I used to say I was tired, when I was actually really sad. Or I would say I was busy, because I couldn’t bring myself to tell someone hanging out or going somewhere didn’t make me feel comfortable. And after 20 + years………I still do these things. The only difference is I know why. Anxiety and depression.
If ever given the option of the two, I would choose depression. At least when I am depressed, I don’t feel anything. I just am. Some walking illusion of a human. But anxiety…..ugh. Its like waking up every day walking on eggshells. Feeding your mind with thoughts of “what if’s” and “what could be”–irrational thoughts. And sometimes, it gets so bad that the idea of walking out the front door and greeting the world is filled with dread.
I have always had social anxiety–but I am good at “faking it ’till I make it.” Like depression, where I am good at hiding behind a false smile and joy, I am good at hiding anxiety. For many years I created an alter ego–when I was my other self, I was social bee–buzzing around and meeting everyone—but over time, I just couldn’t do it anymore.
When we moved to Flagstaff from Boston, I had a really hard. I knew NO ONE. I had left behind any close friends I had. I went no where without my significant other. I only trusted him and no one else. The *thought* of going out on my own to meet new people and make new friends was out of the question. It was like my social anxiety swelled up into a tsunami and engulfed every part of me. As the months went by, and I began to settle into my new environment, and familiarity and routines started to embrace me again, my anxiety still did not go away. In fact, it got worse. My demon, my anxiety demon, had its claws in my back.
But this time……right now…I am finally fighting back. I am tired of allowing anxiety to dictate my life. Where I go. Who I go with. What I do. I cant live like this anymore. I used to just give in. Anxiety demon came up, I gave in. I wouldn’t go ANYWHERE alone. I wouldn’t venture out and meet people. I was horrified. No more.
My significant other had a change of shifts at work. Our days off no longer coincide. I had two options: Either stay in our apartment and let the anxiety trigger my OCD so I cleaned every inch of the place or fight through the senseless fear and irrational thoughts—-and live.
So I did and I am.
And its not easy. When I decide to venture out on my own, go to a cafe or yoga class, where I know no one…..I still feel my palms getting sweaty and my heart race. I feel that fight or flight response…and every inch of my being wants to run. Run into the safety of my home and stay there….I force myself to trudge forward. Every time I want to just pop and Ativan and slip into the fog of false rationality-I have to remind myself its temporary. Yes, Ativan is helpful, but its not a crutch. Its not my friend. Its just a mask.
Little by little, day by day, I am pushing forward. Shoving that demon farther and farther away.
Will it ever disappear? Probably not. Its part of the illness. Part of what comes with having something mental you cant always control. But I cant keep living the way I have been. Will there be days I do just give in? Yes, I am sure of that. Will there be moments when I just want to flee and hide? Yes. Will there be more than a few times when it engulfs me and I have to take some Ativan to stop myself from spinning out of control into a panic attack? Absolutely.
Its time the demon meets its match…even if we are one and the same.