Monday, February 4, 2019

No worry.

I stayed relatively silent on the big corporate day.

There was no particular reason - I was busy, distracted, working. Bell does wonderful things with the money from Let's Talk Day (as evidenced in the recent investment into Right Here, Right Now). I also have my own axes to grind as a former Bell employee, but I digress.

Yet, for a few days I have been seething on a tweet I saw from someone who I follow. I cannot recall the exact wording but, in a nutshell, it said that anxiety is not an illness as we are all a little "worried;" that we need to realize worrying is not a disorder and maybe we should just go outside.

*grinds teeth*

I have fought my brain for a while now. It is a weird realization that you are often at war with a part of yourself, and understanding the effects this battle can have on your day-to-day doings.

The first time I heard the word "anxiety" used in a medical sense was in my first year of university. I still remember how my first "anxiety attack" manifested itself.

I was sitting in the backseat of my friend's car as we drove down Old Placentia Road. Suddenly, my left arm was overtaken by a shooting pain. I couldn't breathe. Any breath made it hurt more and I tried stretching. Nope. Nothing. Shallow breaths got me through the night, eventually the pain subsided and I made a doctor's appointment for three days down the road.

When I explained to my then-doctor what I had felt, and had continued to feel as the same shooting pain had come and gone over the last few days, only then did I hear that word for the first time.

"Well, you're away from home. It's a big move. I think you've had an anxiety attack."

What? This guy was a quack. I didn't have a worry in the world. I was independent, free, happy, embarking on my academic career and my biggest worry was my alarm not going off and missing an English 1080 class.

I walked away with a prescription and no more understanding than when I had walked in.

Over the years since (holy shit, 19 years), I have been accustomed to "panic attacks" occurring less and less, but I am cognizant that they are there.

I went a decade without one. The first reoccurrence happened a few years ago when I could not sleep, would wake up wired, and was exhausted as a result. When I asked my doctor what was happening he suggested stress. Then he used that damn A word.

I will be the first to admit I do not take medication, but I support those who do. One person's cure is not another's solution. I have had my stints with medications that left me without an appetite and feeling worse than I did without them. Sometimes I wish there was a magic happy pill for me. There is not. I am so happy for those of you who have found it.

I am a worrier.

And I do not trust. It takes a lot to break in and get to a point where I trust at all. Always the skeptic.

I accept it, I explain it to those who are close to me, and I try to put into words what goes through my head at times that might seem irrational to some.

I am a self defeatist, perfectionist, hater of failure, dreader of impending doom.

Say the wrong words and my heart rate surges, I overthink and all of a sudden I'm a narcoleptic because my body's response is usually to sleep. It is actually a strange phenomenon - my brain goes into overdrive and everything else says, "Nah fam, we sleep now."

That is just who I am. I expect and see the worst. And try to sleep it off.

When things are going well I will often wake up with my brain screaming, "JUST WAIT FOR IT ALL TO GO TO SHIT AND IT WILL BE YOUR FAULT!"

In those 19 years since Dr. Button introduced me to the A word, there have been times I have been frozen for no reason, heart rate above 160, the noose tightening and having to just walk away. Shallow breaths. No trigger, no reason.

No worry.

I am thankful that these times have been less and less over the years and yes, I am sure my activity level has helped. But, going outside or being active is an assistant, not a cure. It, like anything else, works for some but not for everyone. I will not tell you to go for a run and you will find the oracle of happiness somewhere along the trails of Long Pond.

Anxiety, however, is not only "worry," it is also not a series of panic attacks that manifest themselves from the mental to the physical. Every person experiences different things, and mine just happen to drill doubt in everything I do.

There are a few choice words the brain likes to channel down into the nerve endings, ones that often make me feel undeserving of things, that I have failed, I disappoint, I am less.

And no amount of reassurance, no words or messages, no hugs or "don't be so foolish"es change the narrative.

This is how mine manifests itself.

While writing comes easy, verbalizing this to those closest is often a challenge for me. Yet, I try to explain as there are undoubtedly times when self doubt and self loathing kick in and it is hard to comprehend for those outside.

I withdraw.
I make excuses.
I wake in the middle of the night and overthink things.
I think that when people get to know me they will not want to be around me.
I thank myself every day for the people around me but sometimes feel like a burden.
I accomplish things then reflect on how I could have accomplished more.
I do something and then play it over and over and over while pegging what I could have done differently, better.
I cannot order a coffee without wondering if maybe I sounded rude.

And the list continues.

No, my brain does not cripple me. I have friends who are betrayed by their brains on a daily basis and their strength astounds me.

Yet, I felt the need to address the common misconception that anxiety is worry, and that those who are branded with the scarlet A should just go for a walk and stop dwelling on petty things.

In the grand scheme of things I am very lucky. I know this. My brain likes to tell me differently and there are days when I can tell it to fuck off, move forward and carry on with daily tasks.

But there are also days when my brain wins, and those are okay too. God knows last year it did a JOB on me. Those are the days that I walk away from feeling stronger and like I've won by simply getting through.

Sometimes I just accept that I am a scared little girl at times.

To be honest, I am probably in my happiest place right now. Things are happy and good. But there are tough and questionable moments, the ones that say, "Too good for you."

My damn brain is like that.

If you feel like you are struggling, no matter how mildly or how severe, please do not hesitate to reach out to those who can help. We are all, as a friend of mine said, "more than five sessions fucked up." We are all in this mess together.

Mine is different than yours, but it does not make one more important than the other.

And anxiety is not worry.

Maybe those who need to go outside are the ones who make blanket judgements on everyone else's struggles.

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