PAPER BAG, BREATHING

I always forget that I have an anxiety disorder. Bet that’s something you never thought you’d read. But it’s true. Ask my therapist for my file and it’ll tell ya one main thing—Generalized Anxiety Disorder—and a few other small things but I don’t like you that much so stop prying. But I’ll throw you a bone: one small thing is that I don’t like being told I have a disorder—because I’m fine and good as is, obviously—but I also desperately want an answer to what’s up with my brain.

Disorder was a word I’ve always hated (until I broke it down). In my definition, it’s merely a state of being apart or away from (dis) your normal and controlled way of existing (order). Not so bad there, is it? The Generalized Anxiety bit however, means that I can have a wave of panic over anything—or everything—at any given moment for any particular reason. Yikes.

So back to me always forgetting about my anxiety disorder. I’m a very composed individual (to the point that at times it’s slightly unsettling). I’m strategic, my wits are in order, and I am incredibly in-tune with my Self (consciousness, soul, mind, heart, and body included). Lest you think I’m a robot, I’m incredibly empathetic, and also empathic (they’re different, I promise) and keeping the innate harmony of a situation, environment or relationship is very important to me. So, it’s safe to say that I can rationalize myself out of a large majority of uncomfortable situations. Until I can’t. Like, capital-C-Can’t, where the heck is this coming from Can’t, everyone around you is incredibly surprised at your lack of composure since you never—hardly ever—lose it Can’t.

Can’t is when I temporarily forget that it’s not the coffee that’s making me jittery and making my heart leap around, because I only had two sips. Or when I temporarily forget that it’s not the temperature in the room that’s making me feel itchy —because it is freezing—it’s me having hot flashes. And also when I temporarily forget that it’s not my average workplace blues or frustrations that’s making me want to go for the jugular whenever anyone annoys me, it’s that I am losing control of my emotions and I feel restless and defeated like a caged lion.

Can’t happened today. And as usual, it took me by surprise. You should know that I’m (surprisingly) rather hippy-ish and granola, so I abhor unnecessary medications. Worth noting: I deem largely all medications unnecessary, with the notable exception of Excedrin. So even though I know that a tiny little dose of Xanax, et al, would largely do me good, that composure, awareness, and strategic nature of mine keeps me from Saying Yes to the Scrip.

So instead, I have friends who love me (even when I snap at them because their advice is a little too heavy for me at the moment) and safe spaces to go (like ones featuring lapping water against sand, yes it’s called a beach) and unsafe songs to listen to when I’m tempted to just own the semi-not-really comforting feeling of meaninglessness and ride out the wave of anxiety (like Holocene, but it’s my ringtone because I also appreciate irony and de-sensitization to your own personal triggers) and safe songs to listen to when I know I’m in over my head (like Elevate because it makes me feel like I’m in South Africa watching lions run while teasing my hair 1980 style).

And I also make mistakes like sending a flood of anxiety-induced messages to one person—and then the screenshots of those messages to those aforementioned friends who try to not say, “Oh my god, what did you do?!” even though I know they’re thinking, “Oh my god, what did you do?!”. Or like spending a bunch of money on food or clothing or drinks because I didn’t want to deal with anxiety that day. Or even inadvertently distrusting those aforementioned friends by firing off a quick, “I shouldn’t have told you that” or “I can’t deal with this conversation anymore,” and walking away.

You see, I think it’s easy to forget that you have a disorder when you’re so used to that just being your way of life. I know that I battle with anxiety. I know that I talk myself down from tiny situations that could cause it to escalate at any given moment of the day because consciously I know that What it Seems Like to Piglet Brain Me* isn’t always What it Is to Non-Piglet Brain Me (can you tell I was a CBT patient because #CopingMechanisms and #Strategies). But most people don’t know that I have anxiety. So I “forget” along with them until something happens that reminds me—and shows them—a brief glimpse into the minute-by-minute experience that is my life and I desperately want to pull the curtain back over but I just Can’t. So I wear it like a badge of honor for a second or two and then She comes back—the strategic, composed girl who has her wits about her and is aware of her body—and it’s gone

(until next time).

*Piglet is my favorite Winnie the Pooh character. Yes, I use the phrase “Piglet Brain” to describe when I’m having an anxiety attack—small and afraid, am I right?—but Piglet is also one of the bravest characters in the entire series. Why? Because overcoming your many fears and doing the life thing anyway is probably the most wonderful thing ever.

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