Spiderweb on my face

So yeah, I was feeling good there for a while, things were really looking up. Then they stopped looking up and things got hella tense and anxious and ugly. Whoa anxiety monster in my face.
Depression and anxiety often go hand in hand, but sometimes the depression is so overwhelming that the anxiety takes a back seat. The new drugs have helped my depression immensely and I was thrilled. I was not expecting, however, to be t-boned by a giant hoopty driven by anxiety. Bam! Right on up there, I’m feeling good, then suddenly I’m freaking out. I’m having panic attacks that I can’t control. This is key. I’ve had panic attacks in the past and I have almost always been able to stop them through breathing and forcing my brain to be calm. These past couple weeks, however, have been pretty brutal.
The anxiety or panic comes over me and as I try to talk myself through it, “this is anxiety, it causes a spike of adrenaline and that causes the heart to pump faster and muscles to tense and the brain to go on high alert. It’s just an errant reaction to something that isn’t happening.” I find that the words are not working like before. I can’t wrest control of my mind away from this lizard brain type action. The flood of adrenaline is not subsiding. Why not? what the hell? Is it because my medicine isn’t working? Holy shit! If my medicine doesn’t work then I don’t know what I’m going to do! oh no oh no oh no oh no! I’m never going to get better I’m never going to fucking defeat this shit. I’m going to spend the rest of my life in some sort of shit-limbo. DAMMIT.
Like that. Instead of being able to manage the anxiety I found it spinning out of my control and as it spiraled off it released more and more little tornados of fear (apparently the spellcheck dictionary has tornado but not tornados. The spellcheck dictionary has not spent an August in Minnesota). When it first started happening we (David, my therapist and I) decided it was probably PMS. People who know me know that my PMS turns me into both the Scylla and the Charybdis and those around me are forced to navigate their little boats through the treacherous waters.
But it kept happening, wave after wave of fear and tension, a complete lack of surety where once I felt positive.
Add to it a monster headache that will not go away. Day after day a persistent low grade pressure in my head.
So, I go to therapy yesterday and I throw it all out there. Oh my god! One million anxieties and nothing is helping and I feel like every nerve in my body is exposed and I can’t think rationally and I can’t concentrate on any one thing and dammit I was feeling so good and now everything is failure and what the hibbity-hell????
I really love my therapist, she is calm and insightful and can break problems down into component parts and show me how those parts fit together to make something larger than the sum of its parts.
I’d never experienced such consistent and persistent anxiety before. It’s not that it wasn’t there but that depression often trumps anxiety when it comes to brain resources. Now that my depression has eased up my anxiety finally has the room it needs to expand and really reach its full potential.
And that’s the thing about fighting mental illness. It’s never clear cut. You’re fighting an enemy that has a million secret weapons and just as many secret ninja soldiers. A successful campaign on one front exposes your vulnerabilities on another and once again you’re outflanked. It’s exhausting sometimes and it doesn’t help that you can’t see the end. You just steel your spine and put your head down and force your way through attack after attack.
The biggest weakness in my army is my own self defeating thoughts. I have a habit of analyzing my symptoms and immediately discounting them. I initially assess them as fake or psychosomatic. I am my own worst critic. If I become overly anxious to the point of physical discomfort I’ll tell myself that it’s because I can’t get my shit together, I don’t want to get better. Obviously this doesn’t help the situation and can often make matters worse.
A good example is this damned headache that I’ve been experiencing. It will not abate. For a few days it’s been beating my skull and for a few days I’ve been yelling at my own head telling myself that I have no reason to have such a headache. Brilliant. So, we’re out of advil and the tylenol isn’t making a dent in it. I mention it to David and he points out that last week I felt like I was coming down with a cold. I’d been tired, my lymph nodes were swollen and I had a bit of a sore throat. So I had that last week and a headache this week and he points out that it is spring and there’s pollen and persistently wet leaf littler that produces bits and bops of mold spores and maybe this is just allergies.
I have a strange relationship with allergies. When I was in high school and college I’d started reacting to some fresh fruits and vegetables like apples, carrots, cherries and some nuts. I assumed it was pesticides that I was reacting to because why would you be allergic to apples. But then I started eating more organic fruits and vegetables when I could and the symptoms and reactions didn’t abate. So then I was at a loss. Who the fuck is allergic to fruit? I’ll tell you who’s allergic to fruit! It’s hypochondriacs! Those are the people who are allergic to fruits and vegetables and door knobs and paper and whatnot. Ergo, I must be a hypochondriac. It’s obvious that I’m experiencing allergic reactions based on psychosomatic issues that I can’t trace. But I don’t need to trace them I just need to recognize that these allergies are my fault and not real.
Every year I have issues and every year I would send a barrage of self loathing into my own head. Stop having allergies, you’re just being a baby…no, you’re being a stupid baby! And it certainly didn’t help that I read a book that happened to take the same stance, that many chronic discomforts like sciatica, allergies and migraines were less physical in origin and more psychosomatic. And of course this all fit so perfectly with other experiences I’d had in my life. As a child I would go to adults and try to get help from them regarding my home situation. Time after time my efforts were rebuffed. I am a kid, I am experiencing great abuse in the home and I go to a teacher or a relative and I try to get help and I am told the same thing over and over, “oh, every kid thinks their home life is terrible. When you grow up you’ll see it was fine.” Basically, I was told that my issues, my discomforts, my problems were not real. I was told that my assessment of the situation was wrong. I learned to not trust myself, to always second and third guess everything. I learned to stop asking for help.
And we come full circle. I’m an adult that cannot accept that seasonal allergies are real despite all the evidence to the contrary. I am a person who can send her own anxiety out of control by berating herself for having anxiety in the first place.
This process of therapy will take a long time and I am okay with that. Yesterday, we were able to identify and outline this issue that I have with anxiety and self doubt. As hard as it is to know and accept this about myself, the pressure is alleviated by the knowledge that it is a thing that can be fixed and that I will one day know that I am not a stupid baby.