understand. People with these mental health issues have limitations. They just do. It’s a shame that these legitimate limitations can make you appear selfish, stuck-up, lazy and sometimes even a crazy bitch. For instance if you ask someone with social anxiety to go to a party full of people they don’t know, and they explain that they can’t do that…listen to them. It is not that they won’t. They are not just nervous or shy. Now it doesn’t mean that they can’t work on it through therapy, or medication, and in their own time be ready to socialize the night away. Just remember, it is not something they can just chill out about. These mental prisons we live in will prevent us from doing things that are easy peasy for most people, including very regular, everyday things.
The real kicker for me right now is I’m actually happy. I’m absolutely positive this is the first time in fact that I’ve felt this elusive real contentment and happiness. (disclaimer: except of course when my daughter was born) Isn’t that just the cruel joke of the universe…you can without a doubt be blessed and depressed at the exact same time! Anxiety and depression have found a way to coexist in the same space as joy and happiness. Again…bullshit. I still thank God I found the most extraordinary human to share my life with. I literally could not have dreamed up a better and more supportive man. Of course we fight, we disagree, we have our stubborn moments, ya know like every relationship ever in the history of time and space. But, I have never felt more loved and cared for. It has been the most amazing shock of my life. There was this clear moment where I had the “happiness epiphany.” We had spent the whole day with my daughter, and they were really starting to bond. They were making fun of each other, they were ganging up on me…it was adorable. It was just a really good day. And on the drive home I was overwhelmed with a feeling, that made me think, ‘what the fuck is that?’ …Oh wow. Is this…happy?
Which makes it more difficult when you run into negativity of any kind. I must protect and guard my precious happy bubble like a newborn baby. I’m not a victim in any way, but after being born into a raw deal, and one bad circumstance after another, followed by poor choices, things that can only be categorized as learning experiences, paying my life dues one way or another, and never getting to live my own life, basically always having to do what other people wanted me to do. I have earned the right to be selfish. The good kind of selfish. Because, that is a real thing…I swear. For my own sanity I am no longer available for people pleasing until further notice. Which is actually EXTREMELY hard for me not to do. I like everyone to be pleased and content, and if I don’t do what someone wants me to do I feel like I’m letting them down. And that guilt leaves the door wide open for a heavy depression to set in.
I remember when I was 9 years old and my mom signed me up for swimming lessons. I was in a class of about 7 other girls my age. Our instructor was an arrogant 18-year-old boy. On the 2nd or 3rd day of class while we were practicing holding our breathe under water he starts to get angry and yells at me, “You’re not going deep enough under the water! I can still see the top of your head! Do it again!” Embarrassed, I do it again. When I come up for air he yells the same thing. I can feel my eyes getting ready to gush tears and the heat in my face from humiliation. Nonetheless, I do it again. When I come up he still isn’t satisfied. He comes over to me and without warning puts his hand on the top of my 9-year-old head and pushes down, and holds me there. I panicked under the water. When I was released I got out of the pool and walked out of the class, and waited for my mother in the locker rooms, who had seen everything from the bleachers.
That has been a large chunk of my life. Being forced under water. My ability to breathe has always seemed unimportant to the people around me. If I drown, I drown. So be it.
My mental and emotional health is important, and I have been trying to get to a point where I can say that with confidence, and without guilt. Any negativity, bad occurrence, running out of milk, irritating inconvenience, or one not-so-nice word from someone feels like an electric needle stabbing my brain, which then flows through my whole body. It’s like my brain says, ‘Oh hell no. That crap is not allowed under any circumstances. But since we are running into a problem let’s just get rid of all the good feelings we’re having and replace them with an ice pick in your head and crippling depression shall we.’ Cool.
The problem is with the anxiety being at an all time high and depression trying to be my best friend, I hate to say it, but my mind is too fragile. Not to be confused with being weak. I think another misconception is someone with anxiety/depression is mentally weak. And that is SO far from the truth. I simply have limits, which will not allow me to do certain things, or handle certain situations without some form of a breakdown. I can’t allow things anymore that will threaten my well-being. Even later that day when I had the “happy epiphany” something happened that wiped away my good, positive feelings. I wish I had the tools to not let that happen, but that isn’t the case right now. I can’t get on medication at the moment so I’m sorta just riding this out. I’ve been told to look into cbd oil, so I was going to do some reading on it.
This is crippling. This is debilitating. This is a prison. My mental health at the moment seems to be made of glass. A lovely, delicate, over priced glass vase in a well-to-do little shop run by arrogant, self-centered, snobby women and it must be protected at all costs or the owner will lose her effing mind, destroy everything in her path and end her journey heavily sedated in a mental hospital. However, the big bear like guard of the shop would never let that happen. (The man who is reading this as I type)
Thanks for reading!