I’ve been talking lately about comorbid disorders because I, and I imagine you as well, live with one or more of them. My chart probably looks a lot like yours – bipolar, anxiety, and possibly others. It seems that everyone who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder has also been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. I thought that we might talk about that, about anxiety.
“Fear” is in the description of most anxiety definitions in dictionaries. We worry, we bite our nails, we wash our hands. So, what are we all so scared of? Life. It is too much for some of us. For someone without some sort of anxiety issues that last sentence sounds ridiculous. I’ll be the first to admit it, life scares the shit out of me. Why? Because anything can happen, like, literally, anything could happen.
Nothing terribly bad has happened. I am mentally ill, but there was no accident or crash or other PTSD-producing activity. Why be afraid? I am especially bad with crowds and germs. I think it was a handful of years ago that this guy and I went to the guitar drop at midnight on New Year’s Eve ( it was Nashville. What would you expect?) I tried hard, I promise I did, but there were just too many people and it made me believe that something bad was going to happen. I struggled through the crowd tossing “excising me” into the air. We had been about a fourth of the way from the stage where some band was singing so once I reached the open back I experienced serious relief. I was no longer trapped. I could escape if I needed to. We went and got grilled cheese from a food truck specializing in cheesy sandwiches and went home before midnight.
I miss out on a lot of life because of my anxiety disorder. I cannot go to concerts because there are too many people. Festivals are out. Going to events where I must meet new people and socialize is difficult. For example, yesterday I took one of my dogs to a training class in the afternoon. In the morning I almost threw up, then before I left for class I had to pop a pill, medication I take in that kind of situation.
A couple years ago, on my birthday, I decided to go see the movie “I Feel Pretty” by myself. The theater was not very crowded and I sat in the center of a row. I watched the coming attraction trailers and I could feel it happening. I walked out to the side of theater where there is a light above the trashcan to look for an emergency pill but I had not replaced it. By now I was in panic attack territory. My hand was on my chest as if to hold my heart in place. I told the pimple faced teenager to call a manager for me right away I met the manager and she asked if I was okay and did she need to call someone. I was hyperventilating and said that no, this was just a panic attack and I would probably start crying. I did and she asked again if she needed to call someone. All I could do was shake my head and say panic attack again. Finally, I began to relax. I clearly remember her saying this, “Girl, you gotta quit crying. You are ruining your makeup”. I got a refund and walked out to my car.
I can’t count the number of panic attacks I have had and I am sure some of you could say the same. I feel like I am dying. I feel like I can’t escape. I wish none of us knew what it felt like. I wish none of us knew anxiety because it makes life so hard. Sometimes I just want to stay in my house alone or with family forever. But we can’t. We have to just keep trying, one event, one person at a time.