I've had a rough few days, battling anxiety. But I'm doing okay. | alexgilljam.net

A Thing About Anxiety

After my psych appointment on monday morning, I was feeling pretty good. My doctor and I had a good long talk about my social anxiety and how I feel it’s grown untenably as of late. I was told (not in so many words, but in spirit) to go easier on myself. Just because I don’t feel like hanging out with people all the time doesn’t mean I’m suffering from a phobia.

And then, as I did a few errands on my way to the office, I felt my shoulders and arms tightening, skin tingling and crawling.

I found it hard to look up, found the presence of other pedestrians and shoppers threatening. I couldn’t bring myself to enter a grocery store to buy lunch, because I had already been in several shops and I simply couldn’t handle more impressions, and above all, choices.

It has continued like this for two days. Anxiety washes over me in waves. Sometimes it retreats and leaves me feeling almost normal, giving me hope that it’s over for now. Sometimes it drowns me, making me want to curl up in a fetal position and sleep until … some undefined point where everything is magically better.

I've had a rough few days, battling anxiety. But I'm doing okay. | alexfelicia.net

And no matter what tricks I’ve employed, I haven’t been able to get to the root of it. I don’t know what it is that is worrying me right now; it’s just a general feeling of dread. Which means I can’t do anything about the cause, only mitigate the symtoms.

That’s the thing about anxiety – well, one of the many Things about anxiety – often it’s impossible to find the cause of it. Especially while you’re anxious.

On the plus side, last night when I was feeling completely overwhelmed and incapable of doing anything at all, I spontaneously came up with a new productivity technique. Maybe I’ll write a post about it someday.

For now, I’m trying to simply forgive myself. It’s okay not to be particularly productive sometimes. I’m mentally ill, for fuck’s sake. Just because life has been good lately doesn’t mean everything in my brain is right as rain – I will have setbacks sometimes.

I suppose part of what is difficult is that I have no idea how long this will last. Will I be alright tomorrow or am I going to have to deal with this for weeks? Months? Today, so far, it hasn’t been too bad; no panic symtoms, only a great tiredness. Which is tricky enough to deal with.

It’s funny how quickly you forget. I’ve felt so good the last few months, I had forgotten what it was like to be constantly sleepy, unable to just power through it. I used to think it was because I slept poorly (which I still do, most nights) and because I don’t work out – a perfectly reasonable explanation. When I was younger and grown-ups around me told me to just buck up, I didn’t understand how that was supposed to work. When I get like this, unless I’m actually moving about, my eyes will often literally refuse to focus on what’s in front of me and eventually start closing on their own.

These days it’s so obvious how my brain is trying to run away by shutting down. Sleep as a mental flight reflex.

Still. Under the circumstances, I’m doing well. I’ve kept to my routines, only lapsing in one or two less important areas. I get things done, though it might not always be what I wish I were doing or what I feel I should be doing. I’ve even managed to socialize a bit. A year ago, I would have been stuck at home, staring vacantly.

This is a pretty awful experience, but it is a valuable data point. It tells me something of how I’m doing, what I need to do to improve my life, how well my coping mechanisms are working, etcetera. As silver linings go, that may not sound particularly fun, but it works for me.

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