Mental health is a very hot topic these days even though the actual feeling of anxiety can be hard to articulate. For me, the best descriptions I’ve seen came from a writing competition put on by @words_of_women that asked followers for personal depictions of anxiety. The competition received more than 250 responses which were narrowed down to eight finalists, one of which really resonated with me:
Martha Doyle, wherever you are, THANK YOU SISTAH FRIEND. It happens so quickly and, when its gone, it’s hard to remember what it felt like. I found myself saying, “well I feel fine now so it’s probably not a big deal.” I was saying it to myself so much that one day when the storm was over my head I decided to document everything I was going through. Not to relive the feeling but to provide proof to my other, less anxious self that this thing is real and must be faced. So, for me, here’s what the anxiety feels like as its pouring down:
Alarm goes off but I snooze for at least 2 hours. In that time I’m pulling the covers over my head counting to 100 over and over, telling myself I will get out of bed when I reach 100.
“Why should I get out of bed? I’m not smart. I have no talent. I can’t do anything. I don’t want a career because I’m not capable. I’ll never amount to anything. I'm terrified of being alone and feel like I’m disappearing but I don’t know who to talk to or even if I could talk to someone right now. The thought of being around people seems unbearable. I just want to sleep. Hide from the world. Lights off. I don’t want to feel this way anymore. I just want to be undeniably happy.”
Hours later, after reading a number of texts from friends and family who know Mondays are hard for me, I get out of bed.
“I’m claustrophobic from sitting inside. I’ll sit on a stoop outside my apartment. What is the point of any of this? Standing seems unbearable. Walking is too much. I’m considering sitting down. Scratch that I’m considering laying down on the sidewalk because laying down with my eyes closed is the only time I feel somewhat safe. I don’t even want to nap I just to never get up and never move. Everything seems like a chore. Everything is overwhelming.”
I usually end up calling my mom who can tell the second she hears my voice that I’m not well. It doesn’t take long before I'm hysterically crying, everything pouring out.
GOOD MORNING WORLD. I’M READY FOR YOU! EVERYTHING IS SUNSHINE, RAINBOWS, PUPPY DOGS, AND MORE PUPPY DOGS (Legit so many puppies).
I don’t even recognize the person I was yesterday. The storm has moved on, it's sunny here.
The worst part about this is that I know I will wake up the next day and feel like a different person. I won’t even recognize this Monday person. Going to sleep isn’t easy for me due to my chronic insomnia but I’m usually so emotionally drained that I pass out the second it’s acceptable. The feeling almost always goes away once the sun rises on Tuesday but there have been weeks where the anxiety bleeds into Tuesday and Wednesday.
I have not overcome my anxiety but I do have two bits of advice regarding the subject...
1. My two cents, well actually my five sense(s): when having an anxiety attack ground yourself by appealing to all your senses.
2. Finally, I should note that I am not a doctor (although I play one on TV). In all seriousness, I am a strong advocate for speaking to a doctor and, more aptly, a therapist. Therapy is THE ULTIMATE SELF CARE (move over sheet masks). It can take time to find the right specialist but please believe that it is worth the trial and error. Do not give up.