You know what one of the most frustrating things about anxiety is? Every time I think I’ve got a handle on it, it’s like awww, sweetie! That’s so cute that you think I’ll just stay quiet. Sometimes I wish anxiety was a person so I could punch it in its stupid face.
I wrote about how the anxiety has been creeping up more and more in the last couple of weeks, and it doesn’t appear to be slowing down. I was feeling pretty anxious on Saturday, and the dude asked if I wanted to come on a walk with him and the dog. The part of me that was feeling anxious was like hell fucking no. But the rational part of my brain knew that being outside and/or moving would probably help, so I said yes.
Typically we talk quite a bit as we walk, and it’s a nice chance for us to be together. And it was that on Saturday, too, except that the more we walked the more I felt like crying and the less I responded to what the dude was saying. By the time we got to the dog run I was actively trying to hold back tears. We sat in our usual spot, which luckily faces away from where other dog owners tend to sit, and the dog jumped up on my lap. I had kept my sunglasses on because for whatever reason I didn’t want to the dude to be able to see my eyes and see how anxious I was. I took them off as the sun went behind a cloud and when I raised my eyes to his, he knew immediately. I just nodded and kept petting the dog, and finally in my head I was just like fuck it and sat there with tears rolling down my cheeks. The dude offered for us to go home, or that I could go and he and the dog could stay at the dog run, but I said no. I’ve cried in public enough times that I don’t really care anymore.
It wasn’t that I didn’t want people to see me crying. It was that I didn’t want to be crying at all. I was so tired of feeling like my chest was going to pop open every time I wasn’t distracted by something else. I was tired. I am tired. And I didn’t want to admit that a) this is what my panic attacks look like now, b) I was in the middle of one, and c) my panic-free streak is not actually that long when you take into account how the attacks have changed.
Well that SUCKS. It sucks a lot. It sucks some vulgar phrases I would like to use right now but my mom reads this (hi, Mom), so I’m going to try to practice at least a little decorum. It sucks because I felt like I was doing really well. I had huge stretches where I felt no anxiety for weeks. It sucks because it makes me feel like I’m not doing a good job taking care of myself, even though I know that’s not true. It sucks because I should probably go back to therapy but I can’t really afford it. It sucks because it just does. This is not a pleasant thing to live with.
Every morning since then, and in the mornings leading up to Saturday, there’s been a higher level of anxiety. Sometimes it’s there right away when I wake up. Sometimes it takes a little bit. But on Monday I was sitting in my classroom crying during my lunch break for the first time in a long time (and for the first time in this room, so at least now it’s christened). Tuesday morning, I had a pretty big migraine and some nausea, and by the time I got to work it felt like my heart was trying to claw its way out of my throat and the bones in my chest were keeping my lungs from reaching their full potential. It was like I had a strap fastened around my upper chest and it kept getting tighter and tighter as I breathed (this is how Boa Constrictors work, no? Is that a better visual? I think I’ll stick with the strap simile because I’m not so much with snakes).
I know that this isn’t my life now. That I’ll start feeling less anxious again as I settle into the school year. I know that I’ll figure out how to work in the teachers’ lounge and how to have alone time at work and how to balance grading with the new, fast-paced schedule of AP. I’ll try to keep up my yoga schedule and my bed time. I’ll lean on my colleagues for help. I’ll make sure that I’m taking breaks during the day and going easy on myself when I don’t get my whole to do list done. I’ll keep looking at the space near my desk that has pictures of the people I love and some post it notes with things I want to remind myself of.
And I feel lucky, too, that I have a wonderful partner who gets it when I start crying for seemingly no reason. Who, when he finds out I’m feeling anxious, offers me a hug or an encouraging text message depending on our proximity. I’m lucky I have a mom and a sister who reach out to me every day. I’m lucky I have friends who read this blog, and who ask how I’m doing when I see them. I’m lucky, lucky, lucky. It’s just that some days, it’s hard to feel it.
I think along with my anxiety checklist it might be time to keep a list of good moments, or maybe even things I’m thankful for. I practice gratitude every day when I use my thrive journal (which I LOVE), but I can’t access that at work and I wonder if it would be helpful to have some version of it with me on my phone.
I’m trying pretty hard to remember that this will end and that I have a lot of tools at my disposal, but I think it’s worth it, too, to be frustrated. I would like my brain to stop suddenly thinking that going to work is threatening. I would like my stomach to stop listening to my brain and just chill the f out. And as much as I know I need to not fight the feelings, because that creates tension and tension makes it worse, I’m allowed to be upset and I’m allowed to want this to not be happening. That has been and continues to be a big struggle for me: it’s ok to not be ok, and it’s hard for me to give myself permission to feel that. But I’m working on it.