Monday, January 21, 2019
Who here has anxiety? It could be about anything... public speaking, singing somewhere outside of the shower, or talking to that cute boy or girl you have been crushing on for forever. Maybe you have anxiety about school or work, or how will you feed yourself for the next 2 weeks until payday? Anxiety comes in so many different forms for people and it is so much more common than people think or want to admit. I am not here to tell you to pity those with anxiety or that you have it when you don't, or that you don't have it when you do. I am not a licensed professional. All I can tell you is about my experiences with anxiety. And that is what this post is about so if you are tired of hearing about "mental illness" then this post is not for you. See ya next post.
If you are still reading then you must be interested in reading about my annoying experiences with this anxiety monster that I, diagnosed by a professional, do deal with.
Warning: long, real, and emotional post ahead. Read at your own risk. Please do not send me messages with statistics, coping methods, or other anxiety info. I do not want to read them. I also do not want pity messages, so please keep those to yourself as well. I say all of this in the nicest way possible and if you are going to message me after reading this post, please make it positive on the matter. Whatever that means to you.
So here it goes:
I have anxiety. I have depression. I have kidney stones. I have a hiatal hernia. I have gastritis. I have back problems, ankle problems, I do not have an appendix anymore, I have commitment issues, I tend to squint one eye more when I smile in pictures, and I am technically obese for my age and height. I am flawed. I'll repeat that, I am flawed. I am not perfect. I am nowhere near it. I just got out of the hospital 3 weeks ago because they thought I had meningitis. That was incredibly scary. Can you imagine what my anxiety put me through with all that?! It was a lot, not even gonna lie. As I am sitting here writing this post, I am having an anxiety attack. I have written 2 other times while in the midst of an attack. When I look back at those writings, I can remember exactly how my mind, body and soul felt. Where I was, what set off the attack, who gave me funny looks, where I wanted to run to hide, the list goes on about the thoughts and emotions of those posts and what I knew and felt that I could not convey to others. That is the beauty of writing in that moment. I am not sure what has possessed me to write in these now 3 moments that I have while under the spell of queen anxiety, but I am glad I do it. I feel like my mind is releasing the tensions it holds when I am experiencing these utterly, utterly annoying attacks.
I say annoying, well, because they are to me. I cannot tell you how many times having an attack has affected something that I was looking forward to doing, getting the simplest of things done throughout the day, my work day, my relationships, my life. Every time I am through an attack I just hate that I let it get to me, and get annoyed. I know there are things I can do to prevent them, but I am human and forget to take the medication I am on from time to time, or don't keep up with my yoga or outside jogs, or take time to focus on me. Because life happens. And that, for me, includes these attacks.
Some people don't like calling them attacks, but I use the term a lot because that is what it is. The crippling anxiety is attacking my precious self kingdom with bombs of overthinking, bullets of muscle tension, spears of self-doubt, jolts of physical pain, fogs of confusion and a flaming tongue that either stutters or is silent. Trying to break me down, beat my mind and kill anything in its way. Why is anxiety like this? So, I will keep calling it an attack because I am always seeming to fight it off and defend my sanity.
I have been "dealing" with this "disease" for awhile honestly. I use quotations on dealing and disease because I am not sure if those terms are applicable to me or anyone else. Dealing with it sounds so negative. Disease sounds so sickly. Is that what we want to label all the people who have anxiety? Negative and sickly? I don't know a single soul who wants to be called those terms. I can't think of better terms though, so. My dealings with this disease are different almost every time, kind of depends on the situation, what might make me feel better in that moment. I will come back to this, give you some of the things that seem to help me in the moment and afterwards in a separate post, I promise.
But right now I want to dive into some of the things that I can remember happening that may be huge reasons why I struggle with this.
* Some names have been changed to protect those individuals described. My words about these individuals are my personal thoughts and reflections. No hard feelings or blame was meant by mentioning the individuals, just telling my story. *
One of the first things that comes to mind when people ask me what might be a contributing factor to my anxiety happened about 5 years ago now. I was a sophomore in college, living off campus in a 3 bedroom apartment with 1 roommate. First apartment yay! This year for me in general was kind of a stressful year now that I reflect on it. I was dating Tim* from my high school at the time, he did NOT want me to live off campus at all, and was very vocal about it. He and I had not been dating that long before he joined the military during my freshman year of college, and to say that it put a strain on the relationship is an understatement. My family and friends weren't fond of us dating in general and I don't think his parents or friends were either, to be honest. I think in retrospect, we shouldn't have been together for multiple reasons. Anyway, he was vocal about NOT wanting me to do a few things that year. The apartment being one of them, I obviously did that despite his dislike. Another was something that I was doing to better myself, my college education and social network- join a fraternity. It was a business fraternity, and I was a business major so I thought it seemed fitting to join and expand my college resume. He did not like the fact that it was co-ed, worried I would find someone else to love. His worries were reasonable, but he made me quit before I was initiated, like the week before. When I say he made me, I do not mean that literally. He was in Texas and I was in Ohio. There was no physical force to make me quit. Ultimately, I decided it would be easier to not fight about the subject with him and to make him happy. In relationships I am a people pleaser. Friendships, dating, family, work, school, you name it, I try to make everyone else happy. That was the problem that I didn't see at the time. I lived to make everyone else happy, but never took a second to make myself happy. I hated delivering bad news, having people mad at me, failing. I remember that when I quit the initiation process I made up some lame excuse and was so deeply saddened that I was not joining, that I decided to complete the entire process again the next semester and was finally initiated! I was so proud of myself for doing what I wanted. What I thought was good for me. I wasn't wrong. I am still so happy that I joined the brotherhood. But Tim was right. I did find someone else to love while in the process the first time, Brandon* It was innocent at first, like all relationships start out. But it wasn't long before I decided I wanted to be with the new guy instead. I didn't have the heart to tell my boyfriend over the phone or in a letter that I wanted to go our separate ways. So I waited until he was home from basic training. I cheated during that time. I was sure the new guy would turn into a relationship, so I cheated. Only time in my life I have cheated- for the record. I felt like a liar and a terrible person in the 2 weeks from cheating until I could deliver the news in person to Tim. You could say my anxiety was through the roof. I remember going to a party with the new guy and a few other brothers in the fraternity, alcohol was involved, and I posted a photo while intoxicated on Instagram, captioned with hearts, of me and Brandon. Well, Tim, saw it and obviously was not happy. I woke up the next morning to a vicious voicemail, telling me to get into a car accident and die. So the overall relationship with Tim was an anxiety ride, it ended very dramatically.
Move forward a few months into dating Brandon, in the same basement apartment, still sophomore year in college. I think this has way more of a hold on my anxiety today than I realize, it was one of the scariest things to ever happen to me in my entire life. I remember distinctly that I was sitting on my bed under the window writing a paper. For some reason I cannot explain other than a whisper from God, something telling me to look up at my window and move away as fast as I can. In that moment, that slow motion moment, I watched a car come crashing through my window and wall of my bedroom. I did what felt like a ninja roll off the bed and my body was frozen after that, witnessing the unreal event that just happened. I heard someone screaming and by the time I realized it was me, I was already shakily snapping pictures of the scene for proof. I ran upstairs and outside to the parking lot to see if the driver was okay. It was a young female who lived in the building, who seemed to be fine. She was in a daze and asked if I was the one screaming, she stepped out of the car and went inside. I called the police, still in shock. I called my mom and my roommate. And I called Brandon. I had nightmares about the car, with different endings, worse endings. I remember one night in particular, Brandon was staying over. I woke up suddenly, sweating, terrified. I wanted to get up and go get a drink of water. I attempted to lift my body from the bed, but couldn't. I tried again, alarmed, but still couldn't move. I was silently freaking out, silent because I tried to make any kind of noise to wake Brandon, but nothing was working. I felt so helpless and panicked. I mustered up enough strength to slide my body to the floor. I laid there for a moment trying to compose my thoughts and a plan to end this living nightmare. I don't remember how I stood up, but I did and I made it to the door. I reached for the knob and my hand flopped on it like a fish out of water, my hand wasn't doing it's job and turning the handle to let me escape. I blacked out again and next thing I know I was being shaken awake by Brandon while laying on the cold kitchen floor. The next morning I researched my symptoms and realized I had experienced sleep paralysis. Never experienced it again, thankfully, but I firmly believe that it was a direct cause from the car nightmares I had been having.
Brandon was great at first in our relationship. Always making me feel special. We dated for a total of 2 years. During those 2 years we basically lived together, we seemed to be conquering the fraternity together, both taking on leadership positions. We had a great group of mutual friends that we would routinely hang out with. Several people would joke about our wedding. I remember at our first formal we danced in the middle of the floor in our matching emerald green, and I felt like a princess. I fell in love with him all over again that night. We danced and it felt like we were the only ones in the room. Everyone complimented our moves and how happy we looked together. I had my "you're the one" moment with him. I was head over heels. I was happy. Over time the little things faded and the arguments started. Brandon wasn't a fan of public affection, which was completely fine, but not even holding hands, ever. When we would be home, all we would do was homework or I would watch him play video games. We stopped going on dates. Stopped hanging out with friends. Stopped caring. I would lay there at night wondering if he knew I was crying right beside him. Wondering what the feeling growing in my stomach was, the feeling of numbness, of being so alone. I cried every night for a long time. He never seemed to notice. We ended things after dating 11 months, out of love and tired of trying to make it work. We were broken up for about 3 months, still casually seeing each other, and of course in classes and fraternity events. Seeing him while not dating was hard for me. I felt very dependent on him for some reason. I leaned on him. I needed him to feel okay. I was just starting to feel better, at a friends birthday party where I kissed the birthday boy. Brandon saw the kiss and immediately pulled me aside saying how it hurt him and I should be with him again. I didn't disagree, so we were back together. At this time it was junior year, and things were back to normal for awhile. We dated for about another 11 months before things got bad again. I was crying myself to sleep again. I think in these cries it was anxiety. I do not remember all of the arguments we had, but there is one I do. It was during a Halloween party at his house- he lived with about 6 other fraternity brothers. I will admit at this point, my anxieties had taken over a lot with social events we went to together. I seemed to be fine when I would go alone to things or with my other friends. When we were together I was different. I was not normal Torrie anymore. I had stopped going to all of my classes, would call off work or fake sick to go home early. I was not normal Torrie in general anymore. During the Halloween party I had went up to his room to avoid people and cry in private. I was crying at nothing. I was a mess to be honest. Brandon came up to comfort me. He was usually decent at it, at least when I would be removing myself from social events we were already at. I am still not sure if he came to find me because he wanted to comfort me or if because people were talking about me. Either way, that particular night we started arguing once he found me, and it got heated. He told me I was difficult to be with, and that he wanted to end our relationship. On top of myself not realizing I had anxiety or depression, I had suspicions that he was seeing other people already, specifically a girl that lived in the house with him and another girl in our fraternity. Our 2nd formal was fast approaching and I had already planned our matching navy outfits, so after our split I decided I would still attend, in the dress I had planned. I went solo for the evening and Brandon brought a date. The girl I had suspicions about that he lived with, in my matching blue. I was extremely hurt and confused and full of spite for that night. I was not wrong about my suspicions, why else would he take her?.. I don't know for sure if anything ever transpired with them, but in my mind bringing her as his date was as good as the thoughts I had in my head. I fell into an even deeper depression. A few days passed, on the night prior to an initiation, I went out for drinks with a girlfriend from the fraternity. I parked my car at her place and planned to stay over. I was having a decent time out, finally starting to forget about Brandon and let loose, for the first time in so, so long. I saw him directly across the bar from me, ordering a drink at the same time as me. We made eye contact and it killed me instantly. I doubled my order and was determined to still have a good time and not let him being in the same bar or town stop me from living. Well, needless to say, I drank too much that night.
Okay, very few people know the truth about what I am about to write about. It is the most personal I think I can ever get with you. It might be hard to read, and I am still not 100% sure about letting the world in to this part of my life, but I think I am ready.
That night, at the bar, I got black out drunk. My friend decided she didn't want me to stay at her house, probably rightfully so. She dropped me off via Uber at my apartment. I don't fully remember the next steps between entering my apartment and calling Brandon. I called him, begging him to come stop me. If he cared at all, he would come stop me. I hung up. I grabbed all the pain pills I had stashed from my various kidney stones and surgeries. I laid them out on my bed. I watched them. I looked at them with such an allure. I remember thinking to myself that this could be the answer. But I needed to say goodbye to my mom. So I got my phone, and I called her. It wasn't too late to where she didn't answer her phone, because she did. I wish she wouldn't have. I wish she never had to hear me say my goodbyes to her and the rest of my family. No mom should ever have to hear their child say they are so sorry, they don't want to be here anymore, that the parent doesn't deserve such an ungrateful and failure of a child. And in the middle of me tearfully talking to my mom, Brandon knocked on the door. I left the phone on the bed and went to answer. He came in and we continued to yell and fight. He saw the pills on the bed and immediately got rid of them. He hid the bottles as I fought him for them, begging him to let me end my life.
I don't remember falling asleep. I don't know if I actually took any of the pills. All I know is I woke up at 4 am to my mother, father and baby sister in my apartment. They were thanking Brandon for staying with me until their arrival and for calling them back and telling them what was going on. Brandon did care. I could see that now. My insecurities and over exaggerated thoughts led me to a place of such darkness that I couldn't see things as they really were.
In that moment of seeing my family, I was embarrassed. I was mortified that I did everything, worried them, made them drive over an hour to get to my school, put them through all of that. At first I was kind of embarrassed that I did not complete the job successfully. Would that have been easier for me, them? Now we all had to face a tough conversation in the morning and I was not looking forward to that.
After we had a family meeting and they had left the next morning, I was alone. Alone to just sit there and think about everything. I forgot to mention earlier that while in the apartment I was in, the roommate I had was never, ever home. I was alone a lot. But this alone felt different. I was really alone. I felt even more alone than I had when I wanted to end my life. It was decided that at the end of my lease and the semester I was to move back home and transfer schools. Maybe being home with my support system and people who love me would help me get back on track. In the mean time it was also decided that getting a dog would be a good thing for me too, so I wasn't alone. One of the good things to come of this, truly disappointing situation, was my best friend Jax.
Until I moved home though, I was still in a very low place. I would go out partying every night, continued to skip classes and sleep all day instead. I was mean to people I cared about. I was a monster. Until one day I woke up and decided I wasn't going to let this win. I went on a whim to get a tattoo. I got a dragonfly on my left wrist. Closest side to the heart, in everyday eye sight. As a reminder that dragonflies have been around for billions of years and have always adapted to whatever changes the world made, and that I could do it too.The dragonfly symbolizes change and change in the perspective of self-realization, the kind of change that has its source in mental and emotional maturity and the understanding of the deeper meaning of life.
So. After moving home I took the necessary steps to "get better." I was officially diagnosed with anxiety and depression and I have been taking medication everyday for the past 3 years. I do yoga to help clear my mind on tough days, and I write. Writing is my preferred method pf therapy. Being home to finish school was a good decision, being near my family again was exactly what I needed. I learned to let go of feeling dependent on someone else for my happiness. I learned what I do and don't like. I learned who I was. I am still learning every day. I still have bad days- obviously, as I wrote most of this post during an anxiety attack. But overall, I feel at peace with where I am.
I want to say sorry to those who I pushed away and hurt. I want to say sorry for placing blame on you. All of the things in this post are my version/side of the story- and I am sure it's all perceived differently from others involved. But I wouldn't have changed any of it. It made me who I am today.
I hope when readers are reflecting on this post you think to yourself, "I can get through this." "I am not alone." "Seeking help is okay." "Anxiety is annoying."
If any of you want to ask me questions, I am open to answering them. Comment, direct message, text, however you feel comfortable.
I want this post to be positive in nature.
If you or a loved one are having a hard time, please reach out to someone. Whether it be a family member, friend, neighbor, stranger or helpline operator. There are people who can help.
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