It’s hard to write about your weaknesses, but sometimes it’s necessary. In fact, sometimes it’s therapeutic, and sometimes it’s the only way to say what we mean. When I talk to people about my weaknesses, I’m far less articulate, and I find myself apologizing.
“I’m sorry, I can’t really explain it.”
“I’m sorry, I wish I could say that better.”
“I’m sorry, this all sounds like bullshit, doesn’t it?”
I apologize a lot for things that never warrant one. But that’s part of my issue.
As most of you know (either because I know you personally or because you’ve looked at any of my other blogs) I have some severe anxiety issues. I’ve been diagnosed with “chronic panic disorder”, which I will always have. I’ve also been diagnosed in the past with “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder”, “acute anxiety disorder”, “depression”, and a number of similar things. They all amount to one point: I’m an anxious person, and I always will be.
I’ve had a hard time coming to terms with this. I’ll always have anxiety? That doesn’t seem right. Can’t I be cured? It’s all in my head.
My therapist described it pretty accurately: we all run on an engine; it’s what keeps us going. People with chronic anxiety always run the risk of overheating. It doesn’t mean I’m constantly anxious, but I have a lifelong condition that can create anxiety.
So I’m prone to overheat.
Since about December, I’ve been experiencing a type of anxiety that I’m not as used to. It’s commonly described as “agoraphobia”, or a fear of being in an unfamiliar place or situation. I’ll wind up at a bar I’ve never been to and instantly feel uncomfortable. I will drive through a new neighborhood and feel uneasy. I can even feel anxious in a familiar place; if I can’t leave or excuse myself (ie: school, some social situations), I start to panic. This anxiety grew worse as the days grew shorter and colder.
I know some people have SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), in which winter just makes them depressed. I wasn’t depressed; I love the night. I love it too much. I would stay up until sunrise (which, in December/January, meant I would be up until 7:30 in the morning.) Then I would sleep all day, until about 3:30pm. For the first few weeks, this worked well for me. I would spend my nights writing and catching up on TV shows. I liked it; everyone was asleep but me. The city was quiet and so was I; oftentimes, I had the urge to go for a drive at 4:30am and circle the Loop, counting the pedestrians. I never did though. Honestly, it probably would have been better if I had driven around. At least I would have been doing something somewhat constructive.
After Christmas, I realized how much this pattern was affecting my life. I wasn’t enjoying the time alone at night; I was sitting in the dark, bringing the negative and anxious thoughts to the forefront of my brain. I folded deeper into myself until I had created a bubble that revolved entirely around fear.
I stopped leaving my apartment. I mean, literally. I would spend four days straight in my living room, thinking that this was the healthy way to spend winter. My apartment became my best friend; I only felt safe when I was inside. Even driving to school became a problem, and I adore school.
I spent the entire month of January like this. At one point I contemplated dropping both of my classes and trying again in the spring. I pictured what my family would say if I did this, especially my mother, and the fear of disappointing and angering them stopped me. So thanks, mom. You don’t know you did it, but you kept me in school this term.
By the end of January, I was disgusted with myself. I had become a shut in, a massive web of anxiety and excuses, and, worst of all, I had become weak. I’ve dealt with far worse anxiety in my life, and I’ve been able to battle it. The fear has usually given me strength, to prove that I can beat whatever bullshit I’m fighting. But this time, I wasn’t able to gather strength. I was just tired.
That’s a perfect way to describe it.
I was tired. Physically, emotionally, (spiritually?), mentally, I was just tired. I didn’t care, I just wanted to lay down and go to bed.
In December and January, I split my time between my family (I include my fiance and several best friends in this group) and British comedy. When I was awake, I spent time with my family as much as I could. When I should have been sleeping, I watched every bit of British humor I could find. It probably kept me “sane”.
The only thing that really pulled me out of this was a job application. I decided on a whim to apply for an internship in London (which I wrote about previously), and I put forth all my effort into a video. I was more concerned about this video than I was with school, eating, sleeping, anything. But it kept me busy, it kept me going. It made me happy.
I will find out if I got the internship in a month.
Until then, I can only hope.
I’m now in intense therapy and working very hard on managing my issues. I can’t say it saved my life, but I am far better than I was a few months ago. I’ve lost about 10 pounds in the last four months (most would rejoice at this side effect!), but it’s not been through healthy means. I have emetophobia (phobia of vomiting), so I have to try to eat as many calories as I can in a day, because it’s often still not enough. I am forcing myself back into a (relatively) normal sleep schedule. Instead of falling asleep at 7:30am, I’m asleep by about 4am most nights.
I’ve found the two best things for sleep are listening to Stephen Fry and drinking mint tea. I bought the audiobook of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy narrated by Fry and it’s insanely relaxing.
I’m trying to get out as much as possible and keep myself busy. I’ve started ukulele lessons and I’m making a pretty fun costume for C2E2 (yep, the comic book convention.) All I can do is stay busy and work on my issues.
Isn’t that all any of us can do?
And maybe someday, I’ll wake up in London.