Of all of the symptoms of depression and schizoaffective disorder that I still feel, I think anxiety is the worst. Most times, my medication does a good job of dulling my brain enough where I can function. But today, I woke up and the first thing I felt was nervousness pulsing through my chest and stomach. Its a very sharp, hot pain, and also not very easy to ignore. When I eased out of bed, it was worse, but I did the right thing and didn’t go back and roll up in a ball with the covers over my head.
I remember feeling anxiety all the way back to when I was a child. It was like a fog that clung to me. My parents didn’t know how to deal with it. Their advice was that I wasn’t praying hard enough, if I would just get on my knees and ask for forgiveness, it would get better. But I knew better, even way back then. It was not like the excitement you felt before you had to get up in front of the class and do a book report. It is an ugly, dirty feeling like vomit in the back of your throat. It also caused symptoms of IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), so more often than not I was in the bathroom, shitting my brains out. I was always on a constant search for a bathroom wherever I went. They eventually relented and took me to the doctor, who said that medication was the answer. It only took a week before my parents took my pills away. They said I looked stoned when I took the pills, and no good Jehovah’s Witness kid ever looked stoned. Without medication the dread came back, so I hid myself away in my room. It was a pattern that would follow me for life.
During my 20s and 30s, panic attacks usually followed the feeling of angst. Panic attacks often kept me locked in my apartment, hiding from the outside world. Then I would experience more anxiety worrying about whether I would have a panic attack in public. Sitting and sweating blood in my apartment gave me time to think, and thinking developed into social phobia and paranoia. I very rarely left the safety of my dwelling, and more often than not, I spent that time alone sleeping off all the tension that had built up.
Now, in my 40s, I still cringe away from places where there are too many people: the mall, the grocery store, the bank. But, my wife and child don’t want to stay at home all the time and watch me sleep, so I get dressed and take them wherever they want to go, and carefully push down all the paranoia and anxiety where it won’t explode into a panic attack. I try to smile away the pain, but it never works, I can still feel the disquiet boiling down in my stomach.
My next hurdle is Christmas Day, when all of my in-laws are coming to my townhouse for a party. There is not a whole lot of room here, so I know I will be rubbing elbows with everyone. Eventually I will get to the point where I can’t take it anymore and I run to hide in the upstairs bedroom with my laptop. What unnerves me the most is the fact that no one speaks in English, so I never know if they are talking about me.
I haven’t found many coping mechanisms that work on the symptoms of anxiety, but I hope one day I will.
What has worked for you? Please comment!
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