Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Day With Anxiety: St. Dymphna, Pray for Us.

I missed my Women in Music class lecture (same one with the prof who seems to have it out for me) because of anxiety (same reason I mentioned in yesterday's post) so I thought I would give y'all an insight at what it is to deal with this illness. I've written about anxiety quite a bit before, and my St. Dymphna post is still one of the top posts, but I've changed and my coping techniques have changed so I wanted to share how things are now.

The past 24 hours can be summed up as being exhausting and unpredictable. The day starts off much like my previous day ends: feeling like I can't breathe. That's one of the many symptoms associated with it. Depending on what I have to deal with during the day is how bad it is. Monday through Thursday (while I have classes), I feel like I can't breathe during most of the day. When I first experienced this it was quite scary because I thought I would stop breathing completely. I had no idea what was going on or why. The thing is that I CAN breathe, I just feel like I can't. It's almost like if you have something heavy sitting on top of your chest and you are desperate to get it off but you can't. The more you think about it, the more panic sets in and the worst the anxiety gets. Thankfully I know that it is just anxiety (and I know what is triggering it) so I won't go into full panic mode but I have in the past. It's not fun... and it gets less fun with you're left completely exhausted.

After feeling like I can't breathe, I have to distract myself. As I said, if I think about it, it's only going to get worse and I may start hyperventilating so distractions are key. If I'm at home, I try to walk or do something mindless online until I feel better. If I can get in the car and drive somewhere (btw, NEVER drive while feeling anxious), I'll do that. Most of the time I feel like I need to get away for a little bit. If I'm in class, I have a tendency to draw on the margins on my notes. It helps me both keep my mind busy so I don't think about the anxiety and it also reminds me that I should attempt to pay attention in class. I actually do pay attention and write notes as part of my distraction but when I have nothing to write, drawing helps. Only one professor has ever been really rude and nasty about this technique I have in class... and it's my music prof this semester.

This was actually what made me cry a few weeks ago -- I was trying to not hyperventilate in class and she very rudely said something along the lines of "hello, Emmy, do you want to finish working on that project you're doing or are you going to pay attention?" It doesn't sound too bad but the way she said it and the look she gave me was just horrible. I was obviously trying to catch my breathing, and I most likely looked pale as I often do when I have a panic attack, so for her to just snap at me like that (btw, this is normal for me to experience from her on an almost daily basis) made things worse. It's things like this that make me feel like there's something seriously wrong with me.

No, it is not "normal" to feel anxiety that is this heightened. It is not normal to feel like you can't breathe. I also feel very physically drained despite a good night's sleep and that's also not normal either. Fainting spells? I get those too. However, it's my normal and it has been since I was 15 years old. My anxiety is not as bad as it once was -- driving and having that independence has helped so much -- but I still have my bad days. Yesterday it was a mixed day, today is worse.

One of the big reasons why I even started this blog was because I became very aware of how many people suffer from anxiety but don't speak up about it because of the negative stereotypes. I don't want to be like that. I want to show people that it is possible to live with anxiety (and I don't take medication for it). No, we're not crazy. I have my silly moments with friends but there's nothing "seriously" wrong with us. Some of us have anxiety because thyroid levels are abnormal. Some of us (like myself) have anxiety because of traumatic experiences.

Without going into a lot of detail, I've had some pretty hard things to deal with growing up. What triggers most of my anxiety in social and school settings is feeling like I'm trapped. I had social anxiety (I couldn't be in crowds or even away from the house) when I first got sick and now it's classified as generalized anxiety and panic disorder. The reason I got anxiety was because I had a history teacher during my freshman year of high school (first and last in public HS) that loved to humiliate me in class and allowed students to attack me. That was a time when I couldn't leave the classroom without permission; I felt trapped and so every time I feel trapped or that an authority figure is unfairly picking on me, the anxiety goes crazy.

I've done Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (that's when you think about what you're going through and analyzing the situation to get a rational answer as to why you shouldn't be feeling anxious) and I've learned coping techniques but being in my Music course this semester has reminded me of being in that freshman year History class. My Music prof reminds me of that horrible History teacher -- down to the looks and mannerisms, so it's not a surprise that I've felt the way I do. I know that it's not the same but it being so close to graduation I feel like if I don't end up graduating because of grades it'll be because of her. I try to work so hard to do well in my courses and if my hard work doesn't get my that degree that I've spent years trying to finish because one professor just doesn't like me... I will be devastated. It's that uncertainty that has made me an anxious/weepy/mopey mess.

I'm going to be doing a St. Dymphna novena (since she is the patroness of those afflicted with anxiety) because it's hard. I love school. I don't like missing courses, especially because of anxiety... but the thought of going to class and having this professor just go after me is not helping. And before anyone asks, I've already let my academic adviser know what was going on (especially since I ended up missing my Thesis meeting because of all of this) and I will let others, higher up, know if it gets worse. I don't want to get her into trouble,and I hate confrontations with a passion, but I also don't think it's fair that I am treated the way that I am. I did nothing wrong so I don't get it. I will pray not only for myself but for those who have anxiety because of reasons that are much worse. There are always people who have harder lives and just because I myself am dealing with this doesn't mean that I should be selfish and not think about what they are experiencing as well. I also invite you to pray for them. I have less than 2 months of this to endure at the CINO college but they may have no end in sight for the near future. I need to constantly remind myself that this is temporary and that everything will eventually get better.

Anyway, sorry if this was kind of a downer post but I felt like sharing it. A lot of people don't know what it is to deal with anxiety, or what may trigger it, and I wanted to give y'all an insight at why I am currently experiencing anxiety. I was to dispel negative stereotypes and I hope that some of you will be a little more conscientious about not passing along those stereotypes. We're just like y'all... we just have a little extra to deal with is all. :)

I hope y'all are doing well and that your week has gone a little better than me. :D

As always, thanks for reading and God Bless. :)


Kayla said...

I remember these days. I dealt with anxiety while I was in college too. It hasn't quite gone away, but it has started manifesting itself in different ways, which means the ways that I deal with it have to change. It's a little frustrating actually, but it was much, much worse in school, when I didn't know what was happening. I've never heard of St. Dymphna, I'm off to read that post now!

Mariel said...

May God be with you! Hope the novena helps you.

Sarah said...

I struggle with anxiety and have had the same exact struggles you are writing with here. Feeling "trapped" is a HUGE trigger for me! For years I would have uncontrollable panic attacks if I was riding in a car and had to pee and couldn't immediately pull over. LOL! But seriously, panic attacks are awful, and St. Dymphna has helped me so much. Prayers for you :)

gemoftheocean said...

Regards the tiredness even though much sleep and feelings of being faint -- have you checked for anemia? [I'd developed this problem a few months ago after a traumatic experience.] When I asked a few science type geeks what might be behind it-they all in one breath said 'anemia' -- anyway, I started taking iron tablets to correct the situation and I feel much better. I'm not saying that's necessarily your problem but check for it.

Michael said...

Dear Emmy,

May God bless you and grant you the grace to overcome all anxieties. I came across your post as I've been searching for saints who also suffered from anxiety as its been something I have unfortunately developed for about a year now. Thank you for your insight and personal post, it has helped and I'll be reading more about St. Dymphna now and praying her Novena.