This is a true story about my struggle with anxiety: its triggers, its effects, and coping with it through different ways. To start it, I will rewind to about a year and a half ago. It was then that I went to my family doctor and explained what I had been experiencing in my life. I had been in school for the fall semester the previous year; three months of heavy anxiety in class — I would freeze up, shut down, not be engaged like I felt I could — followed by depressive behaviour out of class. Eventually, I rarely left my dorm room and would sleep for nearly the entire day. Food was prepared in the dorm room kitchen and I only ever used the common residence kitchen a couple of times. Many midnight hours were spent thinking and worrying about the next day: was there a quiz? What if I was late? What would I wear? what if it’s in a different room tomorrow? What if I look like an idiot? This left me mentally drained. Often I would be ready to go, getting maybe an hour of sleep, and then change my clothes three or four times. Like it mattered. Sometimes I would be at the door of my room, hand out to turn the doorknob but unable to turn it, paralyzed by anxiety. Some days it won, few days I beat it.
Now, so far this may not seem like a happy tale: I’ll say this, there aren’t good days and bad days — I consider most of my days to be good, because I’m alive — there are anxious and not-so-anxious days. But I did find peace of mind that day when I went to the doctor and he prescribed me medication. I had left school after Christmas break, moved back home and was working on finding a job. The medication seemed to work very quickly: things were flowing smoother, I was able to call a construction company (on the phone, something that was very difficult before) and secure a job. This was early mornings and large double-doubles, and not thinking it at the time, I was probably redlining my body. About a month went by at that job when I moved to another job at a landscaping company (what I went to school for). It started out good, but not long after I wasn’t putting in full weeks at the job. The fearful thoughts and physical reactions to either the situation (I moved into a new apartment) and medication were shutting me down and shutting me in. Shortly after, I stopped taking my medication. Cold turkey. Not a good idea. I felt empty, and eventually I was let go from that job. Since then I have bounced around from job to job, holding one for as long as three months. A few months ago I stopped going to that job, spending a month in a hermit-like state; three weeks of that month in total was spent inside. I wouldn’t go outside for days at a time. This point is where I extrapolated anxious thoughts to questions like: what am I doing here? Is this all there is? Will I just spend the rest of my life bouncing around job to job? Will I ever do anything important? Fear of the unknown, anxiety about the large and the small things can be debilitating. And it results in depression and negative self-talk.
Two instances in the last couple of months have thrown a curve at me, as it was something that never happened before (while sober anyway). I fainted in the middle of a job interview, like I had been hit with a Muhammad Ali hook. Then when I did secure another job opportunity, I fainted again on the first day during training. Both times I went to the hospital and was told it was not a heart issue. Meaning that it’s likely in my mind. Things came to a head two days ago, and it prompted me to write this post. Over the years of dealing with this issue — self-medicating before I knew what it was, going to counselling sessions, medicating with prescribed drugs — I have missed out on a lot of fun social events and activities, most recently a celebration for a friend’s upcoming wedding. Several days before the weekend, I actually spent time worrying, just thinking, would I be okay? Doubt clouded me. Wait, what if I fainted there? How would that look? How embarrassing would that be? So much time manically pacing and preparing, before eventually getting to sleep in the early morning… Fast forward fourteen hours, and I woke up feeling like I hadn’t slept at all. Drained. Depressed. Disappointed from not being able to hold it together in order to be there for a party with a lot of people I hadn’t seen in a while.
So where to go from here? I have started on new medication that has helped me so far, I am feeling changes (micro-movements as my Dad would say), and I am also working on these changes since I know it doesn’t change without work. Speaking of work, I am still on the job hunt and thinking positively about the opportunities available. My family has been nothing but supportive, and I thank them all for that.
My mindset can be defined as all-or-nothing in nearly every facet of life, but that will burn me out. So I have been trying to shift it to, as weird as it sounds, “don’t try so hard, but still try.” I look at it like riding a bike: you don’t have to go all out on every pedal, if you do you’re not likely to go a long distance. Instead, every time that pedal comes around, just give it a push and keep the machine going.
I think that’s about it for now. It feels good to share this.Thanks for reading if you’ve made it to the end, and even if you haven’t, thanks anyway.