She really is. She comes and goes whenever she pleases without any disregard of how it makes me feel. And guess what? She’s here right fucking now. I’m unbelievably anxious. I’m scrolling through Twitter, randomly liking Facebook posts out of convenience and bookmarking useless things on Instagram just to forget the fact that I can’t sit still. You’re probably chalking that up to boredom. And honestly, I wish boredom was the root of the issue but it isn’t. Now I’m wondering if I should take a walk. The idea sounds nice but I talk myself out of it over and over again. Somehow through the midst of all this anxiety my mind is telling me to stay put and deal with what’s happening regardless of my inability to sit the fuck still. I’m typing out the words that I can see in my brain but my breathing is shallow and my muscles are tense. In an effort to distract myself, I keep taking a sip of my coffee. Sipping my coffee has turned into slurping my coffee which is causing me to tense up because I’m almost out. Just knowing that I’ll have to get up and take the usual morning journey to the admin building for coffee is grueling to even think of and as a result–I’m nibbling on the tip of my straw. Whenever I’m in motion, I usually keep my eyes to the floor to avoid any sort of eye contact. My phone is a perfect distraction from my environment. When I do look up and lock eyes with someone briefly–it’s for a millisecond. I’m in a rush to escape any sort of interaction I may encounter.
When I was a kid, I had this tattered blanket that I would take everywhere with me. It was small with tiny patches of holes that it had gotten from its tumultuous journey with me. Whenever I felt nervous, I would rub my cuticle against the seam of the blanket. Totally strange and I may or may not have destroyed some of the seams of my shirts. Whatever, don’t judge me. In some odd way it provided a numbing sensation and an immediate distraction from my surroundings. My mom liked to believe that whenever I started doing that it symbolized that I was tired. I’m tired alright. Tired of your shit. But now that I look back on it–I truly believe I was coping with anxiety in its infancy. And I was doing it the only way I knew how. My kid brain must have subconsciously blocked out the tiny bits of nerves by abusing the seams of her old blanket.
I grew up in a judgmental household (aka a house full of mirrors). And this should be no secret to you if you have been reading my blogs for the past few months. Between my mother, father and my older jackass of a brother–I got some sort of shitty negative comment almost daily. My mother would criticize what I wore and how I presented myself as a ‘lady’ with an added comment of; ‘are you sure you want to eat that?’ My father would criticize my weight. And my brother–well, he just sort of laughed at whatever I was into at the time. I was the center of attention but in a horrible light. They made me believe that the only attention I was ever going to receive would be negative.
The negative would outshine the positive. Always.
All of this behavior negatively impacted my self-esteem and my mental health. Your family is supposed to be the people who support you and love you. And when you feel weak and unsure, they provide you with words of indestructible strength. I didn’t have that. What was supposed to comfort me? It’s not like I could drag out that old blanket and take it with me everywhere. So as a result of feeling trapped–I started developing nervous ticks. I’d crack my fingers, chew on my cuticles like I was starving and when that all failed–I’d bit my lip till it bled.
My anxious behavior was stagnant for the following years. I’d bite my lip to control it but it continued to follow me. I’d get the same nerve ending tendencies all throughout high-school up until I reached college. And it was always the same shit. I’d avoid eye contact wherever I was. Large classrooms would make me incredibly nervous. And I know for a lot of people that’s considered to be–normal. Anyone can feel a ping of butterflies when that happens but usually that happens on the first day of school. Then why the fuck do I experience it every. single. time? I’d see the same faces every damn day for the rest of the semester and I still felt very unbalanced. I continued to show zero mercy for my bottom lip which I chewed on relentlessly. This anxiety shit was never going to let me go no matter how much I tried to tell myself to calm down. I tried to believe that I wouldn’t let it get the best of me. Key word here is–tried.
College made shit worse. I wish that my anxiety was just some stupid phase. But as time progressed, I realized that it was never truly going to leave me alone. I spent 4 years at a community college feeling so incredibly lost when it came to my career. But after taking some Anthropology courses, I felt like I was on the right track. I enjoyed learning about different cultures and societies. So–what did I do? I pursued higher education by transferring to a university. And I reassured my parents that I would be graduated with my Bachelors in Science in two years. Pause. I want you to reread this one part so you can FULLY understand the gravity of my situation and how it became the unstoppable catalyst in this whole entire shit of a show…
“And I reassured my parents that I would be graduated with my Bachelors of Science Degree in two years.”
My anxiety sky rocketed. Let me just say this–college is stressful as shit. Rewarding in a sense but only if you can successfully make it through a tsunami of stress. Packed with hearty discussions, pointless group work, detail oriented assignments–college was testing my academic ability and my sanity. I worked full time and went to school full-time so I never truly caught a break. I would work during the day in Downtown Los Angeles and then I would battle traffic to my night classes. My mind and my body were on the go 24/7. I was constantly productive and I hated it. I was no longer in community college goofing around. I was attending a university and my time was like a toddler in a tiara–precious and short. And that’s when my anxiety began to escalate. In the middle of class I started to develop what I like to call— ‘the shakes.’ My thighs would start trembling under my desk. I’d start fidgeting and biting my lower lip as a result. I’d wear bulky sweaters so no one could see the fact that I was shaking during class. I didn’t want to attract any attention to myself. My anxiety was striving to make my daily life a living hell.
Everyday seemed longer than the last with how my schedule was. I’d struggle to fling myself from the comfort of my bed. I was constantly exhausted. I was on the go all day without a break with late night studies which involved cramming for exams. Sleeping a full 8 hours was a luxury I just didn’t have. Between the hours of 6:00am and 9:00pm–I wasn’t home. My house felt like a hotel since I was constantly mobile between work and school. My car was packed with Jackets, Pants, Sweatshirts, Shoes, Text Books, Old Coffee Tumblers–my car felt like a motorhome. Shortly after pulling out of my driveway one morning, I had noticed something strange. My body started to tense up. My palms began to feel sweaty. And without warning my rib cage started vibrating. Yeah–you heard me—VIBRATING. These weren’t the mild shakes that I would get in class that were easily concealed with my lumpy hoodie–these shakes were full-blown tremors. I struggled to steer my car as I sat there partially hunched over. Feeling absolutely terrified at what was happening to my body, I could feel my teeth chattering. The shakes, the tedious lip biting and muscle tension had progressed into what I later learned were– anxiety chest tremors. I didn’t even know something like that existed…
“Anxiety chest tremors can feel like your chest area, ribcage, diaphragm, and/or heart area is trembling, shaking, vibrating, and/or has tremors. These tremors can precede, accompany, or follow an episode of nervousness, anxiety, fear, and elevated stress, or occur ‘out of the blue’ and for no apparent reason…”
This shit was evolving into something I couldn’t handle or even begin to understand. I could feel the wheel begin to shake beneath my grip. To prevent an accident, I pulled over to the side of the road and waited until this bullshit was over. These violent anxiety chest tremors would last about 3-7 minutes sometimes longer. I’d watch the clock feeling worried that I was going to be late to wherever I was going which only added to my anxiety. And I kept saying to myself that I just wanted it to stop. In fact–I found myself begging for it to stop.
I had never felt so fucking helpless in my own skin.
I was hoping that it would be a one time occurrence–but since anxiety is a selfish bitch–I was receiving these chest tremors almost daily. DAILY. I was a human earthquake. I had zero control. When I would feel a tremor coming on, I would pull over or stop what I was doing. I’d sit there just waiting for the tremors to stop before I could do anything. I became terrified with the idea that maybe this would happen in class. My mind was spinning. What if people saw? What would they think? What would they say? These anxiety chest tremors crafted this social phobia and my studies were suffering as a result. I was absent for an ENTIRE month from a class because I just couldn’t control what was happening.
It’s been a few years since I’ve received an anxiety chest tremor. Sometimes I wonder when it will strike again but I’m thankful that it hasn’t. I’m constantly wondering if it’ll strike when I’m at work or on my way to meet a friend. Anxiety is something I struggle with on a daily basis and I’m definitely not alone. Out of curiosity, I asked an interesting question through a poll and the results were shocking and oddly comforting…
My anxiety has never truly left me. It’s been following me around since I was a kid. And I don’t think it has a plan to leave me any time soon. I’ve struggled to lead a normal life as a result. This mental illness has prevented me from meeting new people and keeping friendships. I’m controlled and fueled by self-doubt with every decision I make, and I immediately second guess those decisions. I know this stems from my childhood. My parents fostered that kind of behavior. They molded and shaped me into this person who lives and breathes this lifestyle of cynicism.
I’m always looking at the glass half empty.
Anxiety is a selfish bitch. At times she has a pretty strong hold on my life, but I like to believe that over the years–I’ve stood my ground with her. But there are days where she get’s the best of me and I crumble before her. It has taken me a long ass time to realize that anxiety is a daily struggle and some days are easier than others. Anxiety comes and goes whenever she pleases.
So, let that bitch have her moment because it won’t last long.