Friday, June 23, 2017

Another Thing About Anxiety Is That It Fucking Sucks

When I started this blog, my plan was to talk about books, writing, and popular culture. Believe me: I still intend to focus on those things. I've found, though, that it's important for me to share experiences in other areas of my life, as well, because it can be difficult to find people who are open about their mental health (or someone whose words make sense to you and affect you and validate you), and I'd like to help where I can. Being an introvert and a person who sometimes attempts to write, this is the way that makes the most sense to me. This is the second part in a two-part series. Part one was published on Monday.


Anxiety is one of those disorders that can have unintended professional or interpersonal consequences. For example, when I've suffered through anxiety attacks at work, I've had to leave a sales floor or hide behind a closed office door until the feeling passes. The most comical of these incidents happened when I was lurking around the quietest corner of a Hallmark store, hiding from a nun because I have a completely irrational, unfounded fear of them. (This strategy worked until we were short-handed at the cash wrap and I was forced to ring up the sister's purchase.)

The majority of my anxiety-related meltdowns, however, affect my relationships. On a good day, I struggle to explain what's happening inside my head, so imagine me trying to tell someone all of the things I'm feeling when I'm also in the middle of an anxiety attack. (Hint: you might reasonably call it a shitshow.) Even my dog ran away from me once when I was sobbing through some anxiety; that's how extra I become, but in her defense, she has a limited grasp of the finer points of humans' emotional anguish.

Once I manage to get on this path of explication, though, it's difficult for me to stop. Hence I dump all sorts of information on people in a short amount of time, attempting to make myself clear and searching for some sort of understanding on the part of the other person(s) involved. I also spend a significant amount of time apologizing, because even though I think my feelings are valid, I recognize how someone else might disagree, and even more so how they might find it off-putting that I'm sharing so many details of my inner life. As my mother once put it, I can be scary.

That is never, ever my intention, but I get it: my emotions are too intense for some people. And no matter my aim, no matter how much I mean what I'm saying--and I always do in instances like this--my confessions more often serve to get me in trouble. Perhaps I come across as unhinged, but I choose my words as carefully as possible and attempt to maintain some logical flow (this is why I usually have to write these things out rather than say them face-to-face).

But once I've gotten it out, I panic and scramble to write a second--or third, or fourth--note to clarify my previous statements, and the cycle of anxiety continues. The longer it takes someone to reply to me, the worse I feel, and the more likely I am to keep going.

Eventually, I will burn myself out, perhaps for a day or two, or maybe even a week. Then it begins afresh, and some other source of anxiety will take the place of the last incident. If I'm lucky, it's nothing serious and I can continue my routine. Other times, not so much. But I do what I can to fight it and advocate for myself, even though it can be difficult to do so when the real enemy is your own brain.

To those who have been on the other side of this, who have ever wondered why or how I get so wild-eyed or who have ever felt bombarded, I apologize. I know that it isn't easy for you, and I realize that I owe you a great deal. I can't offer much in the way of reparations, but I'm usually available to tell a bad joke, if you're into that sort of thing (or if you simply tolerate that sort of thing). 


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