Post-Anxiety Musings

So I had an anxiety attack on Monday.  Such is the case with me, there was really no trigger that I am aware of.  Sure a few things could have aided in pushing me to the ledge, but no ONE thing I can put my finger on.  

I spent the morning struggling to keep myself from falling off the ledge and in retrospect I seriously wonder if the struggle was worth it.   I reached out to one of my pillars (my eldest daughter who has the unfortunate inherited gene of anxiety disorder but the wherewithal to understand the disorder far better than I do). By midday, I felt I was under control again, although I was exhausted.  I finished my day at work, and went home.

The next morning I continued listening to my lectures on mindfulness and understanding how to have compassion for one’s self and the egocentric effects of perfectionism.   (Both hitting home as I am overflowing with compassion for others and next to none for myself while all the time beating myself up for never being good enough).  I turned it off as I began to feel weepy.  It was shortly after that that I first heard of the senseless terrorist attack at the Ariana Grande concert in the U.K.  That was it…  I was overwhelmed with sadness and darkness.  How can anyone want to live in his hate-filled world.   This was not an anxiety attack anymore, it was the deep dark pit of depression hell.  The post-anxiety reality.

For days, I couldn’t muster enthusiasm.  I wanted to sleep all the time and as a matter of fact, I would become so overwhelmed with exhaustion, my eyes would not stay open.   My brain felt like it was scrambled.  The sensation was something like I have never experienced.  It was like my head was a watermelon and the pulp, my brain, had been scooped out, puréed and poured back in.  If I sneezed or coughed, it literally felt sloshy.  Oh and the inability to form sentences.  Well I could form them in my head, but the words got caught in my teeth.  Simple everyday functions like remembering to turn off the water or how to use my computer mouse were difficult.  Colors were dulled.  Tastes were bland.  I had tightness in my chest and arm.

Why do I feel the need to blog about this…well, now that I know what I have I am forever on a quest to understand it.  I took “mindful” notice of the after-effects of the anxiety.   To quote the lecturer, I allowed the feelings to “arise and fall away” – although that didn’t happen in a matter of seconds, minutes or even hours.  This feelings hung around until Friday.   First my power to speak returned, then my focus and concentration (I regained the power to move my mouse), and then finally the exhaustion faded.  

Recognizing these post-anxiety musings does not make the fear of future anxiety attacks any less, nor does it make me feel like the next one will be any easier.  I still find it hard to find brightness or goodness in this world.  I know it is there and I know I will find it again.
 

Seeing the other side…

of depression – and it sucks.

My husband, one of my biggest supporters with my own depression/anxiety issues, hurt his back.  He is in excruciating pain.  He is unable to work and he has no disability or leave.  He was started on a relative joke of medication for pain (after being treated like a drug seeker by the ER doc), some muscle relaxers and lidocaine patches to slap on his back (more useless than the pain med).  After 3 days of increasingly worse pain, he went for a follow up to his family doctor who gave him an Rx for a slightly stronger pain pill, more muscle relaxers and steroid treatment.  He is still not released to work.   With still no relief, he went back and was put on super-pain meds, no muscle relaxers and an order to go to physical therapy.  It was after this diagnosis that I saw it…he gave up.  He is on the couch, sleeping, expressionless.  He has no enthusiasm, no smile, no light in those beautiful eyes.  And my heart is broken.

This isn’t about me…and that it hard for my crazy mind to acknowledge.   He’s not mad/sad/upset with me.  Ok, I can accept that.  What I can’t accept is that there is nothing I can do.   My jokes don’t make him smile, my coconut banana nut cake didn’t put a sparkle in his eye, and my fancy Greek strudel chicken made with phyllo dough didn’t get a reaction (I used phyllo dough.  P h y l l o dough.  I despise that tearing, sticking frustrating-but-oh-so-delicious baking ingredient.) 

I know he’s depressed.  He is a hard working, active man and he is now acting his physical age.  He can’t stand, walk, bend or lie down without pain.  He needs help getting his shoes on and off.  I am afraid he has given up.  He won’t fight for his health.   Oh I’m sure I’m being dramatic, but I don’t know what to do for him.

Isn’t someone with “chronic” depression and anxiety supposed to know how to be supportive of someone that has slipped into that deep dark hole, albeit temporarily.  I’m completely at a loss.  I think I’ve lived with it for so long and dealt with it on my own for so long that I don’t know what to do.   Add that to my compulsive need to fix those I love and I feel helpless.   Completely incompetent.

Seeking understanding

I’m struggling.

Before therapy, when they “tested” antidepressants on me because I cried a lot and had no friends, I didn’t fully appreciate this “disease”.  It was another one of those labels you slap on a condition you can’t identify and send them away with happy pills. Needless to say, with that attitude and lack of moral support, the pills were useless.  Doses were increased at record speed and their effect was minimal at best.

Then, I sought counseling. All I really gained in therapy was (a) reassurance that I was not the only one who deals with the anxiety/depression; (b) I’m never good enough for myself; (c) the counselor was never going to tell me what to do but rather make me figure it out; and (d) I probably really need meds.  These are not necessarily negative.   Especially the “I’m not alone” reassurance because I am really out there sometimes.

Anyway, I’ve previously blogged that blah, blah, I didn’t want meds, I could handle it, blah, blah, overwhelmed, doctor insisted and BAM!! I’m “human” again.

Here is my struggle:  pre-med and therapy, I would feel the apple cart starting to go and I would fight it something fierce. The bouts seemed so very long…months even.  The fall into that pit of hell was so long.  And yes, I was there longer with no visual on the light at the other end.

But now that I have acknowledged the issue, accepted I need help and support, there really isn’t any time to fight it.  I have maybe one day of “uh oh there goes the apple cart” and the next day I’m in the closet under my dresses trying to quiet the world.  The air still hurts my skin, the noises are still overwhelming.  There really isn’t any time, I feel, to right my apple cart, so to speak – not that I have EVER been able to right it before falling.  I hate it here (who doesn’t) and I know it will pass, but I thought these episode were supposed to stop.  Was that wrong?

And I do know the triggers now.  Only they seem to be simultaneous with the overturned apple cart.  

To be honest, I seem to handle being down here better and that’s a super improvement, but I guess I wanted to reach out to the blogisphere so that I don’t have to ask my doctor.  While I have accepted the need for help, I’m still not fond of pills and I’d like to avoid the “increase the dose” conversation.

How can I get a grip on the slip into this dark place?  How do I get out?  Do I just need to accept that even with meds and support, I’m going to constantly go through these cycles of ups and downs?   Ugh.  I feel stupid…being here…I’m bigger than this “disease”.

Ramadan Mubarak

Here we are nearly a week into Ramadan already.  It is the most anticipated time for me.  Part of what I deal with mentally is the need for scheduled restarts.  I’m not a “diet starts today” kind of person.  So Ramadan is the perfect time to “fix” those despised qualities and center myself.  I am always disappointed I don’t do more, but I am trying to focus on the changes I am making.  I want to finish memorizing Surah at-Takwir, inshaAllah, and I want to be the kind person I was before work beat me down.
I love Ramadan.  I love the calmness fasting brings down upon me.  My soul is quieted.  

May our prayers, deeds and fasting be accepted.  Ameen.
*for those that may read my blog and not know about Ramadan, it is a month of fasting, charitable acts, reflection and worship.  Fasting is from sunrise to sundown.  If anyone has questions I am more than happy to respond.

The weight

…it’s bearing down.  It’s too much.  I don’t think I can do it.

My legs are weak.  My resolve is slipping.  The darkness is coming.

I know it will pass.  I know things will get better, but I’m there.  In that place where the air hurts.  Where sounds are overwhelming.   Where a simple “how was your day” sends shivers down my spine and tears to the surface.  

That weight…bearing down on me.  I can’t hold it up.   I want to let it crush me and be done with it.  I don’t want to struggle under the weight anymore.

The guilt.  I have a good life, a good family…nothing to feel bad about.  How do I justify not being able to bear the weight when others have so little.

Ugh.  Sabr.   Arabic for patience…endurance…perseverance.  I know things will get better.   I just have to hold on a little longer.

My apple cart has been overturned…again


My apple cart…a metaphor for my mental state.   

I go through my life putting apples in my cart and push it on the path that is, at times, anything but smooth.  I try to keep it steady.   I try to fill the cart with a reasonable amount of apples, but inevitably too many apples are piled into the cart.   I try to maneuver the cart carefully over the bumps and ruts, but as expected, occasionally an apple bounces out.

This is my anxiety.  I hit a bump and an apple or two bounce out.   I carefully stop the cart, balancing it so no more apples spill out.  And then I look for the apples, check for damage, put them carefully back in the cart and then proceed along the rugged road of life.  

Most times I can see the big ruts or bumps and can prepare for the loss of an apple or two.  Before I admitted I needed help, that damn apple cart would roll down a hill and spew apples all over the place.  I wouldn’t even chase it…couldn’t chase it.  I would throw my hands up, yell “f**k it” and let the insanity engulf me.

After counseling and with medication, I found I could actually avoid big bumps or better yet, leave the apples behind and keep moving.  But this is a still very very fine line.

Sometimes, when I don’t see the rock jutting out of the path and I hit it, apples spill everywhere.  The apple cart is overturned.  When that happens I’m done.  It’s not a nuclear meltdown.  It’s not a series of panic attacks.  It’s inexplicable.

Well it has happened.   I was being exceptionally careful because apples had been bouncing out lately.  Job stress, weight concerns, finances, vacation time, grandbaby on the way, and the other usual adult stressors.   But then my hubby was in a car accident.  He was fine.  It wasn’t his fault.  Other driver was fine.  But I didn’t see that rock.  The apple cart overturned.  I didn’t think it was happening.   But the day after the accident, the cart was empty and my apples were scattered everywhere.

I’m there now and I don’t know how to get out.  

I’m mad at myself.  The self-loathing is back.   A distraction, perhaps.  So I don’t have to gather those damn apples up.  I can’t do anything right.  I talk too much.  I beat myself up for the way I look.  I’m constantly begging for validation and refuse to accept it when I get it.  It will NEVER get better (that is sarcasm).  Ugh.  I hate that I hate myself.  God bless the patience of my husband.

I feel like I am reaching out for that thin wire to pull myself up.  Back up to the land of the sane.  I hate this place.  I’m numb, but my brain is hypersensitive.  It “hurts”.   The sounds, feelings, emotions, nerves….all raw.  My brain feels like my skin does during a migraine.  I can feel pressure changes, or so it seems.   Hypersensitive.  I want to cry, but can’t.  I want to laugh, but can’t.  

I know it will pass.   But I m here now.  And I hate it.

Sad…disoriented…distressed

A high school classmate of mine is dead.  Gunshot to the head 😢. She battled depression, anxiety and probably other mental issues.  We had lost touch over the years but kept up with each other’s lives via Facebook.   She aired a lot (if not everything) on Facebook.  She shared the kind of posts that made you cringe because they either revealed way too much personal information or seemed only to beg for a validating response.  When I moved home, during one of her really down days, I messaged her privately with my cell phone number and asked her to meet me for coffee.   I never heard back.

She was medicated.  She was married.  A mother.  A grandmother.  A day care provider that seemed to get so much joy from the children she cared for.

I am unable to recall many personal interactions with her in high school. Her name and face were familiar, but we were not close.  Not then…not now.  But her posts haunt me.   I’ve been there.   I’ve tossed out posts that could only be responded to with “no, no you look beautiful” or “he doesn’t deserve you” or “cheer up, the sun will come out tomorrow”.   

I guess her death hits me hard because that could have been me.  Depression is ugly.  She was unhappy.  I hurt for her husband.  I don’t know him.  I don’t know their relationship.  I do know they were married for more than 20 years.  I hurt for her boys who are only starting their own families and feel sad for the grandchildren who lost their “Nana”. 

I know depression takes a toll on everyone.  Facebook can be an evil place too.  Shocked friends and classmates are tossing out accusations and right or wrong this isn’t the time or forum.   In my opinion that is.  Hindsight is always 20/20.  

I was never suicidal, alhamdulillah.  But I’ve been so tired I don’t want to fight anymore.  During this sad time, I count my blessings for all that I have…my husband, daughters, sister, father, stepsons and friends.   I am thankful that I found a doctor that saw through my determined no-medication wall, and took a firm stance to get me back on it.   I am thankful for the years of counseling that taught me to understand my personality and to accept my quirks as just that…quirks.   Not faults.  I have the most supportive and loving husband and best friend who will patronize me with validation until I burst into hysterics.  For my sister who is my safest of all safe places, my devil’s advocate, who will never tell me what I want to hear.  My father who listens (and then calls my sister in a panic) and my beautiful, amazing daughters who are my friends as much as they are my children.  And I have my faith…I believe in a merciful God who is forgiving of my faults. He makes me want to please Him.   To try harder to better myself in all areas in my life.

So with all that said, I pray that my former classmate is at peace.  I pray for her family. I thank her for bringing me awareness during this sad time that I am blessed in even more ways than I realized.