Again and again and again. I had one of “those” nights. I have more of them than I could possibly count – the nights when anxiety wins, and not only do I NOT sleep, but I spend the entire night in a battle with my own mind.
It doesn’t matter if there is something real going on, or if my mind needs to dredge up the past or start predicting horrific futures. For me, lately, there’s been both – a lot of REAL stuff, and a lot of made up futures that may or may not come to pass.
Anxiety was different when I was younger – in my teens, 20’s…heck up until sometime in my mid-40’s, I think. I definitely found lots of things to spin and spin on, but they were almost always things I felt I had SOME measure of control over. I think the spinning was my mind’s way of thinking it could maintain that control.
If I just thought things through ENOUGH, examined every possible scenario, every possible outcome of an imagined future event, well then, I could control the outcome of that event. Fortunately, or unfortunately, this often proved somewhat true. I was rarely caught by surprise, and I almost always had a strategy for practically anything that could go wrong.
Not so much a strategy for when things go right, but whatever, mind. Who needs to know what to do when things go right, right?
Spinning Out Of Control
Lately, though, I’m spinning about things over which I have no control. My daughter’s life, for instance. Hours and hours trying to find a way to MAKE a happy outcome for a grown woman who is in charge of her own life. So, there’s that.
Even worse, though – the one that is really freaking me out. My anxiety has become obsessed with all of the different ways I might get sicker and become even more disabled. All of the painful ways I might degenerate further until I die…a slow, painful death over which I have no control.
That no control part – that’s the part over which I am beginning to lose my shit. It seems that these things are always there – thousands of ways in which pain and illness could affect my life even more, before the “sweet release” of death. Various horrific scenarios with VERY amped up emotional content waiting for their turn, as my mind cycles through the different real and imagined things that might happen, some day – maybe tomorrow. What’s that bump in my mouth? Is that a thing? Has the face cancer started to take over?
My Mind Is Freaking Me Out Without My Permission
These fears show up unbidden, often without any obvious prompt. In the shower, BAM – what if I get cancer in my mouth and my whole face dissolves, but it doesn’t kill me? Driving to the store – WHAM – what if I have a heart attack and crash, but it doesn’t kill me and I end up even more disabled than I am now?
These fears have haunted me for years, now, but they have escalated to an almost constant level in the last few months. I think now that I am truly alone, and no longer have a “life partner”, my mind thinks I need to examine my impending death and all of the ways my life could go even further down hill before I die. Because I could then…prepare? Control it? Stop it somehow???
It’s like my already healthy and strong anxiety disorder is now on steroids. I can’t easily distract myself, either. I have to have multiple things going – a TV show AND a game app on my phone. An online chat with a friend AND research or art.
Then a night like last night hits, and it doesn’t feel sustainable. It doesn’t feel like I can keep going – at least, not like this. The anxiety is exhausting, the lack of sleep debilitating, and I end up in a useless fog when what I NEED to do is get a job or go to the doctor or get some help in some way from SOMEONE.
Help Is NOT On The Way
Of course, those thoughts then turn in the direction of how very much alone I am. OR, even worse, how much help I’ve tried to get over the years, and how useless it has been. Doctor after doctor, medication after medication, all have “failed” me, my anxiety tells me. Or maybe that’s my depression – or both. They might be in cahoots.
I have convinced myself that I am a person who responds to evidence. The down side to believing that about myself, and having no real “belief” or “faith” in things I’ve not seen or experienced myself…is that it doesn’t leave a lot of room for continuing to TRY when you think you’ve tried everything.
The evidence is clear – nothing I’ve tried so far has helped. Pain medication might have helped a bit, but I can no longer afford it, so who cares! Depression medication just made me more depressed. Anxiety medication just made me sleepy and anxious (note SLEEPY rather than SLEEPING), rather than fully awake and aware…and anxious.
I’ve had years and years of training with various interventions of a psychological nature, and while they give me tools and ways to deal with it when the anxiety hits, they don’t take it away. They don’t make it not come back.
At least, they haven’t done that so far.
I wonder if people who aren’t in the constant daily battle know that? I wonder if it is true for other people with anxiety and depression? That we might have ways to cope and fight…but we HAVE to cope and fight. Always and forever.
The daily battle – even when things are good. The amount of energy and constant vigilance it takes to try and prevent an anxiety attack, or try and prevent taking “the deep dive” into a full blown depressive thought cycle. (I don’t know if that is an official term – highly unlikely – but it’s the way I think of what’s happening when I can’t seem to stop the downward spiral of my thoughts.)
Helping Myself Is Exhausting
I’m exhausted because I’m fighting myself ALL the time. Even when things are good – even when I’m actively doing something to distract myself. I’m very, very tired because my brain is so very, very mean to me. It’s not a choice, by the way, and those out there that think it is or “helpfully” inform us to just CHOOSE differently can go…achem, “take a leap” is a nicer way to say it. I’ve done enough counseling and enough work on myself – I love myself and I don’t WANT to beat myself up.
It’s rather the opposite. Whatever chemistry and programming is firmly installed in there is in full “GO” mode, and my choice is to either let it take me out, or be in this constant struggle to control my thoughts, rather than letting them control me. I have to be hyper vigilant and a constant care taker for myself…and I don’t always succeed.
For instance, I’ll meditate, and watch my thoughts just keep coming at me. That’s always a good time.
Meditation as a tool is an interesting one, because it only works when I’m “well” enough for it to work. At that, it is still only a momentary fix. In the moment, I can separate my emotions from my thoughts to a point. It might even last for a while. However, if my brain is in a certain toxic soup, there is only so much I can do, and it can only last so long.
Work. Work Will Get You THROUGH This.
Work distraction helps a bit, until my anxiety pokes its head up and reminds me that I’m not actually making any money, and I will never be able to make any money because I am sick and broken and can barely function, let alone leave the house and work for 8 hours every day.
THEN my anxiety starts reminding me of all of the “advice” I’ve gotten over the years about that, and about how I should “just get a job working from home”. I wonder if the people who recommend that realize that you still have to be able to DO something. You need a skill that translates to a work at home job, and you still need to be able to function for the 8 hours or so it takes.
AND you need to be able to find and GET a job that lets you work from home. When you’re a sock in a dryer, spinning around and around, just dropping from the top to the bottom – it’s hard to even know HOW to find or get a job. Even when you’re internet “savvy”. Even when you USED to be someone that could handle almost anything.
So then, I spin on that a while. I look at job ads online. I get a little bit of an adrenaline hit when I see jobs that I could do and be good at – I have the right education, most of the experience, it wouldn’t take MUCH to get there.
Then I remember that I am sick… I see the jobs, I forget my limitations for a moment…and then I remember, and I finish the cycle of “I just need to get a JOB” in the same place I always do. Depressed and disheartened and alone and afraid and “Holy shit, I don’t know what to DO!”
What Happens Next???
Well, what happened next LAST night was even worse then usual. I finally made myself get up, after laying in bed spinning for hours. I sat at the computer, and wrote a depressed and desperate and hateful, blaming email to the “estranged” one. I didn’t send it – although I really, really wanted to. I’ve been stopping myself from letting loose on him – stopping myself from showing my anger and hurt and feelings of betrayal and “How could you actually DO this?” stuff. Because most of it is bullshit. Some of it is legitimate, but what good would it do to share even that much?
None. It would do no good…it would serve no useful purpose. So luckily, I was able to NOT click send. I’ve written about 20 of these emails so far, and not sent any of them.
But it gave me a bit of an outlet, and I was able to sob loudly and uncontrollably for a while about “What did I do to DESERVE this?” and “What is wrong with me – why am I poison to the people I love”, etc. These are real emotions and things happening right now, which as bad as it feels is at least real and here…instead of the thousand things I had been laying in bed spinning about that haven’t happened over which I have no control.
So I went back to bed, thinking that was it. I was “OK” now. I’d had a good cry…I’d be able to sleep.
My good friend, Anxiety, had another thought coming though. And another. And another.
I finally got a bit of a nap sometime after 8 a.m. Now, I go about my day, trying to deal with some version of reality while stuck in this weird fog. Trying to function. Trying to remember my “tools” that I’m so happy to share, but that only work when they work and don’t actually FIX anything long term.
That doesn’t make them less valid or useful. It’s just reality. So far, for me, there has been no tool nor medication to “fix” anything. Only to help cope. Only to keep me just this side of upside down.
Makes a girl want to eat cake and say “fuck it” to everything else for a while. … … … I wonder if I can get cake delivered?