The no good very bad day

Image by SvenKirsch from Pixabay

Everyone gets anxious, sure. But most people aren’t afraid to leave home in case there’s a zombie uprising.

Most of the time I can be funny about it. I can find the humour in being terrified in the frozen food section. Who knows what damage a fish finger could do?

But, some days, like today, I can’t find anything funny about it.

Today is a ‘no good very bad day’.

Tomorrow, will be an ‘I’ve got this day’.

I’ll pick myself up from the pit of self-inflicted misery, put on my big girl panties, straighten my tiara and slay my day or whatever stupid inspirational shit works.

But today, my anxiety is packing a punch to the gut.

If you ask me, “How are you doing?” I’ll say, “I’m good thanks.” I don’t think you really want to know the answer, but here it is anyway…  

There’s a restlessness in my legs I cannot control. They dance steps to some hidden beat.

There’s a swarming knot of serpents in my belly. They writhe and undulate ceaselessly whispering, a susurration of nameless fears.

There are crows trapped behind my ribs. Flapping and clawing they rake their talons down my breast trying to escape.

There’s a fire in my throat. A volcano of liquid lava erupting and burning a path to the outside. My personal Vesuvius.

There are voices in my head feeding the paranoia. Someone always watching. Something always going terribly, irrevocably wrong.

I hear death stalking in the shadows. I plan for it constantly. How and when and why. And what songs I want to play at the funeral and if anyone will come.

I have a body that I live in, but it is not me. It is some uncomfortable suit that does fit quite right. Like a six-foot six behemoth in a compact car.

I’m getting fired today. I know that’s not true but I can’t stop the vomit from rising. If I’m unemployed and homeless by 5pm where will I get a trolley and do I have enough cash for a shelter?

I’m going to the doctor. It’s routine. Nothing to worry about. But what if I die? What if it’s something serious? What if it’s nothing but a physical symptom of my degrading mind? What then? What’s worse?

The lights are blinding me and I can’t see through the static. I want to cover my eyes and cower away, but I hold my head up and I count. How many steps to the exit? How many pens on my desk? How many flowers on her dress? How many?

I am so very tired. It’s exhausting when I don’t whether to turn and run or stand and fight some non-existent hydra.

None of it is real. There is no zombie uprising. Coronavirus is not a bioweapon unleashed to destroy 90% of the world’s population. I’m not losing my job. I’m not going to die today. Probably. Maybe.

If you want to find out more about living with anxiety, have a read of these…

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/living-with-anxiety_b_8452658

https://hellogiggles.com/lifestyle/health-fitness/women-anxiety-disorders/

Shrinking heads

Sitting in the waiting room at the shrink is a lot like I imagine it is at an STD clinic. You all know why you’re there, but don’t want to acknowledge it.

Sadly, I think it’s probably more socially acceptable to have gonorrhea than depression. At least you’d have had some fun getting the clap.

It’s been designed to be deliberately soothing and non-confrontational. It has the complete opposite effect.

The thing is, you can’t help sizing up the others waiting their turn. On a scale of 1 to bat shit, where do you fall in comparison to the tidy little man in a suit sitting next to you? How many more screws do you have loose than the woman in the corner. Just one or a toolbox full?

And what if you recognise someone?

A hint: You do not acknowledge that recognition with anything more than a discrete head nod and don’t bring it up at the water cooler in the office. Ever. What happens at the shrink stays at the shrink.

Just knowing that someone is about to clinically evaluate my brand of crazy is enough to have my blood pressure going through the roof. Bats of anxiety fleeing the belfry. Most of them ending up stuck in my hair.

My head doctor is very nice. She’s very put together. Very… dare I say it… sane.

The more she looks at me the more I flight the urge to flee. I’ve actually being doing rather well, but you couldn’t tell that from my demeanour.

Every random tic suddenly comes to the surface and I end up twirling my wedding ring, playing with my necklace and tapping my foot at the same time. And then, I realise I’m doing it and try to sit on my hands instead.

I’m practically vibrating like a out of pitch tuning fork.

None of which is convincing her of my ability to be a productive adult.

Sometimes, I think that I rather have head shrunk by some headhunters in Borneo.

Of course, if I ever run into her in the real world, like at the mall, I can guarantee you that it’ll be a day when I haven’t brushed my hair, am wearing yoga pants and can’t decide between chamomile or aloe loo paper.

C’est la vie.

Don’t feed Fred

Fred is a big bastard of a dog.

He’s strong as all hell. After spending a lot of time being carted belong behind him and scraping my knees and elbows on the tarmac, we’ve reached a tentative detente.

Right now, we’re walking side by side.

Sometimes, he’ll get ahead of me and sometimes he’ll lag behind, but as we stuck with each other for now, I’m trying to make the best of it.

Still, I think I am more of a cat person.

Depression is like the tides, it ebbs and flows.

Sometimes, I can almost forget it’s there and then I start obsessing about things I cannot change.

I start feeding Fred.

Little tidbits on the side and, if not careful, the whole damn plate. It’s hard to ignore him slavering at my side.

This time it was the state of the world I brought my children into and how selfish I was (and am) to put them in such a harsh and horrible world.

What if they have to go to war, what if they get hurt, what if I can’t afford food and lost my house?

What if there was a zombie uprising?

How would I keep them safe?

Could they climb the walls?

Should I stockpile food?

It’s not like zombies are beating down the door, but I managed to work myself up into a panic before I remembered my mantra.

Don’t feed Fred.

Turn the music up on the radio.

Find something to keep myself busy.

Read a book.

Just don’t give in to puppy dog eyes.

“When days are dark, friends are few”.

The bumper sticker may be true, but the ones who stick by you are the best you’ll ever have.

Thanks for the flowers.

Thanks for the hug when I was feeling low.

Thanks for making me go out and face the world.

Thanks for not letting me dig a deeper pit and hide in it.

Thanks for not telling me what to do or how to feel better.

Thanks for telling me I can get through this, that I am strong enough.

Fred is not a good boy

dog-head-1449001_1920
Fred is a very big, black dog. And he sheds. Everywhere. And drools. He is not house-trained and takes up more space than a St Bernard.

 

Fred is a very big, black dog.

And he sheds. Everywhere. And drools.

He is not house-trained and takes up more space than a St Bernard.

But, since Fred seems here to stay for a bit, allowances must be made.

I can’t deal with the big things right now, but I’ve learned some tricks over the years, some survival skills that are slowly kicking back in.

I will pick my battles.

I can’t handle everything, but I can handle the small things.

Each small thing I do I can count as a victory, even if usually, these things are so small I don’t even notice them.

I will get up and go to work.

As much as I want to lie in bed and revel in my self-induced misery, it won’t help and will just make it worse. It’s basically like patting the bed for Fred to jump up and make a nest in the covers. Before I know it, he’ll be taking over the whole damn bed and I’ll be sleeping on the floor while he snores in my Egyptian cotton (I wish) sheets.

I will dress well.

I want to live in sweatpants and a hoodie, but sometimes you have to fake it ‘til you make it. Dog hair is not PETA friendly.

I will eat.

This part is hard. I don’t want to, it makes me nauseous. Still, I know that I have to that I have to keep my body functioning even if my brain isn’t. Fred can pack away a lot of calories.

I will find something to smile at every day.

Yesterday there was a double rainbow that stretched across from horison to horison and it was beautiful. Fred whined and hid under the table.

I will not dwell on things I cannot change.

I can’t home every child on the streets. I can make sure my children have a good home. I can’t drop Fred of at the SPCA, but I can stop him howling.

I will not let my mind get the better of me.

It’s easy to let it run wild. Let Fred out without a leash and set him free on the neighbourhood, peeing on other people’s cars and growling at passersby.

Fred will go to obedience training and learn how to heel.

Basically, F#$k you Fred.

My Black Dog is called Fred

dog-188273_1280
Meet Fred. Fred is my Black Dog. Fred follows in my shadow. I hate Fred.

I cried in my car on the way to work today.

Getting out of bed, showered and dressed took everything I had in me to give.

Not quite like being flung into hell when I wasn’t watching.

More like waking up to find myself in a black void of sorrow.

Like every nerve ending has been scrubbed raw and the slightest breeze has me curling over in pain.

Rationally, I know how irrational it is.

The thing about anxiety and depression is that it is utterly irrational.

Logically, I know that one day soon I’ll wake up and it will be gone and the sun will warm my skin and the birds will sing.

Right now, it just feels like I’m a drowning person futilely grabbing on to a straw to keep from going under.

I should have seen it coming.

When I had to cancel a party I’d been planning for months, because just thinking about it made me want to vomit.

When I couldn’t make plans on Tuesday for Friday, because I was scared that by Friday I might not be able to look anyone in the eye.

When people around me are dealing with big issues with grace and strength and I fell apart over groceries.

Something so small and insignificant.

Something anyone else would have brushed off.

Something that broke me.

It broke me because it showed me how not okay I am.

That all the time and energy expended on pretending to be a normal, functioning adult was for nothing.

I couldn’t take the tears out of my daughter’s eyes when she lost her race.

I forgot to put water in the car.

I parked like a nana.

I bought the wrong groceries.

I gave the wrong person the wrong boxer shorts when I did the laundry.

Such small, stupid things.

So, what the hell is wrong with me that they made me cry?

That they made me question everything, that they highlighted every bad thought I have about myself.

That I’m a useless person.

That I’m a terrible mother.

That it would be better if I just disappeared.

42398940_1110502119100777_4640356143706551906_n“How are you?” asked my husband this morning.

“Fine.”

Honesty is not always the best policy.

Because what should I have said?

“I’m not okay. I’m falling apart. I don’t know what I’m doing. I want it all to just go away.”

How would that help us when we have real challenges.

Real mortgages and debt and kids and a failing economy?

When homeless kids are going to die on the streets?

When people who have nothing are doing everything they can to eat tonight?

And I can’t put my shoes on.

And it doesn’t really matter, because I know I have depression.

But nothing really seems to matter right now.

Because it doesn’t matter how I feel.

I still have to function.

I still have people depending on me.

I still have bills to be paid.

I still have a job to do.

I can’t afford to hide in a cave and sleep until this passes.

And the kind looks, the “Are you okays” just make it worse.

They just shatter what’s left of my defenses.

And I reply, “It’s nothing. I’m just coming down with something.”

Because it’s easier for other people to think it’s the flu.

Like depression is something contagious.

But it will pass.

I know it will.

I have to believe it will.

If I can just get through this one hour at a time, things will be fine.

And when someone asks I can say, “I’m fine” and not be lying through gritted teeth.

 

largeI am not alone.

Thousands, millions of people just like me are not alone.

We’re not freaks.

I am not a freak.

And if by sharing how I feel today, it makes just one person feel a little less alone, than at least something good can come out of this.

 

Panic at the Pep Parade

Panic illustration
From Ravishly with thanks to Jenni Berrett for her brilliant article on panic attacks.

 

I was really adulting like a bozza today!

I had my power suit on.

My boots were walking.

I was killing it.

Until, I wasn’t.

 

Until a pigeon pooped on my pep parade.

 

A clammy hand fastened its grip around my throat.

Another clenched around my heart.

My breath was stolen by some invisible ghoul.

My eyes began blinking like a possessed strobe light.

I wanted to vomit.

I wanted to cry.

I wanted to curl up and die.

 

I wanted someone to notice.

To just tell me things were going to be alright.

To just breathe.

That it would pass.

That I had this.

 

I wanted no-one to notice.

I wanted no-one to see how hard I was pretending.

I wanted to disappear.

 

And then came the crushing guilt.

Who the hell am I to be anxious, to panic?

I have a wonderful, privileged life.

I have a great job, a wonderful family, a beautiful house.

Who the hell do I think I am?

Millions of people deal with huge stresses every day, make life and death choices.

My husband calmly negotiates multinational deals on top of dealing with all the minutiae of our household – bond payments, school meetings, car repairs and all the other stuff.

 

I can’t buy groceries.

Let’s put that into perspective.

 

Living with anxiety is a silent nightmare.

Think Pennywise in every storm drain, around every corner, in every shadow waiting to make you come and play.

It makes no sense.

It is not rational.

It is desperately lonely and isolating.

I whisper over and over, “I am not alone in this. I am not alone.”

 

So, if you, like me survive living with some form of anxiety or panic disorder, repeat after me: “I am not alone.”