Anxiety has been the one constant in my life since I was a child.
When I was young, I didn’t know there was anything wrong with me, I thought all kids felt like I did all the time. I was in a constant state of anxiety, like I was always waiting to get up in front of the class and read my book report. Everything freaked me out. My relationships with my classmates suffered because I was always nervous to be around other people. I was different than everyone else and it was a constant source of stress for me.
One of my major sources of stress was the fact that I was a Jehovah’s Witness and had to be different from everyone else. I didn’t stand up and salute the flag, I didn’t participate in birthdays, Christmas, Easter or any other holidays for that matter – I always went to sit in the library. Explaining why I didn’t do things like everyone else would often send me into a panic attack, and I couldn’t intelligently tell people why I wasn’t like them. I felt like a failure because I was expected to give a witness to my classmates about my religion, not stutter and mumble and generally look like an idiot. I didn’t want to be different from everyone else or draw any more attention than I had to, but I was.
As I got older, the anxiety only got worse and I developed some serious nervous stomach issues, which I still have to this day. It got so bad, my parents took me to see the doctor, and I was given a medication to calm me down, but after a few weeks of taking it, my parents took me off because it made me look like I was stoned. So, without medication, I was left to try and deal with this daily struggle on my own. Everything I did was affected by my anxiety, and eventually it made me feel depressed and withdrawn. I did my best to keep my feelings from everyone else, and I think I did a good job, because nobody ever asked me if there was something wrong with me.
When I arrived to adulthood and my mental illness started to blossom, anxiety was always part of the problem. I was scared of everything – work, women, friends and generally just being out in public. My twenties was a blur of depression, delusion and anxiety, but again, I thought everyone felt the way I did, so I never did anything about it.
At 29, after I finished college and felt the letdown of no longer being under the gun and going to school full-time and working more than full-time, I finally couldn’t handle the emotions in control of me and I crashed. I remember, after trying to deal with the sick feelings on my own, locking myself in the bathroom and cutting myself for the first time. I also threatened to kill myself, and my wife took it seriously enough to call my dad, and he drove all the way from California to Arizona to take me to a doctor or help me in some way. My wife couldn’t deal with it alone.
Over the next few decades, as my illness progressively got worse with depression and psychosis, anxiety was always there. I can’t remember a day when I haven’t felt some form of anxiety, even though the doctors filled me full of medication to combat it.
Today, I still feel anxiety all the time, even though I have found a medication that dulls it somewhat. I am afraid to leave the house, to meet new people, to be around large crowds or in close proximity to others. I suffer panic attacks when the anxiety gets really bad. I have to say, of all of my symptoms, anxiety is the worst and affects me the most in my daily life.
I’ve never really learned any coping mechanisms that work to calm me down, and like I said, the medication only dulls it somewhat. But, I have learned to survive with it and manage to live my daily life around the anxiety. I still do have times where I can’t control it, like when my wife yells at me, which has been happening again with more frequency since my hospitalization, but I always manage to somehow come out the other side unscathed.
My only hope is that one day I will find a drug, or a coping skill, that will allow me to live my life without being in constant fear of my next anxiety or panic attack.
A guy can hope anyway – can’t he?