What are YOU doing for the next hour?

Posted: July 24, 2008 in Headspace

I have GAD – Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I have Depression, too, which I still struggle with on occasion – actually, I’ve seen its return over the past couple of weeks. It generally manifests itself as laziness – I just sit and do nothing and feel like doing nothing and stare off into space, rather than being productive and getting stuff done. I take a nap to shut my brain off, or submerge myself in a book. I find it hard to get up in the morning, and I’m more tired than usual. The housework piles up, and I do the bare minimum at work to get by. Eventually, though, the blues pass and I get my head straight again.

But the GAD? It’s permanent and it’s daily.

At this moment in time, I’m not on any meds. I was, not too long ago. After about a million (well, three or four) different variations and combinations, I hit on a combo that suited me. An Effexor/Welbutrin mixture that was HELL to ramp up on, and HELL to come off of. But in the middle it made things pretty normal, pretty okay. However, it’s that ramp-up and ramp-down (primarily caused by the Effexor) that make me reluctant to go back on meds, when I go through a rough patch. It’s at least a year-long commitment, when I decide to “go back on”.

With GAD, the hardest thing to deal with is, well, the general nature of the anxiety (hence the name, huh?). If there were one specific thing I was afraid of, one thing I could nail down that was causing me distress, I could face it, deal with it, kick it in the nuts, and put it to bed. But no, there is nothing specific to pin down and conquer. There’s just a constant feeling in the pit of my stomach – ranging from butterflies to pterodactyls – that has me on a constant churn.

So I have this low-level, manageable level of anxiety that’s pretty much a constant part of me. It’s like a buzz in the back of my head, causing my shoulders to climb up toward my ears and making me hold my breath a lot, until I see pretty sparkles and remind myself, oh, YEAH, exhale. Inhale. Breathing. Right.

But then there are the full-blown panic attacks, which I indulge in, oh, I’d say once a week or so.

They usually hit me when I’m at rest – though every now and then I’ll get one when I’m at work, or right in the middle of something, or during some circumstance that’s completely random. Most often, though, I’ll wake up in the middle of the night, or from a nap, or moments before the alarm goes off in the morning, practically TWITCHING with a spastic need to getupgetupgetup because there’s screaming in my head and tension in my gut. I HAVE TO be mobile, animated, in motion when this feeling hits me. Because I can’t just sit still and let it wash over me. I just can’t. There’s chaos in my head – a vast array of thoughts, songs I can’t get out of my mind, anxious times that I’m forced to re-live all at once, nonexistent tragedies and problems I create from nothing, every sound that I’ve ever heard and every thought that I’ve ever had… they all hit me all at once, at the very same time, crashing together in my head.

Sounds wicked crazy, doesn’t it? You should see it from my end. My head is a very noisy place to be in, sometimes.

My body is practically vibrating, yet when I hold my hands out in front of me I’m shocked to see that they’re not shaking. This is what my brain does to me. I’m like an equalizer with all the channels pegged. All this kinesis going on in a body that’s perfectly still. And then, when I do go to move, my motions are jarring, over-compensated, uncoordinated. I drop things, I knock things over, I bump into things.

At first I try to just muscle my way through it. I’ll do something that requires physical effort – get on the elliptical, clean the house, go for a walk. I’ll give myself a stern talking to. I’ll listen to loud music. I’ll write (o hai). Sometimes that helps. Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes I just give up the ghost and pop a Xanax.

Better living through pharmaceuticals. And that stuff is the SHIT.

I’m pretty damned good at hiding my anxiety. I’ve perfected the art of appearing normal – or at least sane – to the public at large. Calvin catches me, sometimes, when I’m acting spastic and erratic. I confess what’s going on to him, because he’s always been supportive, even if he can’t quite understand what the hell is wrong with me.

He’s fond of saying that if I could ever really read his mind I’d run away screaming. It makes me want to laugh. He has NO IDEA. OH. Oh, my. It’s cute, really.

The ironic thing is that when I feel like this, I go searching in my brain for a reason for it. It’s like, I’m feeling anxious, so there must be something to be anxious about. There isn’t, really and truly there isn’t. The feeling comes with no rhyme or reason. So, I start to make shit up. Calvin will die. Like, tomorrow. I can’t let him out of my sight. I’ll die. It’ll probably hurt. The bills are going to hell. We don’t have enough money. I’ll never go home again. Something bad is going to happen. Something wicked this way comes.

If I scream I’ll just keep on screaming. If I cry I’ll never be able to stop. If I sit very, very still, maybe Fate won’t see me. I’m a field mouse and the hawk is up there, somewhere.

You guys, I’m serious. Sometimes I feel like I’m going to shatter from the inside out.

As Charlie Bartlett said (I’m paraphrasing, here), “Nobody has ever died from a panic attack. Just think to yourself, ‘I’m having a panic attack. In fifteen minutes, I’ll probably feel better.'” And I do. Not usually in fifteen minutes, but within the hour things have calmed down, my heart rate has come back to normal, my thoughts are no longer racing, and Doom is no longer just around the corner.

It’s a fucked up way to spend an hour, though.

  1. Calvin says:

    And I’m the manic one! Some people pay good money for drugs that give them the same feelings so just think of all the money and skin sores we are saving.
    Hey please do me a favor let me know the next time you do that body vibrating thing, PLEASE!
    Love you anyways.

  2. sherry says:

    I know. I really truly know. I don’t have GAD, I just have full blown panic disorder and I swear the panic attacks are one of the worst things ever. I’ve been meaning to write an entry detailing what it feels like for people who have never had one before but I haven’t been brave enough. Maybe now I will.

  3. fishdreamer says:

    I have that too, I didn’t know there was a name for it. I’ve gotten myself to the point where I can usually talk myself out of the full blown panic attacks, but the constant low-level anxiety is killer. And it causes me to do really stupid things, like be afraid to open the mail and therefore not pay my bills on time.

    The feeling that I get when I can’t stave off the panic is like I’m toxic. I burn, from the inside out, and the shaking and blurry vision and… yeah.

  4. rai says:

    I think that’s the best description I’ve ever heard. I have been (am?) in your place. I hear you on the meds. Things were okay when I was on them, but getting on and getting off was a bitch, and I had far smaller ramp up period.

    I’m glad that you’re talking about it. I’m sure I’m not the only one who is happy to find out I’m not alone.

  5. Jeanette says:

    Wow!! Can I ever relate to this post! I have never been officially diagnosed as having a anxiety disorder but man, you were singing my song, girl! And I hear you about the Effexor. I was on it for two years and it was hell getting off of it! And your right, Xanax is the shit! Too bad we can’t take it every day!! And Calvin, LOL!

  6. Laura says:

    Calvin – ~grin~ Love you back!

    Sherry – I sympathize with you!

    Fishdreamer – “…like be afraid to open the mail and therefore not pay my bills on time.” I’VE DONE THAT.

    Rai – You are SO not alone!

    Jeanette – We can’t take it every day? ~grin~

  7. J in AZ says:

    I started on 50mg of Zoloft for a few weeks before maintaining 100mg of Zoloft and it has been one of the best things I could have done for myself. Been on other meds before, but it was a total nightmare wrought with side effects. It was pure living hell going through all of that and I cannot emphasize that enough. I lived med-free for several years before giving in and talking to the doctor. I happen to have anxiety and PMDD (aka, bad PMS!) with some depression mixed in. That’s where the Zoloft comes in. The anxiety has finally shut up and is letting me live my life in peace and the blues are at bay. Also? I am not experiencing PMDD or the usual PMS symptoms. I guess you could say, I have happy periods now (TMI? Check!). It’s amazing. Plus, I am not experiencing any side effects, alleluia! It’s a roll of the dice as to what will work and what won’t. But, anxiety and depression are real and, in most people, merely a result of all of those brain chemicals getting out of whack. If I have to take this for years to come, it is worth it. Screw the stigmas. I would rather have this quieter and more peaceful mind.

  8. Taoist Biker says:

    Living with two people with Asperger’s, ADD, and depression, I can sympathize with the frustration of just not being able to figure out what to do about…stuff. Sometimes the frustration is just as bad as the symptoms. As the partner/dad, I have a hard time knowing when to try to help and when to just try to step aside and let the tide come in and back out again.

    As for me – I don’t think I’m necessarily right in the head myself, I just think nobody knows the name for what I have. Yet. 😉

  9. Laura says:

    J in AZ – I actually tried Zoloft at one point, and it made me into a total zombie. Interesting how different people’s brain chemistry makes one drug work great for one person, and not work at all for another. I have gotten a little flack for my use of the anti-crazy meds, but it didn’t phase me. I’m a big believer in FEELING BETTER.

    TB – You know, I’d love to hear your perspective sometime. It would make me better understand what I put Calvin through.

  10. Dawn says:

    I think I may have GAD. Or something similar, if not that. I’m in the process of working with my doctor to try to figure it out, because WOW this is no way to live, lying (laying?) in bed at night going over my day, trying to remember if I did something to embarrass myself or if I said anything that might have pissed someone off because there must be SOME reason I feel so tummy-icky, right? Oh, and then the surprise, out of the blue flashes of what would likely be my last sight in the world if I were to, say, rear-end a truck carrying lumber that’s sticking out the back. Those are fun, as is the inability to sleep, and/or the waking up every few hours because SOMETHING MIGHT BE WRONG. OR SOMETHING.

    Don’t even get me started on large crowds. The sweat! The trembling! Because you know a large crowd is a riot waiting to happen, right? And TRAMPLE ME.

    It’s actually part of the reason I’m having trouble getting my journal back on track with the updating, because OMG TOO MUCH TOO MUCH, you know? Although I actually think it might help me to get back in the habit of writing – might help combat whatever this is I’m fighting.

    Zoloft has no effect on me. At all. Two doctors have tried to prescribe it to help me stop smoking, and it was like taking placebos. Happily, I’m now on specific anti-smoking meds, and they seem to be working like a charm. Woohoo! I’ll finally be smoke free!

  11. Laura says:

    Dawn – I’m sorry, it’s sucky that you’re going through rough times. Everyone’s experiences and triggers are different. What I would do if I were you is to get right on top of a prescription for Xanax. It’s a barbituate, which means you can’t use it too much or too often or for too long, but it will really help with the nighttime mind racing crap. You just need something to get over the hump until you find a med combo that works for you. Ask your doctor about a Welbutrin/Effexor combo (don’t I sound like a commercial?). It really worked for me, and also my friend AB here in AZ. Congrats on the quitting smoking!!! How’s the little one?

  12. […] July 24, 2008 – What are YOU doing for the next hour? Camping at Big Lake. Writing in my journal. I just can't quit you, journal. […]

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