Alright folks, grab some popcorn. It’s about to get real up in hizzere.
This is my coming out of the closet post.
“Mom, Dad, I have Anxiety”
“Well have you tried choosing not to have anxiety?”
I’ve been hesitant to write this post for some time. Even though it’s been in the works, stewing inside my weird brain for some time.
It will be difficult for me to articulate just how such damaged emotions affect my life. (The main reason I used the awesome powers of photography to convey them instead). I mean, I am a good writer, but how to go about putting Anxiety into words is beyond me.
Let’s start at the beginning.
Once upon a time a happy young mother was talking to her brother on the phone.
Brother- “Why are you breathing so weird?”
Happy young mother- “What are you talking about?”
And that’s how it all started. Seems stupid right? It felt stupid. I went to the doctor anyhow, explaining that I just couldn’t take a deep breath (although I kept trying, which is why I kept assaulting my brother’s ear with my creepy, heavy breathing).
I couldn’t make the air hit the bottom of my lungs. It was like taking half breaths all the time. I’d try, over and over, to make to air fill my lungs but it just wouldn’t. Very frustrating.
So doctor said. “Oh you have Anxiety. Here are some pills”
A doctor’s answer for everything. Fast forward a few months filled with lorazepam and late nights, and I found myself back at the doctor with bags under my eyes.
Doctor- “Have you been crying a lot lately?”
Why yes, yes I had.
“You have depression”
Those words floored me. Why would I have depression? What on earth did I have to be depressed about? I was a new mom, married to my high school sweetheart. I was surrounded by family and friends who adored my little family.
I didn’t know at the time that those little facts meant nothing to the Beast (you like my loving endearment for Anxiety? Good, me too).
For fear of boring you, let’s go ahead and get onto the pictures.
“The Harvey Dent effect” was created to show that there are two sides to me, always. Since that phone call with my Brother, I was no longer just me. I was split into two people in that moment. The Beast is this skulking, androgynous creature. Always there. Always a part of me. I can pretend it isn’t there sometimes, and I can fight it sometimes too. But like that drunken hook up that you regret, it’s always lurking in the mind.
I didn’t tell anybody about my diagnosis for so many long years. I didn’t want people to look at me differently. To see me as weak. If they knew my childhood, they’d know just how strong I have been. And I didn’t want attention for it. I see all too often how people use the facade of Anxiety to gain sympathy from people.
I was embarrassed. I felt weak and stupid. I was me, but I also wasn’t. (See what I mean about it being hard to explain)
“Insomnia” One of the side effects that bothers me the least, honestly. But probably the one that made things worse for me.
The quiet moments of the night seemed to gnaw at my bones. The still air whispered insults into my ear. The Beast was there with me every night; reiterating over and over all of my regrets, insecurities and worst fears. It conjured up my worst nightmares and set them on display before me. Those nights were the worst.
The Beast forced me to get out of bed, over and over, to check on my children. To watch them breathing, sure they would just die in the night. The Beast made me smell smoke in the house, running around in the darkness like a hound dog trying to identify the source. Of course there never was any fire, just the fear of one. The Beast fed on my fear. I never slept well with The Beast sleeping next to me.
Panic attacks are my worst nightmare.
It starts with a gnawing worry. Like I’d left the stove on and gone grocery shopping. Or I’d lost twenty bucks in the parking lot. But there is never any reason to feel that way. It’s that feeling of stepping off of curb that you didn’t know was there; that jolt that starts your heart, but it’s there all the time.
For me, the sweating is next. Uncontrollable, salty sweat pours down my sides. Sometimes the fear of having a panic attack is overwhelming. You just want to cry “Not now! Please not now!”
My hands and feet go numb next and I have trouble using my fingers. Then my heart rate skyrockets. This is the time I call my husband, Brett. He is my rock, and his voice soothes my heart. The Beast doesn’t like Brett. It cowers away from him. Brett knows all the phrases that calm me, the words that still my mind. I have trouble forming coherent thoughts when I’m panicking. My mind races. Sometimes I call Brett in time to quell the attack. Sometimes I am too late.
At this point every bad thing that has ever happened to me comes flooding through my mind and I cry. I cry hard. And then I hyperventilate. Brett will scream at me to “Breathe! Breathe!” but The Beast sits on my chest and forces horrible images into my head. I can’t breathe with it sitting on me.
My stomach starts to ache with a horrible mixture of dread and the runs. Sometimes I need to vomit.
By the end of a panic attack my blood sugar is dangerously low. I usually crawl to the kitchen to stuff some juice or almonds down my dry throat.
I fear panic attacks like nothing else. They are quite possible the most annoying, most inconvenient thing I have ever experienced, to put it lightly. There is only one thing I fear more…..
I didn’t know what was happening to me. I would wake from fugue states to find myself crying. Like a zombie, I would complete my daily tasks, with no memory of doing them. Surely I fed my child, but I just didn’t remember it. There are gaps in my memory that scare the crap out of me. My best friend told me some of the things I did in those times and I wanted to curl up and die when she told me.
I had no desire to shower, or eat, or clean. I remember thinking how much better off my family would be without me. I didn’t deserve them. I was so much wasted flesh, burning through air that was better spent on my child.
Those were hard times. And climbing out of that hole was the hardest thing I ever did. And the reason I fight so damn hard every day. I wont ever go back.
“Obsessive compulsive disorder”
This is embarrassing to talk about. And one of the reasons I stayed hidden for so long. How do you explain to people how irrational your brain is?
I’d like to get out in the open how stupid people sound when they say “I just organized my kitchen OMG I’m like so OCD” or “I went all OCD on my nail polishes. #ocdorganized”
I seriously want to punch your vagina when you say things like that. And I know I shouldn’t get all weird and offended by it. But truthfully, it’s insulting to me and to people who suffer from this disorder. (I say suffer because it is truly what we do).
You can’t understand the complexities of this disorder unless you suffer from it.
The best way I can describe it is the deepest, most powerful urge to perform tiny rituals. If these rituals are not done there is a burning, tingling and anxious feeling that overwhelms me.
I have a list of two pages, front and back, of rituals that I do daily. My weird brain tells me that if I don’t do them, I will suffer consequences. I believe The Beast when it whispers these things. I know its irrational, and yet I still believe it. To my very core.
For example if I set down a paperclip, it MUST point south-east. Because if it is pointed in the direction of where a loved one lives then they will die. I know it’s stupid and yet I believe it.
Another ritual is touching things with the second knuckle on the back of my hand. If I don’t touch things five times with that part of my finger it will literally burn until I do it.
I live every day doing these tiny rituals, dozens of them, to keep my family safe. To stop terrorist attacks. To keep volcanoes from erupting and the tectonic plates from shifting. I am responsible for keeping everyone safe and alive. It’s a lot of pressure.
On a side note, I plucked out my eyelashes for five years! I had no eyelashes. For five years. Think about that next time you want to make fun of somebody with Obsessive compulsive disorder.
Why anybody would want to pretend they have anxiety is beyond me. If I could rid myself of The Beast I would trade my left tit! In a heartbeat. Take my tit! Take The Beast!
I made these pictures to heal and to cope. To learn that I am still me, and I am still beautiful. I am damaged, yes, but even an apple with bruises is still sweet.
A lot of people ask what it’s like for me, inside my damaged brain. There is so much that I cannot, or will not, say. But if you’re reading this then you have a tiny glimpse at what it’s like for me. And you can understand why, now, I choose to laugh, instead of cry. Why I fight so hard instead of giving in.
If you too are fighting and need somebody to talk to, drop me a line. We can talk about The Beast and maybe I can keep you from plucking out your eyelashes.