Archive for June 18th, 2010

Anxiety Avenger

Lae is pretty used to having a cleavage pillow.

And an actual picture of my face!

I actually didn’t set out this morning intending to post pictures of my cleavage, I was trying to take some pictures of Lae to post on my private blog, but since he was sitting on my lap at the time, the cleavage ended up being incidental. So, hooray, boobs!

So today I’m going to talk about anxiety. Anxiety is a big force in my life. I inherited it from my family, it’s practically genetic (I suppose in the 1800s they would have called us “high-strung”). Anxiety is something that determines, on any given day, whether I’m going to be able to function like a normal human being or not.

I’m not ashamed to say that I ended up quitting my last job because of anxiety. I was a cashier at a grocery store, one of the busiest stores in the city, if not the state. That, in and of itself, wasn’t as much an issue. Yes, I tended to have horrendous customers and that certainly jacked up my stress level, but it was a combination of that, the management (especially a certain manager who treated everyone like shit) and illness. You see, if you’ve ever worked at a grocery store, it is the one place people go no matter how sick they are. Most people won’t go clothes shopping, or to buy video games, or to a restaurant if they’re deathly ill. But they go to the grocery store, because they need chicken soup and cough medicine to keep themselves from dying. So I came in contact with every freaking germ in existence. I caught the swine flu in January (out for a week), I caught the nasty intestinal bug that went around a few months ago (out for three days), I caught everything. I have a healthy immune system, as immune systems go, but these are the uber-germs that knock even Ms. Vitamin C in every freaking meal on her ass. I also have asthma, which means that when I get sick with anything that effects my respiratory system (which means, uh, everything but intestinal bugs), I suffer doubly because my airways go crazy trying to keep me from suffocating, between the mucus and inflammation and regular asthma symptoms.

Add to that the fact that last summer (while at this job) I had to have my gall bladder out. I had to take a medical leave of absence for two months because I didn’t have insurance through my job yet (takes six months for that), and I was so ill I spent every day lying in my bed, unable to eat almost anything except white rice and sometimes beans. I ended up losing about 40 lbs just because I was starving (and no, I was definitely not happy about it). I’m still paying for that surgery, and probably will for the next two years. And on top of that, my managers after that started treating me like a freeloader, because I’d been unable to work for two months.

So when I say that job was stressful, I mean it was awful. Between the customers, the managers and getting sick all the damn time (no matter how much of that anti-bacterial goop I used), I started having panic attacks every two or three days. Sometimes I would feel like I was going to faint at my register, or scream and start hitting someone, or just walk out and not come back. It got so bad I feared for my mental health. I ended up having a breakdown three months before I quit, and had to go to my doctor, who put me on anti-depressants. They helped, but they didn’t solve the problems my job was causing. So, I quit. I put in my two weeks’ notice, and walked out.

That’s a rather extreme example of how anxiety affects my life. I’ve had other jobs and not had those problems. But even day to day things can be trying for me. If I get behind on something, whether it’s correspondence with someone through email, or I haven’t returned a phone call in a few days, or I forget to mail a bill, I start to become stressed about it. Sometimes it gets so bad that I start crying, and/or have nightmares about it. It becomes such a huge obstacle that I can’t simply do it, because it would take a ridiculous amount of effort to just do. When I had that breakdown, it took me five days to even be able to call my doctor. In fact, my mother ended up having to call her for me, and my aunt came to take me to the appointment, because I simply wasn’t able to do those things for myself.

When you have a mental illness, whether it’s depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or anything else, doing simple tasks that most people take for granted can become a trial. I wrote something that I think was really apt back when I was having my breakdown, so I am going to quote it here for you. The original post is here.

“Mental illness is something that lots and lots of people experience, on a daily basis. From ADD to bi-polar disorder, from schizophrenia to clinical depression, there are all different kinds of flavors of mental illness, and none of them are more valid or acceptable than others. And yet, in our society, we have such a strong undercurrent of the bootstraps viewpoint (“you could be/do whatever you want if you just tried hard enough”) that mental illness is something that those who don’t struggle with it have a very hard time grasping. Wait, you feel sad? Can’t you just go out and get a pretty dress/new car/fuzzy puppy and be happy again? Wait, you feel bad, and you need to go to the doctor? Why can’t you just call and make that appointment?

The problem is, when you’re dealing with these things, they don’t feel like little molehills to step over. The idea of just picking up the phone and calling someone becomes Mt. Everest, and you have to climb up it without any sherpas, or equipment, but bleeding hands and frozen feet and the wind constantly blowing in your face, trying to knock you back down.”

That’s how anxiety is for me, sometimes. What should be a simple task suddenly becomes climbing a mountain. I am certainly in a better place in general than I was when I wrote that post, but I still struggle with anxiety. When the mention of bed bugs sends you into a full blown panic attack, you’re not ever going to be “cured” of it. You can do your best to treat it, try to force yourself to work around it, but it’s always going to be there.

It’s definitely not fun, being overly anxious. But it’s a fact of my life, so I deal with it. Nothing else I really can do.


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