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.

10 thoughts on “Spiderweb on my face

  1. I have fruit allergies. These make my throat itch like a mother
    Grapes, Kiwi, Watermelon – any melon really, Bananas unless they are perfectly ripe, …
    It’s real.

  2. I know lots of people with fruit allergies. Yeah, you know intellectually that they’re real, but tell that to your kishkes.
    But what a sweet picture with Chester! Dogs are the best healers ’cause they love you unconditionally.

  3. Okay, seriously, I am on a similar brain pill regime (and I also call them brain pills! snap!), and I was amazed to discover that when I went on them I had to totally change the way I did certain things, because one problem was under control so it gave other problems the leg room they needed and wanted.
    However, I don’t know you. Chester knows you though, and this is what I would imagine he’d say: “My name is CHESTER and I am here to talk about the lady who gives me FOOD! I love food! I especially love treats! and the lady gives me those too and i love treats. They make me SO HAPPY! I wish I had treats to give to the lady because lately she has been really TENSE and NERVOUS like she has seen a really big squirrel outside and she tells herself that it is her fault but it is not her fault! Definitely not her fault! It is just that there is a REALLY BIG SQUIRREL outside and she is not allowed to go chase it! So I will make kisses on her face so she will not watch the squirrel and wow her face tastes like there might be BACON there and she is making funny noises and giving me scratches!”
    Okay, that’s what I think he might be saying in that picture.

  4. Allergies are terrible. I have many allergies most of which are environmental. I think that allergies you don’t know about are the worst of all because you can never be sure whether you are getting sick, having an allergy attack or just over-tired.
    Sorry, no advice, just commiseration. Hope your headache clears up soon!

  5. Erinamelia is right: listen to Chester. Willow & Cricket say “He is smart and this is true! He will show you how to roll in the grass and scritch your back on a sunny day and make happy wriggles.” I add: assuming you’re not allergic to grass, too. :-(

  6. I myself am allergic to carrots. They give me hives. You are not a stupid baby. I hope things get better for you. I really enjoy reading your blog and the column on Ravelry. Keep writing.

  7. You are so awesome Heather. I find it inspiring how well you write about what’s going on with you and also how clearly you write about other people’s problems as Aunty BubboPants. So simple–depression is less, so anxiety has more space to open up and show it’s ugly face. I know the fear, when we know we don’t have control over our thoughts and can’t imagine how we can ever learn to trust them. It sucks so very much. I’m so happy you’re writing–please, whatever you do, just keep writing. You are lucky in David and Chester, but you also deserve them too. You absolutely do. I would keep you in my prayers if I prayed, but I do keep you in my thoughts.

  8. Hiya, allergies aren’t stupid chick and are to be taken seriously, my little boy died as a direct result of food allergies and asthma. He was 10. He was allergic to lots of fruit, veg and various other things. I pray this anxiety be lifted from you soon, nothing worse.

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