First, I’m going to say that these journal entries are built entirely on my own thoughts and experiences. For now, I’m trying to figure this out and haven’t been able to find a professional that takes my insurance. I have a therapist and that’s who helped me figure out what was really going on, but people tend to demand a psychologist in this arena. So, don’t think I’m going to be clinical here or spreading further than my own instances. That’s why I’m starting with this overview of my situation instead of trying to talk as if I studied anxiety and depression on a professional level. Maybe this will help myself or someone by learning that I’m not alone in how this is happening.
As I said, this post is going to be more introduction and some topics I touch on will be bigger posts later on. There might even be some comments that make me think of other subjects to write about. Get the feeling that I’m delaying this post, but that’s a part of what’s going on. I’m still scared and nervous about this endeavor because it comes with some risks. I’m exposing myself to the public in terms of my mental health, which isn’t always seen as socially acceptable. This leads to some people coming at me in private to tell me to stop because they don’t think I should reveal my problems to strangers. That means judging can occur and that can trigger an attack. Keep in mind that I’ve pushed myself to the point where I have at least 3 anxiety attacks a week and it doesn’t take much to knock me down. So . . . here we go.
My story is that I spent at least a year feeling like something was wrong with my heart and lungs. Usually when I laid down for bed, I’d feel my pulse quicken, start coughing, and freak out that I was about to die. This even led to a few nights where I hung out in the bathroom until the sensation passed out of fear that falling asleep would be a death sentence. All of that and I still thought it was a physical issue, but it was so inconsistent that I couldn’t figure it out. Not to mention insurance was such a pain that I couldn’t get to a real doctor. I went to the clinic a few times for other things and they always gave me a full check that showed nothing wrong with pulse and breathing. A few times, I thought it strange that it happened mostly near the end of the week and even considered that I kept getting colds. You don’t really think it’s a mental issue when you have physical symptoms, but people do say the mind and body are intimately connected.
It was about two months ago when I had a really bad attack at night and took my phone into the bathroom. Hands were shaking a bit and I felt like an anaconda had wrapped around my chest. I was probably in there for a few hours and noticed that the sensations would start to vanish then return as soon as I began thinking ‘bad thoughts’. It was such a bizarre back and forth that I started looking up anxiety and panic attacks. In the midst of this, a friend messaged me even though I’d normally be asleep. I mentioned what was going on and we talked about the possibility of it being anxiety. This ended up calming me down a bit and the symptoms started vanishing. He suggested some breathing exercises and tried to distract me with our usual banter. Within fifteen minutes, I no longer felt like the Grim Reaper was tugging on my rib cage and was able to go to sleep. Sort of because the sensation tried to return a little later, but I went right into the breathing and cleared that up.
I was in the middle of a project, but I began paying attention to what was going on prior to my attacks. Prior to this, I thought of food and physical exertion since I’m not really in shape unless we’re counting circles. Now, I was looking at my mental stress and didn’t have to go far. I take a lot on my shoulders and tend to be a little high-strung to the point where I’m never sure how to relax. There are days where I feel like relaxing is simply letting my guard down and opening myself to accusations of being lazy. This is why my ‘vacations’ still see me outlining or preparing blog posts. Most times these are relaxing, but lately I feel like I’m pushing to stay busy in order to avoid those accusations and judgments. This isn’t even counting the arguments and stress of trying to maintain my writing career. Needless to say, it didn’t take long to find that the problem is more mental than physical.
The most challenging part of this is that I don’t think I caught this early enough to make it an ‘easy’ hurdle. I said it doesn’t take much to knock me down and I wasn’t kidding. I kept myself on the edge for so long that my body reacts to any stress with extreme reactions. Even if my mind knows it’s a minor problem like a little traffic, my physical symptoms are similar to what one would feel if cornered by a starving grizzly bear. It’s like my ‘fight/flight’ mechanism has been thrown out of whack. This is the part I’m still trying to figure out because I have to retrain myself, which is difficult. If it’s a really bad attack and I try to mentally wrangle myself then I start feeling a pressure in my head that makes me think I’m about to snap. I get the feeling that this is an imagination-fueled overreaction though, but it’s hard to shake in the midst of an attack. The thoughts on death aren’t any better and can be downright frightening, but that’s definitely a topic for later.
So, that’s basically how I got to where I am. I’m hoping to keep this weekly journal going for a few months and see if it can help me improve. Sometimes strangers have better insights than the people who are in your life because they aren’t coming at you with previous knowledge. Not to mention, strangers aren’t trying to push you in a specific direction. At least, I think so.