Most all of you who read our blog regularly know that I suffer from anxiety. Typically, I have my anxiety well managed and can keep it in check; however, when I deal with a particularly bad episode, I am reminded of just how hard I fight on some days.
For the last 7-10 days, I have been fighting an episode that has physically and emotionally exhausted me. Last night was the height of my episode and I spent most of the night awake and unable to shut off my mind… worrying about trivial things that most people wouldn’t even think twice about.
What if we have a fire and the smoke alarms don’t work? What if my alarm doesn’t go off in the morning and we oversleep? Did I shut off the stove after dinner? Did I set my alarm? What is that noise? Did I set my alarm?
Questions like this, and so many more irrational questions, keep me awake all night sometimes. Last night was no different.
Today, at work – already exhausted and drained – I realized that I had made a mistake that, while not an insurmountable mistake, did affect and inconvenience others. It was a big mistake, and I did my best to fix it, but those involved were understandably upset. Within a split second, my anxiety came crashing down on me and my emotions took over.
The tears came, and they wouldn’t stop. I ended up sitting on the floor in the bathroom, forcing myself to breathe. While this only lasted less than a minute, it felt like hours and the toll it took on me was huge. I forced myself to calm down, reminding myself that I was at work and I needed to suck it up and be professional.
The thing that most people don’t understand is that this wasn’t about the “mistake” and it wasn’t even about disappointing those people, even though that did weigh heavily on my mind. This was about all of that piled onto a week of fighting anxiety and within seconds my inner dialogue fired up, telling me how much of a failure I was.
That voice screamed at me that I was incompetent. That I would never make anything of myself if I kept making mistakes like this. That I was a failure. I was useless. I would never be able to recover from this mistake.
It felt like the weight of the world was crashing in on me. Like I was treading water in the middle of the ocean, and I was losing.
Anxiety is a nasty beast. It’s ugly. It’s mean. It tells you all of the things you would never believe about yourself, and it makes them believable. Anxiety doesn’t make sense. It comes with no warning and it waits like a linebacker in the corner of the room, just waiting to tackle you when you lose your footing slightly.
People who don’t suffer from anxiety don’t understand it. They tell you to just get over it. To shut it off. To stop thinking about it.
But, you can’t.
Tonight, I came home defeated and frustrated. So, I did what feeds my soul. I took a hot shower, blasted John Mayer, and cried my eyes out sitting in the bottom of the tub. Then, I curled up on the couch with my daughter.
I think anxiety attacks will always be something I fight, but I see where I have been and where I stand now, and I see hope. I know that those voices that tell me I am not enough are wrong. I also know that I will have more days like today.
But, I will overcome. Tomorrow is a new day, and I know that I will make more mistakes. But, I will overcome.