I woke up this morning still feeling the after effects from last night. I was shake-y. A little nauseous. Tears welling periodically throughout my morning routine. Every so often my chest would tighten and my stomach drop, but I did my best to breathe it out. There was no question whether or not I was going to take my “in case of emergency” meds this morning. I considered canceling the few meetings I had so I could finish riding this out alone. Away from others so I could spare myself the embarrassment. I was already feeling guilty for keeping Greg up most of the night. And I started down the negative cycle of self worth.
I told myself I don’t deserve such a kind and caring partner. Someone who gave up his own sleep to hold me tight as I sobbed and convulsed in his arms late, late into the night…
I judged myself for having anxiety in the first place. The logical side in my brain went through all the reasons anxiety is stupid. I told myself I was dumb for letting those fears and worry take such a strong hold on me…
I felt shame for the way my brain works. I wished I was “normal”. That I didn’t have the thoughts I have. Or feel the things I feel. I want to be a person that can go through their day and go to bed without issues...
And before I knew it, I was walking down the path to yet another (although this time, self-induced) anxiety attack.
I’ve mentioned before that my anxiety stems from the unknown. The biggest of those unknown anxieties for me is the concept of death. I have a weird fascination and crippling fear of it. I go down the rabbit hole in thoughts of how we exist. I think about reincarnation and the “we could all just be brains in a jar” philosophy thought. I think about the after life and sometimes wonder if the current life we’re living is an afterlife in itself. When I was little, I had a theory that we have lived every life in our nuclear families and the present is your current journey in that family members life. That I have lived my moms life, my dad’s life, and brother’s life and now, am magically living mine seeing the other choices I had made as other people and how it connects (or could break) my family. I know, it’s a weird thought to have, and doesn’t make much sense. But that’s how my brain works.
It’s a wild place to be.
Being the raw, vulnerable, mental health advocate I am, I want to walk you all through what transpired last night. I’m not sure how this is going to go. I may fall back down the path I fell down last night. I may be fine. I’m not sure. But I just feel like this is something important that I should share. And I think in a selfish way, talking out my thoughts and what happened may be therapeutic and help me in the future when these thoughts take control again.
A few nights ago, Greg and I had a deep dive conversation about some of these death and what comes after thoughts. I was initially for it. I shared my thoughts. We talked about crazy ways the universe works. About existence and how things do happen for a reason. That got my gears and cogs going and I’ve been thinking about death a lot since then.
Last night, when Greg was brushing his teeth, I took a look around our room. I smiled looking at all the decor pieces - our pictures, art, books, and plants. My heart swelled with joy thinking about how happy I am. How much I love Greg. How much I love our dog. How much I love my life.
And then, as quickly as my heart filled, it sunk and plummeted through my body and down deep into the Earth. Or at least that's what it felt like. And I had the thought, "He's going to die one day. Everyone I love is going to die one day. I'm going to die one day. All of this is going to be nothing. Jesus. F******. Christ."
My heart came back up, past it's usual spot in my chest, and flew into my throat. It held for a moment. Then suddenly, it fell back down. As my heart continued to ride the longest Tower of Terror ride, I started to feel cold. What started as a snowball where my heart should have been, soon flooded through my body and out into my limbs. I was cold as ice (and now, reflecting on it, imagine I looked very similar to a transforming white walker). My teeth started chattering. My hands started trembling. I started disassociating my surroundings.
Greg came out of the bathroom as the tears started falling. I choked out, "I...need...you...to hold...me...I'm not...okay". His arms were soon around me and I started to feel anchored. But that wasn't going to stop this attack. The air felt thin and my lungs weren't accepting the oxygen I was trying wheeze to them. A wave of nausea rolled over me and I bolted up out of his arms. Now bawling, I rocked myself in a seated fetal position.
Greg grabbed me. He crossed his arms around me from the back and hugged me tight. He started making the "shhhhh" noise, trying to get me to slow my breath. He asked me to lay back down and I did. I couldn't fight him. I couldn't do anything really. All I could focus on was breathing - trying to open my lungs and just get air in and out of them. Then the convulsions started.
They are my least favorite part of my really bad anxiety attacks. No longer having any control of my body, and enhanced with the sobbing, every muscle in my body decided to move without my will. My leg would kick out here. An arm would try to slip out of Greg's hold there. My chest popped, elbows tried to fly, and I just twitched there for what felt like an eternity.
"I'm so sorry." I whispered through choked tears. "This is so bad. I hate this. I hate this."
The convulsions started to get smaller. Soon it was just a tremor here and there. I flipped myself over and grabbed back onto Greg. He kissed my forehead and just held me. Or at least held a shell of me. There were times I'd feel like I wasn't even there, not quite an out of body experience, more like none of this was even real.
When I could find my words again, I, of course, immediately started apologizing. I told him I am so sorry. That I hate being like this. That he has to see me go through it and deal with me while it's happening. But being the sweet, wonderful man he is, he told me that of course he would be here for me. That he loves me and I am worth it.
And with that validation I started crying again. And the original thought hit me again. "This wonderful, kind, handsome man isn't always going to be here." My eyes welled up and I quickly blinked the tears away. " I love you", I quivered. "I'm so terrified because I'm actually happy. I'm actually in love with my life. I feel like I have so much to live for. I have so much to lose now."
He started to try and calm me, but I could only hear a loud buzzing in my ears. I started crying again. And I played the game where I thought about my lungs becoming an accordion, pushing air in and out.
In and out.
In and out.
In and out.
I tried to use logic brain to talk myself down from this. It was now 11:00ish and Greg needed to sleep. This had been going on for a little over an hour now and the guilt was seeping in. But logic brain was nowhere to be found. I knew I wasn't going to be okay, or be able to sleep for a while. So I told Greg I was going to go back downstairs to watch an episode or two of The Office to distract my brain. Greg, being the amazing human he is, offered to stay up with me. I told him I would appreciate it, but that he should sleep. He said I was being dumb and followed me downstairs.
And yea, that's kind of what happened. I stayed on edge until I fell asleep. My hands continued to tremble. My heart rate was quick. Tears would form whenever they pleased. But Greg continued to squeeze my hand, and reminded me he was right there. I sat with the emotions and thoughts and just let them be. I just focused on breathing.
In for four.
Hold for four.
Out for four.
Hold for four.
And I continued that until the zingers of Michael Scott lulled me to sleep.
Flash forward to today. I'm not exactly okay. But I'm not not okay either. I took my meds and listened to some funny podcasts on the way to my morning meetings. I was done by 11:30 and came home. I texted my mom to tell her briefly what had happened. Fun story. She used to go through the same kind of death inspired anxiety attacks. And she told me my dad has held her countless nights to help the attacks pass. That confession made me feel so less alone. Less like a crazy person. And with that, my heart finally fell back into its normal chest position.
It's crazy what validation can do.
The rest of my day has been about self care. I put on the Lizzie McGuire movie and did a Fitness Blender HIIT workout. I didn't have a lot of time to workout this week, so it was nice to get sweaty. And hopefully I tired myself out so I'll fall fast asleep tonight. I followed it with a Pilates workout to cool down and recenter my breathing. From there, I blasted a "Feeling Good" playlist on Spotify and took a long, hot shower. I dropped some lavender essential oils in there and let the steam melt some of my worry away through meditation. Once done, I put on a face mask and another cheesy Disney movie - Princess Diaries 2. I snacked on pita bread and vegan taco hummus and cried at the scene where Anne Hathaway lets all those orphans walk in that parade.
And that gets us to here. Greg just got home and I think this blog post is long enough. I plan on thinking a lot about gratitude as the night goes on. I want to just take time to appreciate all that I have. My amazingly wonderful family. The best friends anyone could have. The most loving boyfriend and teammate I could ask for. His family and all the love they have shown me throughout our relationship. Our goofy, lovable dog. The studio, where I get to share my love and passions and mentor the greatest group of kids. This platform, where I feel safe and proud to share all the shit I go through so someone else won't feel alone.
Today I was reminded by my mother that you can find solace in knowing someone else's brain works the same way yours does. And that keeps me motivated to keep seeing this blog through.
I have a feeling tonight isn't going to be easy. I might have another attack. And that's okay. It's okay to be afraid of things. It's okay that they can feel more powerful than we could ever be. Life doesn't promise me that I will wake up tomorrow. Life doesn't promise anything. But with that I'm trying to remember this:
I am here now. I am fighting. I am coping. I am happy.
I am full of love. I am full of pride.
I am surrounded by people that love me and think I am enough. And I actually feel like I am enough.
Things are scary. Things hurt.
But I have found so much joy in this life, so much happiness and love, that I know it will be okay.