Every now and than you read something that touches you. My husband heard about a NHL hockey player who had wrote a book about his struggles with anxiety and ocd. All I knew like many people, was that Clint Malarchuk was the goalie who had his throat cut by a hockey skate and almost died on the ice. When I read his book I began to see how much more this person was. Every time I read something about his anxiety issues it really resonated with me. I never had that feeling before from reading a book. I was so in awe of it that I sent him an email thanking him for sharing his story. He responded. Who does that. Who takes the time to respond to a nobody. Than I asked him if he would autograph a copy of his book for my dad. I mailed it to him and he even paid the return postage. His book has made him an advocate. It gave me the courage to write about my own anxiety.
Which goes to show everyone that if you can even make one person feel less alone than it is worth the struggle. When I was talking to my parents about his book and how I could relate, it was their reaction that made me want to stop trying to hide who I am. They said there was nothing wrong with me and that I just worried to much. They minimized my feelings. They were not doing it to be cruel. Like I have said before, it is just their generations way of thinking. Not all people of their generation are like that but a majority still do not understand. I thought that if my own family does not grasp the gravity of my mental issues than how are others suppose to. So I decided to be public about it. I will never be Clint Malarchuk level but I feel good about coming out of the anxiety closet.
Some weeks are harder than others. In the weeks that are tough it feels like being on a tight rope made of dental floss. Fragile and on the verge of snapping. I am constantly aware of this thin film on my brain ready to slip and expose my brain to an overload at any minute. I can feel the anxiety want to bubble up and I manage to calm it. But after a few days it becomes to much to try to control it. I have to have an emotional release, be it crying for one night or screaming in my car. At that moment I feel like an idiot. I feel if anyone knew they would think I was certifiable. But I am not. I am a normal person. I just happen to live with anxiety. The thin veil that separates me from my anxiety is a delicate one but I learn from it. I see how other people view mental illness and I learn how to let go and say “fuck what they think”
High school, fresh hell. Everyone has some sort of anxiety about starting high school. You are at the bottom of the pecking order, the school is bigger and it is the next step before college and adulthood. Up until than I had only had panic attacks maybe twice a year. Always chalked up to having a weak stomach. I did not even know I had anxiety. But the monster in the dark was about to join me in the daylight. The day it started is clear in my mind. I was in grade nine geography class. It was April. I had just come back from lunch. I was sitting listening to our teacher talk about agriculture and farming. He started talking about wheat. I remembered having shreddies for lunch and than I felt sick. I got up to go the bathroom. I never made it back to class. I got scared every time I went to leave the bathroom. So when the bell rang I went and got my stuff and went home. The next day when I got to school and went to class I felt that same feeling wash over me. It was like I had to gag but I was scared at the same time. From that day on, every day for the rest of my life, anxiety would be my new best friend. Holding my hand and walking along with me. A best friend I would have loved to punch in the face. Finally I saw a doctor at a walk in clinic. She would be the one to figure out I have anxiety. When she got her own practice I was so lucky to be a patient of hers. She is still my doctor today. She is amazing and a good example of a doctor who cares and actually listens. Without her picking up on the symptoms I think things could have got way more out of hand. I was relieved that I wasn’t sick with some physical disease. But I did not yet grasp the gravity of having anxiety and how it was going to change my life forever.
My parents come from the generation where mental illness was swept under the rug. It is not their fault and they are really great parents. I do not want to make them out to be bad at all. But even know with all the knowledge flowing around about mental illness they still think it is all in my mind. My mom uses the the phrase “try to focus on something else” a lot. Telling an anxious person to focus on something else is liking telling an epileptic to stop flaying about and calm down. I wish they could feel what I feel for one day to get a grasp on the intensity of what I go through. My mom wonders why I sleep so much. Well when you are up all night with racing thoughts and you are white knuckling it day in and day out than you get pretty tired. People who are anti med really get to me. I take a daily med and it helps me be close to “normal”. I have been off meds and for me it is no way to live. Trying to struggle to keep sane all day is no picnic. I think you have only one life to live and you should enjoy it.
When I was eight years old I was lying in bed. I started to think about what it would be like to grow old. I started getting scared at the thought of dying. I was so upset. My mom I said I did not need to worry about that for a long time. I was still worried because I could not fathom or make sense of the idea of dying. most eight year olds just worry about what friends they have or what gross lunch their parents packed. I was trying to forsee my whole life up until death.
June tenth 1979 I entered the world through a vagina. If I had a choice I would have crawled back in. It was warm and quiet and safe. Now I was being flung into the overstimulating world called life. I wonder how my mother felt that day. Was she looking at me with awe and the wonder of possibilities this child could bring. Or was she thinking about how sore her vagina was.She had no idea what was to be in store for her daughter. That throughout her childhood there would be a monster lurking in the dark waiting for the day when it would pounce. My anxiety took a foothold when I was about two years old. It seemed to be food related and generally stomach related. If I saw something gross I would get a weird feeling than puke. I thought I had a weak stomach but it would turn out to be something totally different. If I was eating in a restaurant I would be happy but as soon as we left I felt like I had to puke. If I was enjoying myself doing anything I would eventually feel sick. Getting ready to go to school was the worst. I was fine until I had to step out the door. Than I felt sick. Anytime there was a shift in activity like going from class to recess I would feel sick. It has been explained to me that there is an actual reason behind this. When people do things or meet a new person and are enjoying this activity something chemical happens. They release adrenaline but there is another chemical called serotonin that keeps the adrenaline from amping up. Most people would never even notice. But with a person who has anxiety, the adrenaline keeps going up because there is not enough serotonin to bring it back down. So being happy is a challenge. I am a very out going person and enjoy socializing. Thee moment I feel happy I think “fuck I am going to be getting anxious soon” Than I developed this weird phobia of swallowing. I was scared that I would not remember how to swallow and that I would stop breathing or something. I was two years old. That is not normal two year old thoughts. A normal two year old should be thinking about eating grass and about how funny their farts sound. I mean I thought those things too. I am telling this from my own memories. I have a gifted long term memory. M y short term memory blows ass but what I forget in the short term will eventually end up in the long term.