I can’t pinpoint the moment in which I fully, consciously realized that there was something more to my nervousness than just normal daily stress. I can remember waking up in the middle of the night as if I’d just had a terrible nightmare – heart pounding, mouth dry, gasping for breath, sweating. The strange thing? I hadn’t had a bad dream at all. This continued for awhile, until finally I overheard women at work talking about similar symptoms, and their subsequent diagnosis with anxiety disorders. I’d never heard of such a thing, but with no other real way to solve my mystifying midnight mania, I made a doctor’s appointment and explained to my m.d. exactly what was going on. He explained that what I was experiencing were panic attacks, a result of my very own anxiety disorder, and he prescribed Xanax to ease my anxiety.
Fast-forward a year: I am usually okay without the meds, and I can pretty much talk myself down from anxiety on my own. I’ve learned things that trigger a calm response, like the scent of lavender, or certain music. I’ve determined that my (mild, I think) OCD is linked to the anxiety disorder. For the most part, this issue doesn’t affect anyone but myself, although it does get annoying to just have to double- triple- quadruple-check that I’ve shut the garage door, or replaced the gas cap, or remembered my cell phone. Seeing it once, apparently, is not enough for my brain. Other things, like the need to have everything organized, alphabetized, and orderly, can be a bit much for Paul at times. Although he is incredibly helpful and does not tease me, he also does not indulge me in my obsessive compulsive tendencies. When I ask him to vacuum the floor for the third time in a week, he looks me straight in the face and says, “no, it doesn’t need it again” (this only happened once, and no, I was not happy about it). I grudgingly admit that working out has a very calming effect on me and that since I started Zumba, I have been doing a lot better.
So, what got me thinking about all this? It certainly wasn’t anything bad that happened today. Paul and I both impulsively called and asked for vacation days at work. Our bosses generously allowed us the day off. We had lunch at Panda Express and then headed to Seattle to walk all the way around Green Lake. The distance is only 2.8 miles and we completed the walk in about an hour. It was the perfect way to spend the afternoon. The sun was shining down on us, a breeze kept things cool and comfortable, and we talked and teased each other as we walked around. After our walk, we headed to Trophy Cupcakes to get a treat. Gourmet cupcakes are my new favoritest indulgence, having had a mint chocolate one in Vancouver that just made me sooo happy. After cupcakes we finished the afternoon relaxing together, Paul napping and me finishing a book I’ve been reading (“In Her Shoes” by Jennifer Weiner, love her). The day finished with Paul making me steak, green beans, and rice for dinner and settling in to watch “Family Guy” and play on our laptops.
It was the perfect day, and it certainly did not cause me any anxiety. That, to me, is an improvement. Not too long ago, I would get nervous and irritable and could even spoil a really good day with my exaggerated views on, well, whatever was getting blown out of proportion in my head. I’m glad that I can have days like this now, where there are no demands placed on me, where I can just relax and enjoy the place I live in and the wonderful boyfriend who loves me even when I do act like an anxious crazy person.
I know that my anxiety disorder is not something that will ever fully go away. I do feel, though, like I have gotten a lot of control over it in the last year, and that I understand myself a lot better.