I had an anxiety attack last night, not an altogether uncommon occurrence. It wasn’t about anything that would be majorly upsetting to anyone else, or something life threatening. It was just there all of a sudden. Large, and imposing and dragging me out into the depths of feeling. Feeling sad, and scared, angry and futile and so, so tired.
My heart rate climbed and stayed at a height even after it was finished. And it did finish, about an hour after it started. After it had dragged out all of the stuff I wasn’t actively anxious about, all my background anxiety. The anxiety that’s part of my every day operations, that goes quietly about its business until it reaches critical mass and has to be vented, through an anxiety attack.
Venting happens roughly every other week, three times a month sometimes. Sometimes there’s an outside catalyst, a bad day, sickness, pain, etc. Sometimes it’s just my background anxiety hitting that critical mass and needing to be vented. The actual venting, the anxiety attack, is pretty much the same. Sudden onset, shaking, shortness of breath, heart rate increases, crying, lots of crying, usually of the ugly variety. This goes on for around an hour; occasionally I hyper ventilate.
After I have an anxiety attack I’m more or less drained and proceed to sleep like a rock, after which I invariably wake up feeling a perfect mixture of refreshed and death warmed over. It’s not a process I’ve perfected by any means. But believe it or not, it is an improvement. There was a point where I was having several anxiety attacks a month, two and three days in a row. When I wasn’t having an anxiety attack I was on the verge of one, it was pretty miserable.
So I decided to do something that at the time seemed drastic and possibly completely uncalled for. I asked my doctor to put me on an antidepressant/anti anxiety medication. Friends. My friends! I don’t ask for help lightly. It’s more my style to struggle and hurl myself at brick walls, doing things the hard way.
So to sit in that office and admit that I had been struggling, been hurting, for years, it was a lot. But then to have my doctor listen, understand and offer something to help was…frankly a little anti climactic. Don’t get me wrong it was monumental in what it meant. But it was easy. I wasn’t prepared for it to be easy. I wasn’t prepared for a lot it turns out.
I went on medication in December, so roughly six months before my writing this. Fair Folk, Halfmen, Rohirrim, let me tell you something. These last few months have been a game changer. It’s been slow, which I expected, but it’s also just been so different. I’m different.
I’m clearer, calmer. I’m so much more aware of my feelings and my stress level. I know my background anxiety is there, but it’s not insistent. It’s figuring itself out, or waiting for me to figure it out. It’s not grinding and forcing everything to a halt. I feel like my mind is mine again. Until it’s not.
Executive dysfunction. Oh my dear executive dysfunction what would I do without you? Lots probably. The trade off of my brain being less bogged down by anxiety and depression is still somehow executive dysfunction.
But even that I’m ok with. I am learning to work within the boundaries of what my brain is capable of doing on a given day. Of course whatever is going on with my body affects that, so that’s another aspect to take into account. But I’m doing that too. For what feels like the first time in ages, I am right side up on trying to do just what my brain and body needs me to do.
I still fail more often than I succeed. I sleep too much or not enough. I’m nearly perpetually dehydrated. I am still the reigning champion of self deprecation in the tri county area. But I haven’t missed my meds once and I’m eating vegetables daily (veggie straws count right?).
There is room for improvement, sure. But for the first time in a while, I know I’m up to the challenge. My brain isn’t going to be what gets the better of me. It hasn’t done it with Hydrocephalus. Anxiety and depression won’t do it either.