Surviving Anxiety, Dammit!

Pretty much the only difference between my life lately and the above picture is that I don’t smoke. Other than that I have sat at this computer writing in to dear friends on Facebook and email to simply try to hold on. I have been so terrified, frozen in anxiety, and fear, with my panic disorder waving its banners high, that I have barely been able to function. I finally crashed this week during the two day prep and procedure for my colonoscopy yesterday. I became increasingly unglued on Tuesday while drinking what felt like gallons of fluids in preparation for the procedure, getting sick and throwing up, and finally shaking all the way through the night unable to sleep, shaking so hard I couldn’t pet the pugs. Shaking so hard I could barely answer a text because I couldn’t use my fingers. By the time I got to the hospital for the procedure yesterday I cried while they admitted me, and cried and started shaking again so hard in the prep room that they had to give me Versed through the IV to try to calm me down so I could have the procedure. In the end the colonoscopy went just fine as they usually do because they knock you out and you don’t feel or remember a thing, but my anxiety had been so bad for so long the days previous to the procedure culminating in more than a dozen hours of shaking uncontrollably that my heart was irregular during the procedure and they were concerned. They did tests to check me out and in the end it was decided that I was okay, that the anxiety itself had caused issues with my heart. But they called my daughter in before I was even out of recovery and scared her half to death wondering what was wrong with me. Anxiety is not just something that is paralyzing and devastating to the one suffering but affects those they love as well. This is terrible and it has to stop.

I have a good therapist, regularly see a psychiatrist who monitors my meds, and I do everything that I can in terms of self-care, but I have a serious anxiety disorder and a panic disorder that go hand in hand and wreak havoc in my life. This is long-standing and debilitating and I am just SO angry about it. And I am determined to find my way through this. I will be 63 on April 30. Other than my mental health issues, and yes, there is a laundry list, besides the abovementioned I am bipolar and suffer from PTSD, I am physically healthy, thank God, with the exception of the weight I need to lose and am working on, and I could live another twenty or thirty years. And our lives are precious, and — pardon me, truly — Dammit I don’t intend to live out my life shaking like a leaf, crying, and wearing out everyone around me that I love. I want to do good work in the world. I am intelligent, talented, a writer, a teacher, a pretty damned good mentor, and an artist, and I have a lot to offer. And I intend to offer it. I just need to stop being terrified of the whole entire world.

And the thing is I could sit here and write about all of the things that had a hand in creating this as I have done, one way or another, in the past, from long term sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and so on, but for God’s sake let’s give it a rest already. What happened, happened, and I can’t change it. And I have spent enough of my life bemoaning the facts and talking about them in 40+ years of therapy, to friends, in my writing, and all the rest, finally, can I please, knowing that I intend to be responsible and do my work, just find a way to get on with it? I say that after so many months of being paralyzed with anxiety and fear and working on it from every angle and doing everything a person can do and still being in the grip of it all that I am truly at a loss for what might work, and I don’t want to live medicated to the gills — knowing that with my issues I will have to be on some meds — that I can’t function and do the work I believe God put me on this earth to do, but please, I want to find a way to cope and live with it and get on with it, and I want to help others find this too. No, not as their doctor or therapist, but as one who says, Geez Louise we have suffered so much, can we just band together, hold on to one another, pray for one another, and find a way to see the light? Is that possible? I don’t know but I can guarandamnteeyou I am going to try.

And if you are one of my angels, one of those people who has written to me, sometimes multiple times in a week or in a day, or as with a couple of dear ones who wrote to me over and over and over again on Facebook (And for those of you who poo poo the power and the true nature of friendship on Facebook I am here to tell you that these friendships are not only REAL but can be life-saving!) having a powerful dialogue with me the night before my colonoscopy when I was so paralyzed with fear I didn’t know how I would make it through the night, I just want to say that the words “thank you” are so inadequate I feel helplessly sad wanting to say something that covers the true gift that you were, but thank you is all that I have and I offer it with all my heart and gracious, heart-felt, love. Thank you. You saved my life. You got me through. And I may have lain awake shaking like an earthquake all night long, and I may have had heart irregularities because of the severity of the anxiety and the many hours that it lasted, but lets just be real shall we? Some people don’t make it through the dark times to see another day, and I did, and I will, and I don’t for one minute not realize that it is because of the people who love me and saw me through. Now you all deserve something from me in return. You all deserve to see me forge ahead, once more into the breech, and find a way not only to survive myself but help others in return. I will not go gently into that good night. I will fight like hell and hold on and help others do the same.

So this is me, tonight, still at the computer, with my darling pugs all around me. I have fed them and they are here helping me hold down the fort and reach out to all of you who helped me to say thanks, and reach out to others who are suffering to say Hold on dearhearts, I have been to such a dark place I could see no light but others came and held a light for me and I will hold a light for you. We can make it, dammit, dammit, dammit, we can make it, and we will and we will help others do the same. I am reaching my hand out to you this night. Please hold it, and know that you are not alone. And get on your computer and reach out to someone and ask for help. Do NOT believe that you are alone or that those on the other side of the screen don’t matter. This week these friends saved me, trust your friends to save you, and be a friend to someone else. Too often we feel that there is nothing in the world that we can do but we can do this. Do it. And now, let’s carry on…