I Get Anxious

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy husband says I’m a delicate flower, and while, yeah, that’s true, it’s not all that’s true. I have anxiety. I have PTSD. I have issues.

This is not a case of disease-or-malady-of-the-week, a la celiac wannabees, or whatever Madison Avenue tells us this month is wrong with us (You need oat bran! You need Vitamin E! You need aloe!).

I really, really get anxious. I take a little pill each morning which cuts out the crazy part of anxiety — the part that screams all day long in my ear WE’RE DOOMED. YOU F*CKED UP AGAIN. EVERYONE HATES YOU. DIE DIE DIE. And for this, I am truly grateful to Big Pharma for coming up with a chemical that counteracts the panic in my brain.

There’s no need to panic. But my brain/body panics a lot. Count yourself grateful that you’re not me. Because it is beyond sucky to get into your car, and then be unable to leave the driveway because you suddenly had a vision of yourself hurtling down the highway and crashing headlong into another vehicle, and the impact accordions the front of the car, I am crushed, I can’t breathe, I am being squeezed to death, and blip, I actually, truly feel my soul slip free from this dying body. I felt it. It was real. #truestory that never actually happened.

There’s no need to visualize my daughters’ bodies severed under the rumbling wheels of the kiddie train at the zoo. It’s unnecessary to waste minutes or hours waiting for the earthquake that will flatten the house on top of me. I can feel the roof coming down. I can taste the grit in my teeth. I can see the meteor coming with my name on it. I think these things. I have done so for years.

But usually my anxiety is of a lighter shade of freak: I don’t want to go to a party. I don’t want to be on the freeway for an hour. I don’t want to go out and face the eyes that feel like a thousand needles or the smiles that sometimes seem like bared teeth. I don’t want to have to explain myself. I used to force myself to go, and ended the day feeling exhausted, broken, unable to string words together, my skin erupting in hives and my hands shaking with the palsy of terror.

But I don’t make myself “be good” anymore. I don’t perform because other people might be disappointed. I know how it feels to be kind to myself and how it feels when I’m not.

I didn’t go to an event yesterday that I had wanted to cover, that I’d looked forward to writing about, because when it came time to go, my inner animal said no. It didn’t feel safe or wise. (And it was totally safe — a gathering of women to celebrate other women heroines. Utterly, completely safe as can be.) I took care of my inner fear-bot with books and ice-cold raw cucumbers and pineapple chunks, with a lemon freezer bar and a nice walk around the block. I didn’t die a grisly death and no meteors hit me. I feel better today. I’m writing now, aren’t I?

You know the positive part of this? I write good stories. I make my imaginary stories feel real. I can use this power for good. Most days that’s what happens. But sometimes I drop out because it’s too much. I curl into an armadillo ball and breathe until the baddies go away. (By the way, if you also suffer from anxiety, try tapping for anxiety; it’s pretty amazing. It’s free, it’s drug-free, and you can watch it on the Internet. Plus, it works.)

Don’t take it personally if I don’t show up sometimes. It’s because I can’t. But I’ll show up the next time. Probably.

I am a delicate flower. And it’s OK that you know that about me.

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14 Replies to “I Get Anxious”

  1. Can’t wait until you move up here. I love you and we will have fun. Walks in the woods and lunch, but only when you feel like it.

  2. Brave of you to share. I’ve struggled with anxiety, too. Reared up again after losing my husband. Feeling overwhelmed. My adorable new puppy has been a godsend! Happy to be an ear for you. A close family member or three also struggle. Seriously, trying different meds, which take awhile to build up, is often the key to feeling better. Gentle hug . . .

  3. Excellent post! I get the same way. I wrote a blog post about my anxiety too and what it’s like for me. I wish people understood that it’s not just something you can get rid of or will yourself out of.

  4. Julia, what a heart felt story. I too suffer from anxiety…most times for no apparent reason. I am a huge fan of tapping and have been using it for years personally and in my private practice. Thanks again for bearing your soul and sharing so much of you with the rest if us.

  5. Thank you for sharing. After years of reproductive trauma, I had intrusive thoughts and visualizations of the death of my two children all day every day. So awful and exhausting. When I finally met a psychologist who spoke with me for five minutes and said, You have PTSD, I was like, thank God, someone gets it! Zoloft has helped a lot but there is never a day when thoughts are not there. Forget trying to tell most people, they just say all parents worry. There’s worry and then there’s actually seeing your two-year-old’s skull crushed at the bottom of the stairs. Every. Single. Time. She. Goes. Down. Them. I’m sorry for your struggles, I’m grateful for your post, and I’m wishing you more good days than bad. Hug.

  6. I had never heard of tapping so thank you! I do like ideas/therapies that don’t claim to “get rid of” or “cure” but, instead, say things like “calm”, “help, “relieve”. I imagine (without knowing anything about it) tapping works very much like acupuncture or acupressure. Great post all around. Thanks for sharing.

  7. As hard as it is for people to share, I applaud you once again Julia. Your honesty has taught me so much in the short time we have become friends. I’ve learned about you but more importantly about other people as well.

  8. You know, I’ve dealt with this my whole life, and it never occurred to me (who has a PhD in psychology) to talk to a Dr. about ways to treat it. I don’t think I connected it with a treatable condition, I just always beat myself up for being a ‘bad’ person because I would feel this way about events and things, force myself to do what needed to be done, and felt exactly like you describe at the end of the day–or loathed myself for cancelling and spent the day self-flagellating. I did always wonder why normal events made me feel so drained and fatigued, and figured it was a depression issue. Point is, thanks for writing about this and shining light on it.

  9. Facing the PTSD squarely is a courageous step to overcoming the Denial stage. It took me a long time to do that, so congrats. Dealing with the loss of the sense of the world as a safe place for you and your loved ones just seems to go on forever — my empathies go with you. You just cannot reason away certain anxiety. It is not being weak to acknowledge you are on a different and changed life path. And putting it into writing is so much healthier than self medicating beyond the Rx. Best of luck to you Tracy. It sounds like you are one of the winners in this. And your posts will help so many others as well.

  10. Everyone gets nervous or anxious from time to time when speaking in public, for instance, or when going through financial difficulty. For some people, however, anxiety becomes so frequent, or so forceful, that it begins to take over their lives.

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