Been having some anxiety flair ups the last couple weeks. Out of nowhere it feels as if the bottom of my stomach falls out and my brain feels as if its stretching like saltwater taffy into non-existence. It’s the dread of something right behind me that I can’t see. Something looming, ominous and dangerous, just waiting to strike when I least expect it.
I started having anxiety attacks a little over six years ago and once I realized what was happening I could sort of keep them in check. I knew when it was coming on, so I could sort of give my brain a pep talk and work it out. I think this year has been such a bewildering, overwhelming, and unpredictable one that I’ve let my guard down to all the stuff that typically would cause me panic and anxiety; aging, mortality, kids, bills, and just the general responsibilities of being a middle-aged adult. I’ve been too preoccupied with getting THE virus and making sure my kids can function as stay-at-home students that all the normal worries were just sitting patiently in a corner till maybe some semblance of normalcy returned to our lives.
Well school is back in session and things seem relatively normal at the moment, so hello run-of-the-mill anxiety. It’s been awhile.
I don’t know how it affects you, but for me anxiety feels like how I felt when my 17-year old used to wake me in the middle of the night having an asthma attack. When she was 3 she was diagnosed with severe allergies and asthma. If something set off an attack it always seemed to hit in the middle of the night. I’d hear that first cough and wake up immediately, knowing what we were in for. I’d get her Nebulizer ready for her breathing treatment and grab her from her room. I’d bring her out on the couch while she was still half asleep and put the face mask on her. I’d sit there, heart pounding feeling like my insides were turning to liquid until her coughing subsided and the bronchial spasm became more subdued. We’d typically lay out on the couch most of the night as I didn’t want to leave her.
That’s what anxiety feels like for me. It seems my mental schedule has been cleared for them now.
I wrenched my back a week or two ago, so spasms and twinges in my middle back are sort of bringing the panic on. Also, a couple weeks ago a woman that was a year or two behind me in high school passed away from cancer. 43-years old. I didn’t know her very well, but she was the daughter-in-law of my mom’s best friend. So since my mom knew that I knew who she was she’d tell me about her health issues from time to time. Well the cancer came back after a double mastectomy,radiation treatments and a short round of remission and she was gone in a couple weeks. Married with three kids, the youngest of which was 8-years old. How could that not get stuck on repeat in my head?
I’m feeling like I’ve got the lasso around the neck of this dread. I feel like I know where it’s coming from and why it’s here. Most of the dreams I’ve been having lately have been anxiety dreams. Dreams about being left behind, disappointing others, and the anxiety of confrontation in regards to where we are politically and socially right now. I don’t do confrontation very well. I just get sick to my stomach and shut down. I hold it in, let it fester, mull it over in my brain like kneading a ball of anger dough until it comes out as back spasms and panic attacks. It’s not healthy. I know that.
I’m thinking of dropping out of social media. I think that’s a huge part of my problem. The constant bickering and end-times raging on both sides of the political coin is getting to be too much for me. I know where I stand and I know what I believe, so I don’t need how I feel to be legitimized or demonized by those who agree and who do not.
In my heart I know what’s right. In my heart I know…well, I just know.
I hope this letter from Camp Freakout finds you well. If you’re feeling the heaviness just know you’re not alone. These are heavy times, man. These are heavy times. Hang in there.