I generally move about my day trying to keep an eye on the anxiety. I greet it with a professional nod and try to keep going.
Anxiety/Panic are like that co-worker who likes to invade your space. It gets too close, has eaten onions and ass for lunch and smells like it hasn’t showered in years. It stands super close and spits as it talks but wants to cling to you during a very long and intense conversation that you would really love to avoid any part of…..but, you’re stuck.
Keeping a friendly but impersonal distance is best but not always possible. You don’t want to hurt its feelings and cause it to lash out so you try to be cordial but you sure don’t give it time to chat.
My anxiety is bossy and controlling. When its low on the charts, I feel it lurking but I am able to stay pretty functional while I am at work. Then….
Its time to come home. Its quiet. There is less to do and fewer distractions. That annoying co-worker lives with me and even though I continue to be professional and respectful, it likes to come in my room, take over my private time and causes me to spin in circles trying to ignore its presence. It all but jumps on my bed and throws my things on the floor!
But, I manage to keep it to a distance. Annoying, present but a little subdued.
As I climb my way through my days, I find myself returning to one original fear that cannot be confirmed or denied. On February 25th, it will have been one year to the day since my anxiety/panic took hold and insisted we were soul mates destined to be together every moment of every day.
They say that the longer it has been since you functioned without the intensity of anxiety/panic, the harder it is for you to recall what it was like before fear ruled your world. I would have to agree to a point.
I look back and recall literally living in my bathtub. My current water bill reflects as much with HUGE spikes indicating the comparative usage that I am now paying an arm and leg for. What was I to do? I know water is a precious resource but it was the ONLY time I could get some relief.
The bathroom was my safe haven. It was quiet. It was secluded. It was a place I could talk to God without interruption. My family was and is wonderful when it comes to leaving me alone when I am in the tub because I would honestly be in there for hours.
I would beg God to help me. I would argue that I can’t be any good to Him or anyone else if I was paralyzed by this world gripping torment and fear. I insisted that I wanted to do good things in His name, if he would just allow me to rid myself of this anguish.
No, I wasnt lying. At least, I truly do not think I was. My sincerest desire IS to do right by Him. God has been there and I have had first hand experience with His help. There is nothing that can shake my faith. I might get angry. I might demand that I be cured and I might insist that I can’t continue to believe without relief….but He and I both know it isn’t true.
Over the last two days I have been listening to a Podcast by Tara Brach. The one I was listening to was titled “Remembering What Matters” and several parts of it struck home.
Intentions. What are our intentions when it comes to dealing with others or even ourselves?
I can say that I am human and humans….well, we know they suck. They are self-involved and sometimes just say or do things that are mean or without any reason other than to be difficult.
As I am listening and agreeing, I was almost run off the road by a self-absorbed driver. I wasnt the only one.
I became so angry! I sped up just to get next to her to waive my hands like “What the hell!” and then I continued on my way. When she sped up, I sped up. We played this game for a few miles until we turned off onto another stretch of road. I then slowed down to trap her behind me and between the other cars.
All while I was listening to the Podcast “Remembering What Matters”. She slowed down and went around the other cars and kept going. I stopped being a jerk.
As I drove to work, I wondered to myself “What the hell!” I wondered why I had to make an already upsetting situation worse. She was a terrible driver and I honestly pray that God protects those around her (and her as well) because she just changes lanes, she doesn’t bother to see if anyone is in it first. (Yes, apparently still a tad irritated by the whole thing…Im a work in progress!)
I wondered if I was just destined to be quick-tempered now. My fuse used to be SO long. I was so easy-going for the most part. Of course, once the fuse was used up, well, look out, but it took a very long time.
Since this panic and anxiety, I am quick to react in the car or at home. At work, I think I have to hold things together so tightly that it oozes out in places where I am not required to have as much control. But…..
Then I feel bad. I feel like a failure. I feel like I could listen to a million podcasts or books on “tape” and be just as much of a jerk without them.
So, I had to apologize to God for being a road rage jerk. I apologized to myself for being so intent on “proving some point” that I really, proved nothing except I have such a LONG way to go it is overwhelming.
So of course today, I had a few moments of health anxiety and continued snippyness toward my employees and my family.
Once I got home I realized I wasnt feeling that great. A bit achy and perhaps a very mild touch of a sore throat and then…….
That burst of worry.
Through this time I have had recurring worries that the reason I am having so much difficulty is because I delayed treatment for what was likely a bat bite. It took me about 3 weeks to actually place a call and get in so in my Health Anxiety mind, perhaps that time was my undoing and I am suffering the slow take over of my mind by Rabies.
What do Health Anxiety sufferers do in the early stages of their affliction? Well, we Google. We Google the SHIT out of our worries. We search and search for the meaning to this and that.
Since this Rabies concern has been on and off for almost 2 years, I have gathered an arsenal of information from the CDC, Mayo, WebMd and The World Health Organization.
Flu like symptoms well, today, check. In the past I held my breath for more confirmation.
Headaches. I have had one on and off for the last week. Never mind my stress at work is off the charts and I clench my shoulders like I am getting ready to take down a linebacker.
Sore throat. It’s not quite sore but there is something there. It COULD be sore….but again, my ears have been bothering me a bit the last week so….
Anxiety and aggitation….well….yes. Yes I do and ON goes the light and the engine starts to rev.
I feel achy. I feel like MAYBE I am getting the flu. I have a headache, I may or may not have a sore throat and I am always agitated.
Once the symptoms come on its 2 – 10 days. So….as you can imagine….for the next 10 days I am going to be waiting for it all to end.
While I do, I ponder. IF I AM really going to die, how do I want to spend the last 10 days?
Do I spend them in a job that I dislike working for people who treat me poorly? Do I spend it keeping my position running fairly smoothly while they run me into the ground? Do I spend my “last days” chasing that dollar for a life I “may” not have?
The answers settle in. No. No I don’t want to do any of those things. I want to be free from a place that makes me feel bad every moment of every single day. I want to enjoy listening to the birds sing and watch as the sun rises or sets. I want to sit back and wonder how I ever allowed myself to fall into that trap……but…….
My family would need the life insurance policy. They would need my last wages and savings…..
So, I sit blinking as the birds fly away and the sunrise/sunset disappear leaving the darkness that I have faced for pretty close to the last year.
I try to reason with my semi-irrational fear but as we all know, there is no reasoning with Crazy.
I introduced you all to Crazy a while back. Crazy does what she wants and is very difficult to deal with. Crazy thinks, walks, talks and acts the way Crazy wants and God help you if you get in her way.
So, Crazy is insisting that I have Rabies. Crazy swears that when I die, THEN they will all know that what she has been saying ALL ALONG is true….SOMETHING WAS WRONG WITH ME!
I don’t have a fever. It is winter and I spent the last day cold. I havent slept well because I was afraid to miss the alarm. I ache because I am so tense at work I could be a diamond factory. I have headache because I swear my body is trying to expel my head from its base. My ears and throat may or may not be sore because…..its COLD AND FLU SEASON and NO ONE WASHES THEIR HANDS OR COVERS THEIR MOUTH WHEN THEY SNEEZE OR COUGH!!
I have had anxiety because I truly think I was on a rollercoaster of fight or flight. I had many many unique and volatile situations transpire one right after the other for more than a month. I do belive it created a vortex that led to the mess you read before you now. I think our bodies can be conditioned to produce adrenaline. I think our system gets confused and is ready to go at any given time because that is what it has been ready to do for quite some time, we just don’t have external reasons for the survival mode.
Its funny because I recall very vividly the day that I decided I was no longer going to fret or fear about obscure possibilities or perceived threats.
I have always been a hypervigilant person. I was raised in a hypervigilant time and with separate but equally hypervigilant parents. Everything was a possible threat to my safety. Everyone and everything so I became a hypervigilant adult who part-time jobs like nighttime security officer or working with troubled and sometimes violent people. It clearly gave me an external reason to keep an eye on everything around me.
The day I decided I wasnt going to worry so much, I was concerned about some car or some person. I reasoned out the likelihood that it was a true threat and I left it alone. From that moment on, I havent been that same person….externally.
Within a few weeks I was depressed over work, anxious and felt I needed a little medical intervention. I had taken the medication as prescribed and that was it. It was all over. I had a bad reaction and I was off the charts with Panic and anxiety from that moment on.
My work aggravated it. My boss propelled it. I was a victim of a silent force that I couldn’t see or pinpoint. I was at its mercy and it ravaged my soul like an inferno.
It HAS gotten better. Yes, I fear that I actually have Rabies but there is a part of me that knows I will be here in 11 days, 689 days and 1354 days….if God deems it appropriate.
Crazy has had to work with me. She so badly wants me to start pacing, bathing and crying over the possibility of this terrible disease but I deliver the ultimate blow every time she throws it out there………
If I am going to die of Rabies, there clearly is nothing that can be done. No vaccine, no medical intervention……nothing. Once it takes hold, I wont even know what is happening. I have to believe God has a built-in safeguard for one’s ability to process what an awful thing is happening and if there is a small chance that I am wrong, then I will have moments of clarity and know that it is almost over and this world that I fear so much will be behind me.
You see, it has never been the actual passing of my life that has caused me the greatest anxiety, it has been the worry that I will know it is happening and I didn’t want to deal with that.
Once on the other side, I know God is waiting. I know that He will welcome me and that I will be at peace.
Health Anxiety is something that doesn’t reason well and doesn’t make a lot of sense. We become afraid of everything from over the counter medications to germs. Everything is catastrophic. Everything is leading to THE END.
It is the one outburst that Crazy can have that will get some attention regardless of how big or small and no matter how much I remind her of what I have said above, she wants to find that little hole of doubt and exploit it.
So fellow sufferers, you’re not alone. You are never alone because each of us in our own ways can identify with another. We all know that pleading look or pale moment. We all know what it feels like to have the room swoon or the pit of our stomach lurch at the mention of our triggers.
For those with Health Anxiety, we all know what it is like to do a constant scan of our health, our bodies and our feelings looking for one small obscure feeling that is out-of-place and we will search to find a reason for it, even when there likely isn’t one.
We could all be PhD’s with the tests, symptoms and treatments we have looked up in our time with Health Anxiety but we still can’t quite heal ourselves!
So, I am off to the bath to subdue Crazy before bed. The Rabies battle wages on and I could use a little quiet from her screeching ways.