If I could look at something and determine I’ve come a long way, it would be Saturday evening. I was able to tackle anxiety head on during an attack. I don’t feel as powerless now.
My boyfriend’s family hosts a collective birthday party every few months that celebrates a month or two of birthdays and they’ve included me in their bunch for February/March. This happened last year and went without a hitch. But this year, I had an anxiety episode that was part nervousness and part triggered. I don’t understand why I’ve had them more frequently after a nice long cessation except for the fact I don’t have my own space anymore and it’s harder to decompress. I realize now that decompressing is important for me and I need to make the time to do it
even when the house is a rotating door of visitors and house guests.
But anyways…my other trigger was time. I wasn’t exactly running late until my episode started, but the fear of being late set me off. It isn’t rational, but anxiety isn’t rational. When I’m under an anxiety attack, time is this weird morphing thing. I feel like *I* am moving a mile a minute but that it takes me a thousand times longer to get a task done. It’s like that fear of danger but with nowhere to hide and you’re stuck between fight or flight. My episode started at 3:30 and I needed to be at dinner by 5 a few towns over. I realized that wasn’t happening. I made sure everyone knew I wasn’t going to make the dinner after all and would be there for the party. I couldn’t get myself to eat though, so by 6 I was shaking as all I had was coffee and a light breakfast. I made myself shower, got dressed, and pep talked myself into driving. I knew I was stable enough to drive but my nerves were not okay. My heart rate was elevated, I had chest pain, and the inside of my arms were randomly surging with pain, like a dull ache and then someone reaching in and was pulling my veins out. I stopped by the nearest drive through and ordered a sandwich and made myself eat it in the parking lot. That seemed to help with some of the internal shaking. But when I’m in anxiety mode, it’s like there is no saliva in my mouth. So it was a series of birdish bites coupled with many sips of soda with a lump to swallow. There was no enjoyment in my food. I concentrated on driving to my boyfriend’s place and deep breathed all the way there.
My boyfriend greeted me and I dropped all the presents off and ran to the bathroom for a quick decompress. I told myself that sometimes I just need to stay home but if I stayed home my attack would just continue and I needed to take this head on so I could calm down. I came out and tried to be cordial but who knows if I was or not. Josh said I looked aggravated and I told him I needed time. I think he misread my shaking for lack of food and didn’t understand I was having an episode. I couldn’t really relate or participate in conversations around me so I just sat down amongst it. Finally, I was able to clear my head enough to contribute a word here or there. About a half hour later, I felt like myself again.
I ended up enjoying the party even though it started out rough. I don’t know what everyone thought of my odd behavior but I’m so glad they acted cool around me and didn’t press. I need that sense of normal when I can’t feel normal.
I was chatting with a friend who self-proclaimed “hates people.” She was telling me about how nervous being in social situations makes her which is weird because she’s very energetic, spirited and quickly warms up to others. But that’s the thing with social anxiety – you don’t know who has it. It’s not about being a shy person or fitting a certain stereotype – it just is.
I don’t think that my solution this time would work too often but I’m glad I didn’t banish myself and I fought against everything and made it. I was able to ameliorate the problem this round. I won.