On a recent Tuesday, I did something that made me feel like a fully grown human person. I took legit precautions against my mental illness. I told a group of trusted friends I could feel myself slipping. I asked them to check in on me. I made another friend promise it wouldn’t get as bad as it did when I was in my teens and early twenties. That if I wasn’t sleeping, or eating, or able to pull myself out of my panic cycle, that they would take me to the hospital. I admitted to feeling desperate which I knew was a precursor to suicidal thoughts in the past. I made every hard call and text and I took care of myself without hesitation. It made me feel like a badass, honestly.
I’m getting better at this.
When I was younger I let myself spin out of control until I wasn’t capable of asking for help or recognizing the problem. Now when things get bad, I try to keep track of symptoms. Because I know it helps, and also because I can take care of myself (and help others take care of me) better that way.
This is what taking good care of me looks like. I reach out. I keep track of my anxiety and depression. Writing everything down gives me a visual. It also easily shows what living everyday is like when my world constricts in on me, and my brain tries to convince me that living is too dangerous. I’m showing you because if you don’t go through it, you may not know. This is what I’m fighting. This is what so many people are fighting.
- 11:00 pm – Fell asleep on couch because a couch is less scary than a bed to my brain for some unknown reason.
- 2:00 am – Woke up. Went to bed because I’m not twenty anymore, and sleeping on the couch makes my anxiety related inflammation worse.
- 2:05 am – Had a panic attack. Did breathing exercises, recited poetry, and literally begged God to make it stop until I fell asleep.
- 4:15 am – Woke up from a nightmare experiencing sleep paralysis. Reoriented myself to reality. Did breathing exercises until I had full control of my body again.
- 4:30 am – Decided not to go back to sleep due to anxiety. Downloaded a book to read in hopes of escaping my anxiety and oncoming panic attack. Read entire book.
- 7:15 am – Shut off alarm. Spent an hour talking myself through a long list of fears in preparation for the requirement of leaving my house for work.
- 9:45 am – Started listening to podcasts to keep myself from continuing down an interaction based panic spiral.
- 12:30 pm – Ate yogurt and three gummy worms. (This is almost actually a meal! Victory!)
- 2:15 pm – Left my desk to go hide in the bathroom to work through an anxiety attack.
- 5:00 pm – Left work and the safety of my building.
- 5-6:00 pm – Anxiety spiral due to leaving work and catching up on social media.
- 6:15 pm – Gorged on Taco Bell (Meal success #2! Good job, me.)
- 7:00 pm – Started to feel the oncoming dread of the realization that I was going to have to sleep soon. Sleep = unknown, and therefore terrifying.
- 7:30 pm – Watched TV to try and keep myself from thinking so I could hopefully avoid a pre-bed panic attack.
- 8:45 pm – Started to feel exhaustion taking over.
- 9:00 pm – Decided to sleep on the couch, because again, to my brain, couches are safer than beds.
When everyday is a struggle for some semblance of normalcy and peace, you don’t have a lot left. It’s hard to interact with friends, or family, or colleagues when every ounce of your energy is tied up with convincing your brain that you’re fine, and that the flight or fight response isn’t needed for the simple acts of getting up, eating, and going about a totally normal day. It’s not that I don’t want to be a good friend, or mom, or human, it’s just that leaving my house feels impossible, and I simply don’t have the energy for much else other than me. It sucks. But when my anxiety is triggered, it can take days, or weeks, or months* to get it under control.
I guess be gentle with people around you. I’m high functioning. I do an okay job of hiding all of this. There are so many other people that do as well. You honestly never know if the person you are talking to is having an anxiety response to something going on around them. Be nice. Have empathy. Don’t hug people without asking.
*Honestly, it can take years.