Last night I had an anxiety attack. In retrospect, it built up over the course of two days, but at the time, I just thought I was running low on spoons and needed to take it easy. Then it popped right before bed, which is one of the worst times for me to deal with one of these. It’s inevitably going to screw up my sleep, which leads to a wreck of the following morning.
But Tami, you’re on drugs and you say they’re working? I am on drugs and they are working, you’re right. Unfortunately, with this kind of disorder, the drugs don’t address the source of the problem, they just mitigate the symptoms so that they become manageable and I can get a handle on them to live my life. So what’s the source? Brain weasels. Unfortunately science doesn’t yet know how to wrangle them or extract them to a more suitable environment. So when the brain weasels get destructive it’s hard for the drugs to keep up.
What that means for my reality is that on Saturday I was overly-social and active. I went on a hike with Mr. V, then attended a birthday from 3pm to almost 9 that night, a thing I could do because the drugs manage my social anxiety. Then on Sunday I ran around with Mr. V in the morning to do chores, attended a journaling group from noon to 2, and promptly ran out of juice. The drugs keep me from panic and fear while I’m doing a social thing, but they don’t keep the social thing from being a very draining and stressful experience, and I had the weekend packed with social things.
Normally that would have been the end of my weekend. I emptied my tank and I would have rested the remainder of the night then had a good sleep. Instead I asked Mr. V to take over my chores so I could play some video games–something he gladly agreed to since it was obvious I was wiped out–then I worked myself up for grocery shopping.
I’m not sure if it was the groceries, the journaling, or something else, but at some point my anxiety decided we were done and kicked on the guilt machine. The guilt machine started running before I noticed it and by the time I got in the shower that night it was already in full swing. I’d ditched my chores, almost picked a fight with Mr. V, took a shower by myself which the anxiety decided was punishment, and I was about ready to cry as I brushed my teeth.
I let Mr. V know that I was in an anxiety spiral, and felt bad about dumping my chores on him. He reassured me things were fine, but the anxiety didn’t believe him, and I went to bed mildly upset. I slept surprisingly well. I woke up fairly alert and without any sign of the anxiety bomb that was about to explode. I had breakfast with Mr. V, kissed him goodbye on his way to work, and changed into workout clothes.
Mr. V texted me when he got to work and asked me how I was doing. I then promptly had a complete freak out. I was already on my stationary trainer, so as I pedaled away, I typed a short novel into text to him about what I was feeling and how I felt about feeling that way, how none of my reactions were logical or under any control, and so on. Suffice to say my workout was a mess and the crying didn’t help. It wasn’t even cathartic. Sharing just seemed to make everything worse.
I moved to my writing Slack group and waved a flag. Help, the brain weasels were taking over! I received self-care help and direction from my friends that allowed me to finish my morning routine and get myself up to the café where I like to work. I listened to music the whole way. When I arrived, my weasels, and my stress, had calmed way down. I took a nap in the car and when I woke up, I started my day over.
All of that is considered severe anxiety well managed, and as long as these kinds of episodes are limited to once a month or so, there’s no other treatment recommended. Thankfully they happen to me far less often than once a month, but that wasn’t always the case.
It’s afternoons like this, looking back on a recent attack, that I can compare against my pre-drug experience and know with complete certainty that the drugs are working. This is far more managed than it used to be.