I spent the end of last week on the verge of an anxiety attack. It wasn’t spectacular, in case you were curious.
Anxiety is weird. It’s weird to live with. It’s weird to explain to others who haven’t experienced it. It’s even weird to explain to those who have because no two people experience anxiety in the same way.
I do my best to mitigate anxiety, to keep it from creeping in. I steer clear of triggers like the news, high-stress situations. I try to get enough sleep and practice self-care. But then there are days when it’s impossible to ward off the anxiety threatening to overwhelm me so I just…deal. Because I don’t have a choice.
Anxiety, for me, feels like electricity in my skin. And not the good kind of tingles when you’re on the verge of something fun and exciting coming your way.
My anxiety feels like my skin is threatening to combust. Every part of me is on edge and aware that things aren’t normal and I can’t calm it down. I can’t stop the prickly feeling that is made worse by just about any and everything touching my body. Clothes, kids, Dan, my hair.
I feel like a wild and uncontrollable downed power line you might see in the movies is just bouncing around inside of me, threatening harm to whatever comes into contact with me. Not physical harm. Just…like I’m a harmful presence in other people’s lives.
I shouldn’t be there because what if my anxiety jumps to someone else?
I try, in those moments, to get away. To breathe and clear my head. To tell myself that the anxiety I’m feeling isn’t me. It’s in my head. And in my skin. And my guts. But it isn’t who I am. It’s not who I want to be.
Sometimes the self-talk works. Most of the time I want to bury myself in the bed and wait for it to pass, however long that may take.
But life–my life–is still happening around me. My responsibilities continue even when I feel like I cannot move.
So I move.
I fill cups and make meals. I let my children sit in my lap because what they need in that moment is to be close to me even when my insides are on fire. I give hugs and kisses. I try.
I push forward. I choke back the thoughts of running away. Of hiding from the pain and trembling I’m feeling. Because anxiety, my anxiety, is painful. It hurts me and I know that sometimes it hurts others, too.
I don’t know how to begin to understand what will likely be my children’s legacy of dealing with a mom who suffers from anxiety.
It’s not every day that I feel this way. It’s not even every month. It’s just…there. Like once I’ve held it off for so long, the dam breaks, it comes crashing in, and once the swell of emotion has had a chance to seep into the earth again, or find its way down some tributary, I’m okay.
I’m in treatment. I take medication to help control it. I know enough to know that there will be days like these, and I tell myself that once the kids are older, they’ll be able to understand. Mom is having a bad day.
I will always wonder if that’s enough and cling to the hope that it is.