It can be hard to understand anxiety disorders if you have never been touched by one. Outsiders think of it as a lack of willpower, but they don’t understand the subconscious nature of it. if someone comes up behind you and screams in your ear, what do you do? You involuntarily jump, yell out an expletive, or maybe you swing your fist in defense. Where was the self control in that situation? You might say that’s not the same thing, because it’s a natural reaction to having someone surprise the shit out of you.
In many situations, at least for me personally, it’s actually just like that. It’s a sudden shock to my nervous system. It just hits me for different reasons and it hits harder and the effects last longer. It’s completely unexpected at first but once something triggers it, even though you expect it the next time, it still hits you just as fast and hard.
However, there are times when it surprises you like a sneak attack. You didn’t expect it, you couldn’t prepare for it, and there’s no action plan in place for it. You can only ride it out. Which is what happened to me last night.
There were two storage bins stacked on top of each other in my bedroom and in the middle of the night, the cats knocked one of the bins over. The noise woke me up and I wasn’t sure what they did, but I decided to go back to sleep and deal with the mess in the morning.
Sometime later, I got up to use the bathroom and accidentally stepped on a cat’s tail. In reaction, I swiftly jerked up my foot and this caused a cramp in my calf and foot. As I set my foot down in pain, I tripped over the bin that was in the middle of the floor, and then banged my forehead, face first, into the wall. I yelled out an expletive in frustration.
I’ve fallen down and tripped over cats and things before without having any serious anxiety attacks before. I wasn’t bleeding or in any serious pain, so I didn’t expect any serious anxiety beyond annoyed frustration.
I get up and go to the bathroom and as I’m sitting on the potty, still half asleep, it hits me like a ton of bricks. At first it’s this woozy feeling and my breath gets heavy. Even though it’s still dark in the night, I can feel the feint feeling. If the lights were on, I’d probably have darkening vision. I immediately recognize this feeling and my first thought was “I am NOT passing out on the toilet!” So, I rushed my business and washed my hands in a hurry.
This is the same feeling that I get when I’m getting blood work done. I know that I need to lay down, so I end up flopping onto the foot of the bed. I took some deep breaths but the nausea swelled in my stomach. I started to salivate and groan at the sheer intensity of the nausea. My body started to tremble and there was a suffocating weight on top of me. I think I even managed to mutter out loud “Oh God, please stop.”
I hate this feeling because it’s pure uncontrollable misery. I could cry and it’s incapacitating. I can’t do anything. It drops me to the floor (or bed in this case) in a helpless state of what I can honestly compare to the feeling of having food poisoning. It takes every bit of my will and concentration not to pass out, vomit, or cry… maybe I should just let it happen, but my mind is stubborn and locked in this war with my body.
As I’m salivating heavily, about to throw up, I thought to myself that I had nowhere to throw up and I really don’t want to clean up the bed or carpet. So I forced myself out of the bed weakly, which took a lot of willpower, and grabbed the little white trash bin. I had to pause over it and I groaned as I held back the wave of intense nausea and then flopped back onto the bed.
I writhed, or rocked side to side, trying to sooth my body. My boyfriend woke up, fully aware of the anxiety episode, and pulled me in to hold me close… but I ended up pushing him off. It was too restricting. When the anxiety is so bad that it feels like you’re suffocating, a hug is only going to make it worse. The cat had the audacity to jump on the bed for snuggles. I pushed her off the bed… don’t worry, she’ll get some lovens afterward. At the same time, I wanted the reassuring contact to help ease my suffering. So I grabbed his hand in mine. In fact, a back rub is perfect as it’s comforting and not suffocating.
Overall, it took about 15 to 20 minutes of pure misery before the ride ended. I was exhausted! I was finally able to fall back asleep and when I woke up this morning, I still felt exhausted.
This level of anxiety is very overwhelming and physically stressful. I cannot function in that state. It’s horrible and I dread anything that can induce that affect on my body, which is where most of my phobias come from. I’m not scared of needles… I’m scared of how my body reacts to it!
Why do I think it’s not a lack of willpower? Because of the sheer force of my will that goes into facing it and surviving it. The force of my will that demands I get out of bed every morning and face the world with a ferocious bravery. The pure force of my willpower that refuses to be conquered by this affliction!
How do you know this is a lack of willpower if you have never experienced it? You aren’t actively willing yourself NOT to have a bad reaction to something, it simply doesn’t affect you. I may be allergic to bees and you may not be. What is it in my body that makes me allergic but not you? What in my body or mind makes me have these anxiety triggers, but yours doesn’t? I want to an allergic reaction to bees as much as I want my body to experience an anxiety attack.