On Anxiety

I think I’ve mentioned before that I sometimes suffer from anxiety. I’ve always been a worrier. When I was nine my parents divorced and I developed stomach aches for months afterwards. If I was struggling with a math topic, having trouble finishing my homework, etc., I would stress myself out until I got physically ill with stomach aches and migraines.

After moving to NYC for college, the anxiety lessened considerably, but still showed up from time to time. Now, in my thirties, it’s taken the form of what I call anxiety episodes: racing heart, shaking hands, spiraling negative thoughts, crying for no reason and EVERY reason. In essence, it really, really sucks. The first time I experienced one of these episodes was during and shortly after a particularly bad break-up. I ended up getting a prescription for Xanax so that I could function at work. Luckily, the intensity and frequency didn’t last very long and I was able to stop taking medication for it.

Over the years, the episodes have become fewer and far between – a few times a month, rather than a few times a week. I’ve noticed a pattern that leads me to believe they are influenced by hormones. I’ve started taking vitamin B supplements because I read that they can help with anxiety. I think the other triggers though, are being tired and feeling vulnerable.

You would think that being newly married would mean that I wouldn’t feel vulnerable at all. That might be true for most people, but for me, it’s the opposite. I’m such an expert worrier that, late at night when he’s peacefully asleep (and  my hormones and sleep levels are at their “perfect storm” levels), I first realize how happy and lucky I am to be married to such an awesome man which quickly leads me to think about how horrible it would be to lose him. And then we’re off! Cue the downward spiral into everything I’m suddenly not “enough of”, of worries that he’s going to get bored of me, worries that I’m holding him back somehow, etc., etc. You name it, I’ll find a way to worry about it. Once I’m in the middle of this mess, I can’t sleep and I can’t lay still so I tip-toe into the living room and panic and cry until I’m finally exhausted enough to fall asleep. Fun, right?

The worst part is, my husband generally notices when this happens and when he brings it up the next day I just don’t really know how to explain it. It’s nothing that he does or doesn’t do, but I can see that it hurts him and he wants to be able to help me. The thing is, all the crazy thoughts and insecurities come from deep inside me. Even if he was the perfect husband 24/7 I would still feel those things every so often. I would still not be able to sleep and would cry for hours in the dark about all my insecurities and the most irrational things I can think of.

So, clearly, THIS is the emotional work I need to do. I’ve renewed my journaling to keep track of when I feel these things and why. I’m trying to dig down to the core to see what is really going on with me. It’s a lot of work and not very pretty at all, but I know it’s necessary. I would love to have an entire month where I don’t keep myself awake out of a temporary, but overwhelming, fear of everything. It seems so ridiculous in the light of day, but on those nights it all feels so suffocatingly real. Last night was one of those nights. I didn’t get to sleep until after 4:00 a.m. Thankfully I’m off from work today so I can take it somewhat easy. I will be going to the gym, though, since it helps relieve some of my nervous energy among other things. I have a lot of work ahead of me, but, like the weight loss, it will be worth it in the end.

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