1:32am. I’m sitting on my living room couch, trying to differentiate the sounds of the white noise outside from the buzzing inside my brain. It’s another sleepless night with my anxiety, another night that I am unfortunately used to.
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting 40 million adults in the United States (about 18% of U.S. population). Women are twice as likely to be affected as men. I am one of those women. I have always had some sort of anxiety. Through out my life, it comes and goes in great waves, with certain times of the year being more concerning than others.
My anxiety causes me to stay up nights and lose much focus and motivation during the daylight hours. I spend hours and hours analyzing every single thing in my life and in the world around me. Every other month or so, I have an anxiety attack. The last one I had, two weeks ago, stemmed from a whole slew of things (responsibilities at work; my schedule with school and the upcoming holidays; distance I’ve been experiencing with certain friends; the 15 pounds I gained over the summer; my low bank account; upcoming events like the Reno SlutWalk and my high school reunion, etc.). These worries left me feeling paralyzed. I needed to get up for work but I couldn’t move my body. I felt so stuck and cried for a good 10 minutes before I managed to drag my body into the shower. A week later, I had another when I woke up with herpes simplex type 1 (HSV-1) on my left eyelid (which I get when extremely stressed), that left me more anxious. I had a weekend of fun things planned but instead, since the virus festers and spreads when I get any sunlight, I canceled my plans and stayed inside… which left me feeling more upset and uneasy, lonely and disgusted with myself. It’s the never-ending cycle with this one…
I sometimes think about the kind of person I would be if I didn’t have my anxiety. I think about how I would have longer hair, as I pull out my hair during tense moments (or even moments of boredom or a mental fog). I don’t think I would binge on food and use sweets and salty treats to subdue my emotions and negativity thinking (here’s looking at you, tummy and hip stretch marks). But I do what I can. I watch ASMR videos on YouTube that help me sleep throughout the night. I recently bought a gym membership and I push myself HARD; so hard that most of my muscles throb with pain by the time I leave. That pain leaves me feeling accomplished and let me focus through out the day on becoming mentally strong and building muscles (even though I can barely make it up the stairs). I go back and forth about going on medication (this week, I’m thinking about going on it). But above all else, I remember to be gentle with myself- I let myself go through the motions, dive deep in my problems and swim on through to the other side, ending up “Life isn’t that Bad” Bay. I dry myself off and start smiling again.
If you, dear reader, suffer from anxiety, especially in the way I do, my heart goes out to you. I hope that you can find the tools to heal and just know that you are not alone.