The following is a special guest blog written by a good friend of mine, Patrick. He graciously accepted my requests for him to write about his own experiences with anxiety for my Float art project. Here are his words.
I have been awake for 35 hours and 35 minutes because a woman I like did not respond to a text message. I’m a middle aged man. Something is not going right here. I’ve tried meditation, exercise, activity, Trazadone, more Trazadone, Trazadone and Benadryl, nothing. My DBT exercises remind me that there is no empirical or rational basis for what I am thinking and in my head I know it! However, knowing that doesn’t seem to help the intermittent panic that I’ve lost my friend forever, that she thinks poorly of me, and I deserve to be friendless and detested. It doesn’t stop my heart from pounding and my chest getting tight. I know my digestive system has shut down. I’m shaking. This is over a text message from not my girlfriend. This is over nothing.
Anxiety is wonderfully comorbid with several other mental illnesses and personality disorders. In case you didn’t pick up on it, I have a whole theme park of Cluster B personality disorders going on. I have clinical depression. I have a substance abuse problem so they tell me. This is why I’m not popping Xanax. They won’t give it to me. It’s also why I’m not drinking at the moment. There is always time for that drunken confrontation over a reddit forward later. She works down the block from my house. She is working right now. At a bar. Perfect! This is actually a friend of mine. There is no situation here. This is ridiculous.
I don’t cope with anxiety at all well. When Howie and I were talking about writing for this blog, I was concerned that I’m not quite the right person. My stories aren’t very uplifting and I don’t have a whole lot of ‘yay I overcame it!’ inspiring endings. I have allowed my anxiety to run rampant through my life and it looms large over every single activity or thought I have throughout the day. For example, I really like going to movies. I actually do go to the movies, but sometimes I just walk past the entrance if there are too many people there. Unaccompanied, I’d say I make it into 2 of every 5 I attempt. I like to eat out but I usually have to walk past the door three or four times. Sometimes I go in, but not often. I like to travel and see new places and things. Laughable! One day I’ll make it to a city two hours from me on my own. I may even get out of the car. A gas station counts right?
I don’t often get to do the things that make me happy because I don’t always have the courage to actually do them. I don’t have relationships. I have few friends. I don’t meet new people. There are jobs that I stay away from. Also risk and decisions of any kind are terrifying. I don’t like where I live. But I know it, so I stay put. There are days when I’m so anxious about the people in the grocery store that I don’t go. The grocery store. Where the food is. Where I’ve been at least a thousand times before without incident.
Anxiety has hurt me physically too. I grind my teeth so hard at night that I cracked a molar. I have constant pain in my stomach. I gain weight easily. I have almost no immune system. I don’t sleep very much. When I do, I sometimes wake myself up because I’m actually having a panic attack and have to take large gulps of air. Apparently, I have anxiety ridden dreams too. When I do get a serene moment, I usually almost pass out. My body has no idea what to do with calm. I would really like to get one of those massages one day. Well, maybe.
They would never put me on one of those before and after advertisements for anxiety. You’d have to examine every minute detail to see even the slightest change. I’ve been able to do things like get jobs, buy a house, buy a car etc. Whilst this is a good thing, my reaction is that it’s going to cause me further anxiety down the line – my job is likely to create anxiety through stressful situations, or selling my home will be very difficult when I am crippled with anxiety (although I have found a fairly stress-free way to sell your home, which you can learn here). I have had at least a few failed relationships. I once stayed away overnight to see a concert alone. I saw the new Star Wars movie. There are some wins here and there, but I think that’s what coping with mental illness is. I see some people get all tough and say they’re going to kick this thing’s ass and whatnot. I’m not. It’s going to be an everyday thing for the rest of my life. I think this is what ‘dealing’ with anxiety is: you eke out a win here, get a solid win there, and then a crippling loss. Then you get out of the hospital or jail or whatever and its back to win there, win here. And on and on we go.
Anyway…37 hours 44 minutes.