Monday, November 19, 2012

In Which I Talk About Anxiety

         I don't know how to do this anymore. My typing skills (HA HA! Skills! As if!) are rusty and so is my screen writing brain (by which I mean the brain I use to put words on a screen rather than on a page). But, where there's a will there's a May, so it is written, so shall it be done.
        I've been catching up on other people's blogs (are you down with OPB?) and I see that there is a lot of crazy going around. A lot of Going Through Shit. This I find reassuring. Now I know I'm not the only one. I've been in hiding, because I am anxious, and I am ashamed at my anxiety, and I don't want folks to worry about me, so I become reclusive and don't talk to my friends, which makes me more anxious, and so on. It's funny because it seems like everyone is anxious these days and they talk about it blithely and with humor on NPR and in the New Yorker and so you would think that I would own it and laugh with the world at all our silly fears. Only, it is not funny to me. It's scary. I don't like it.
       Two years ago I was tall and strong and brave. I walked with legs longer than my own and owning, I owned the floor. I managed the floor actually, I was the Floor Manager. Managing things was my job. Then one day (actually, this was a little over two years ago) I got the shakes at work and had to walk away for a little while. It happened that one time, and then I was fine for a while, and then again a couple of months later. It was during brunch and I was fine, I was fine, and then all of a sudden the floor tilted and my hands wouldn't stay still and I could not carry those damn bloody marys to table twelve so I passed off the table and went to lie down on the floor in the office. I didn't know what was happening. I'd never experienced anything like that before. I thought I was having a low blood sugar attack or something and I called my brother and he came picked me up, took me to lunch, and then to his house where I fell asleep on the couch and woke up feeling much better. See? Blood sugar, right?
        That was the worst it got at work, the worst, but it kept happening every once in a while. I made sure that I had snacks and if I got shaky, well, I'd just take a little break and eat something and come back and everything was fine. Still, I hated it. I was the manager! I had to manage! I was the one who, if everyone was else was in the weeds, could get thrown to the wolves and I'd be fine. I'd be smiling.
         Meanwhile in my personal life, my long-distance relationship fell apart and I got together with my neighbor/ coworker's best friend and all was topsy-turvy and my simple and quiet life was being pulled from my hands. I was trying desperately to catch the pieces as they blew away.
        It wasn't all bad. New boyfriend turned out to be sweetness completeness who would pull me into him at night in his sleep and stop whatever he was doing to kiss my face. I needed that. I still do.
       I made an appointment, and he drove me to the doctor. The doctor was kind and listened to my symptoms and told me that it did indeed sound like a blood sugar problem (even with snacks, it is hard to eat when you are a waitress. Waitresses don't eat. Not really. They are robots). He scheduled me for tests. The blood work girl was beautiful and wore a turban. There was a poster of cartoon cats on the wall. As she drew the blood so gently from my arm I tried to pick my favorite cat, while my boyfriend held my other hand and told me which one he liked best too. Then he took me to breakfast.
       Two weeks later and back with the kind doctor, he told me I was absolutely fine. Perfect actually, couldn't be better. He punctuated his findings by taps on the table as he read from his laptop. "Kidneys? Great. Liver? Perfect. Thyroid? Wonderful. Iron? Most women your age start to go down in iron, but yours is ideal. Blood sugar? There is no evidence that you have any problems whatsoever." The doctor was Indian and his voice had a beautiful upwards lilt. It sounded like he was reciting poetry. Then he told me there was something else that carried the same symptoms as hypoglycemia, and that was anxiety.
      I left the office feeling let down. And relieved. I didn't want to be hypoglycemic, but I wanted something concrete, something physical that I could pinpoint and fix and be well and move on. The brain is so slippery, so sneaky and smart, it will do what it wants. It will tell the heart to beat fast, it will call out danger, it will tell the feet that the earth is sliding and the feet will listen. Now here is where I'm going to sound really crazy: I know that I am my brain, but I sort of think of it like an Other, like I and Brain are separate. If Brain was going to be an asshole, I was going to bitch slap it into submission. "Stop it, Brain!" I would say. "Stop it right now! There is no danger! We have done this a thousand times before!" And actually, that worked. For a while.
      I wasn't the only one having anxiety at work, particularly around brunch. One of our waitresses would wake up at 5 AM with a pounding heart every Sunday. One of our food runners had to throw up more often than not before his brunch shift. Another waitress one time had to sit on the floor in the beverage station with her head between her knees while I stood there and rubbed her back and said, "Breathe. In and out. Just breathe." I can't tell you exactly why it was so bad. It just was. It still is, I hear. I'm glad I'm not there.
       The anxiety started creeping back, and though that was not the only reason I left, it was a factor.
        I had hoped that it would lessen if I was away from all the pressure of that place. All the craziness and the stress and the troubles with the upper management, but it didn't. Not really. It changed, for sure, but it's like my body got a taste of terror and now I am afraid of being afraid. I had an anxiety attack while driving recently and now every time I get into my car I feel that sickness, that sweaty leaden dread. It ain't pretty and it ain't fun.
      I'm working on it. I'm writing about it, and that feels good. Writing feels like medicine. Reading the blogs of strong ladies, ladies I admire, ladies who are also experiencing or who have experienced something similar is medicine too. I hope I can give that back. Or at least let someone else feel a little of that, "Well, I'm not THAT bad" feeling. I'm also looking into support groups which, if nothing else, will give me more blog fodder. Being unemployed I need something to write about.
       Right now I'm going to go on a walk. I'm going to walk hard and sweat. I'm going to feel how strong my legs are, how strong my back is. I'm going to suck the sunlight into my skin and get up that one damn hill that is a bitch every time and when I get to the top I will raise up my arms and cheer and jump up and down like a champion (like I do every time) and I will feel that wild feeling that the world is beautiful and that no matter what I love it, I love it, I love it. This too shall pass, it won't be like this always. All the people we have ever been are still inside us; that strong, long girl is still inside me. I take comfort in that.

14 comments:

Angella said...

thank you for this. i am not hypoglycemic either, but have all the symptoms. but that is not the only reason i loved reading this. i was so thrilled, with your last post, to see you had returned, and now i'm even more thrilled to know you plan to stick around.

Mel said...

May you made me cry. If I were a better writer,maybe I could have written long passages of this blog. The content would be the same. The anxiety attacks, the floor not so much titling as moving, like in an earthquake tremor, the dizziness, all that happened to me when my kids were little. Panic, fear, worry, anxiety cubed. What if I keeled over in front of my babies? Doctors, tests, blah blah blah. My blood sugar is fine everything is fine. There were little things, that made it so much worse - the intermittent inner ear problem - benign paroxysmal something or other, hormone surges, hot flashes, sleep deprivation, pinched nerves with all their attendant gifts, I seriously have spent almost a decade trying not to let myself go crazy, and knowing that at the worst of it, I'm going outside for a walk, because that makes me feel more normal,and grounded and less crazy. I've mourned the loss of the woman I believed myself to be for decades, and try to be kind to this weaker, scardier version of myself. I too, feel so completely separate, this brain and this body disassociated around 43 when the peri, then the meno happened. I've read, I've consulted, I've googled, and the only thing that has saved me, really helped me, is knowing that I'm not alone and that you, your mama and a dozen other kind, sane, generous women out here on the internet are telling their truth and we're all still here, hanging in, grateful, anxious, but grateful.

I am so happy for you to have such sweetness in the man that holds your hands.

You will find other things to manange, once you figure out how to manage your body, or it allows you to do what you need.

And you know what? You haven't lost a bit or your writing mojo. I love reading your words.

xo

Petit fleur said...

May,

I have had a life long relationship with free floating anxiety. The basal ganglion can be a real bitch.

I went of my meds about 3 months ago and was doing fine. I moved to California and I fell apart. Literally walking around hyperventilating and trying to get a grip. Anxiety attacks galore.

I do not transition well, so considering how many small and large transitions I've made in the last couple of weeks it's understandable (I guess) However, it is debilitating for me at this point. I just wanted to share so you feel less alone and not to talk about me me me.

Some things that actually help (as with most you have to find what works for you. It may be a combo) are: (first off the walking is great, as is nature. Walking in nature may be preferable, like at the greenway) More things to consider: homeopathy, aromatherapy (rescue remedy works well for some), accupuncture, diaphragm breathing, yoga, tai chi, talking to friends/family, find something positive to focus on, while breathing deeply.

That last one reminds me of ballerinas who are told to choose a spot on the wall to focus on while doing their spins so they don't fall over dizzy.

I'm not in any way trying to tell you what to do, or probably anything you don't know already, but sometimes the mind can freeze and I find it helpful to be reminded sometimes, so...

I love you May and I'm sorry this bitch is visiting you. You will find your own way to manage her. Then you will tell us about it?
Much love
m

Ms. Moon said...

Oh god. Another horrible thing you have probably inherited from me. Anxiety is the worst. It's worse than depression and honestly, the two often hold hands to present an even more evil united front against our sanity.
Oh baby.
I love you.
It does pass.
I want to hold you RIGHT NOW!

Birdie said...

Anxiety is an evil bitch. Anyone who can laugh at it has never had true anxiety. It is disabling and cruel.

At the height of my anxiety I can't go out. I am frozen. I have to call in "sick" to work. I had to go into crisis housing earlier this year though that was a mix of grief from losing my mom and anxiety. And I would like to say that having anxiety is nothing to be ashamed of but I am ashamed of my own anxiety. Very few people outside of blogland know about how bad it has been for me. There is a stigma attached. There is. The crazy thing is (no pun intended)there are SO many people out there that have it. Bah. I don't know. I really don't.

Anyway, I hope it makes you feel a little better to know that you are not alone. You aren't. Keep writing. You will feel your legs strong underneath you again.

PS - I think quitting your job was a great idea.

SJ said...

I should have read this before we talked - we could have skipped a half an hour ;)

So glad to talk to you. I do love you so much. Irrationally but perfectly. I am so glad you're taking a breather.

SJ said...

Wait! That didn't mean that I wanted to cut out a half hour of talking to you! Oh, you know what I meant.

Sleep good, sister mine.

May said...

Angella- Thank you so much! I'm surprised that anyone is stopping by after so long, but yes, I do plan to stick around. We'll see.

Mel- Yes, isn't it a relief to know that people we admire go through similar things? And that we are all still here? I was inspired by Michelle, over at Just Eat It (I forgot how to make a link, but she's on my blogroll) and her honesty and her bravery. I'm always inspired by my Mama, and how strong she is. I'm sorry that you experience this as well, but at least we're in good company.
Thank you for sharing, and your sweet words.

Petit Fleur- I am impressed that you just up and moved, straight across the country! That is a huge thing to undertake, and you have! I'm sorry that it's hard, but you are doing it. Thank you for all the advice, it's always easier to listen to someone with similar experiences than to someone just talking out their ass. Much love to you.

May said...

Mama- We will hold each other soon. When we are not holding Gibson, of course. Don't worry so much about the difficult things I may or may not have inherited from you. I've also inherited the things that enable me to deal with the difficult. Strength, dancing, and a fierce heart. It's a good trade. Besides, I have you. Can you imagine how lost I'd be without you? I love you so so much.

michelle said...

I hear you Miss Maybelle

Deep breaths, fresh air, yoga, and perhaps a pill???

As much as we ferociously bitch slap our anxious/depressed brains sometimes they just give us the double middle fingers... stupid neurotransmitters...

xoxoxo

May said...

Birdie- It IS an evil bitch, isn't it? Thank you for commenting on the shame associated with anxiety, because it is there and that is something I've had a hard time with. As if the anxiety isn't enough! Thank you for sharing your troubles here, it lets me know that this feels like a safe place to you and that is good. Also, I appreciate you saying that it was a good move to quit my job. Totally fiscally irresponsible, but a good move nonetheless.

SJ- It was so good to talk to you last night! I completely understand what you meant when you said that we could have cut out the first half hour of conversation, I knew you didn't mean you wanted to talk less. We probably would've talked a half hour more about something else entirely. Oh sweet, call me when your family leaves and tell me about the visit. I hope y'all have too much fun. I love you too.

May said...

Michelle- Yes! Bitch slapping does not work as well as fresh air, deep breaths. Maybe yoga, maybe a pill... We'll see. I'm open to just about anything. You inspire me so much, you really do. I'm glad you came back to blogland, and that you came here too.

Steph(anie) said...

I don't have my head on straight enough to comment properly, but I want to say that I am so glad to see you here again.

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