I didn’t want to use that word for a long time. As someone who grew up in a household with no shortage of mental disorders, I often rejected my own emotions and giving them validity, but I also understand the importance of addressing such problems when they persist.
Please forgive me for how messy this post may end up sounding. I am well enough to go to class (I really didn’t have a choice) but my brain is still exhausted and foggy from the cold my immune system is battling. I hate being sick and still having responsibilities. But anyhow, I figured if I’m good enough to go to school, I’m good enough to start posting more regularly again.
So, about this anxiety thing. My mom has it more as a clinical problem and has medication for it, so I suppose I’m more susceptible than your average person when it comes to acquiring some form of it. I’ve never been one to freak out over stressful situations like exams or deadlines, but still I didn’t think much of the first couple of times I felt anxious. It wasn’t until recently that I noticed it was affecting me more than I thought, and I think I figured out why.
Back in April I was under quite a lot of stress. I had three research papers, three finals, and a group poster project all due within a couple of weeks for school, all while working 20+ hours/week and preparing to move back home after collecting junk for two years in Vancouver. On top of that, our store was switching management and at least a third of the staff was leaving, so I was around to help out a lot more than I was scheduled for. The two final nails in the coffin: my laptop was broken, and my last final ended at 6pm on April 30th, and I needed to be out of my dorm by 12pm on May 1st.
Apparently that was my limit. Because of my own struggles (and failures) with procrastination, I didn’t have any of my papers started. This all hit me at once, and suddenly I was at the library until it closed at 1am every day, only to go back at my next opportunity. Once finals season officially started I was there even more often, since my lack of a laptop rendered me unable to work from home. All of this stress culminated in a three day period during which I needed to finish the bulk of my papers and had three eight hour morning shifts at work.
I didn’t sleep. The library was near my work, so I packed a change of clothes and some notebooks, and I went back and forth, working eight hours, maybe writing in a notebook and helping with the stress levels at work for a couple of more hours, then heading to the library where I would stay all night, just standing at a computer trying to focus. I remember the first night I napped for about three hours on a cushion in the library. The second day I actually went home to shower and get a new change of clothes, and I tried working from home a bit, but I was home for a total of about seven hours in three days.
This is the scariest thing that’s ever happened to me, which I know sounds weird. I’m blessed for never dealing with anything worse than sleep deprivation, but I knew at the time that my hindrance from the lack of sleep was equivalent to a blood alcohol content of about 0.1% and I was still writing papers and working, unaware of when the next time I would be able to sleep again. I was terrified. I didn’t know how the lack of sleep would affect me or if I would pass my papers. I just really wanted to go home.
I got to go home after hour 75, at which point I broke down crying at work. There was a mandatory staff meeting happening in the back room that I didn’t have to attend since this was my second-to-last shift. That meant I was on the floor with one other girl from another store during our peak hours, unable to go get anything from the back room and sometimes with the staff on the floor in our way. My supervisor was lovely and took care of me in the beginning of the shift, making sure I was fed, caffeinated, and hydrated, and she bounced on the floor during the meeting when she could, but it wasn’t enough. I got overworked, and when the meeting was finally over and I was still owed a break, my supervisor ran over to me trying to tell me she just needed the new manager to come assign a till and I could leave. I just looked at her and said, “Candace, I’m going to cry.” And sure enough, as I handed a customer back her change, tears started streaming down my face.
After that is when the story gets better for me. All of my co-workers were there, but some are so loving and helped me get food and calm down, even though I couldn’t physically stop crying. My essays were submitted, so I went home and slept for eight hours, ate, and slept for another five hours.
The point of detailing this experience for you I suppose is for a couple of reasons: one, I felt the need to get the whole story out, with the details; and two, so you can understand what it feels like for me now. It happens in different situations, but when I feel really uncomfortable or stressed, something subconsciously now links the situations. The feelings of uncertainty and fear come rushing back. I want to go into fight or flight mode.
I felt it when I recently took a cruise to Copenhagen and had to deal with some motion sickness. It was 17 hours one way, and the rocking of the ship made me dizzy. I felt it a few weeks before that, when I spent the entire day in Ikea, and afterwards had to stand on a packed bus with a full stomach and again, motion sickness, unsure of when the bus ride would end. I felt it at trivia night, uncomfortable for some unknown reasons, suddenly needing to almost run home, only to realize once I got in the elevator that I was holding my breath. I felt it about a month ago when I had two papers due within three days of each other, and I didn’t leave my apartment for an entire week.
Thankfully spending a week in Scotland with my best friend from back home has helped subside what seemed to be a growing problem, but I get the feeling it’ll be back. What I don’t understand is what comes next. I’ve realized and admitted that I have anxiety, and I understand where it comes from: what now? My family has always had more chemical problems, so therapy and medication were the only options. This isn’t that, and I don’t want to take medication for something so small. So many people out there have much worse cases of it than I do, much worse situations than I do. I just want to be able to control it a little better. I’ve heard meditation helps. I prefer vegetation: laying in bed eating chocolate and binge watching tv shows/youtubers.
I wanted to make this one point: I have always boasted that I am the only one in my immediate family to never go to therapy or take anti-depressants. That is wrong. Growing up I viewed my sister’s vulnerability as a weakness, but I’ve learned. She is stronger because of it. People with mental health problems, whatever they may be, are not to be looked down upon for any reason. If anything they are stronger for what they face each day. It can happen to any of us, they just happened to be the unlucky ones. Maybe you should help them.