On Mental Health

F*ck Anxiety.

There are a lot of memes out there that people share out on social media describing anxiety and panic attacks. So many that I often really feel like I have more company in my anxiety than I might realized before. But y’all? I HAVE NEVER SEEN ANOTHER HUMAN CRY FROM A PANIC ATTACK IN MY LIFE. And it has happened to me TWICE in the last week. So either those memes reflect a much more subdued anxiety condition than my own or EVERYONE IS LYING AND I AM A FREAK.

My general “base” level of anxiety is much lower than it has been in years and this might be due to some situational changes but I really think it’s just adaptive behaviors on my part. Unfortunately, my acute reactions have not improved and lately I feel they’ve gotten worse. Those moments where my anxiety is triggered (think: panic attacks) in a specific way manifest in much more severe reactions now than ever before.

And of course it always involves fucking crying.

I’m getting very angry about this. Hence the use of the f-word.

I’ve always been an easy-crier. Radio commercials for OnStar used to make me sob. Sentimental moments and actions bring tears. My kids watch me during movie trailers because so many of them make me cry simply from excitement.

I use that crying emoji all the time…and it’s not an exaggeration.

And while most of these reactions are cute and provide for silly anecdotes for myself and my family, I also often cried when I got angry which always upset me because you get written off as, “Emotional,” when yo do that and then no one takes you seriously. I AM NOT CRYING BECAUSE I AM UPSET, I AM CRYING BECAUSE THE RAGE IS OVERFLOWING OUT OF MY EYEBALLS.

But this new acute anxiety response is something different all together and it’s making my life really difficult and definitely waking up some old agoraphobic leanings because it’s causing me such shame.

So…I have a few acute anxiety triggers. (“A FEW?” everyone who knows me asks…) One of the most common are simply making public mistakes in areas of protocol or procedure. I usually combat this in one of two ways:

  1. Research: I google everything with “How To” questions. I look at Google Earth to figure out how parking lots work if I’m worried about parking. I call ahead and ask for advice. I turn to Facebook friends. If I can’t find a way to research, I tend to just avoid the situation. I really wanted to attend an event once but the driveway to the location went down a hill and I couldn’t see the parking or the building and so I just passed right on by.
  2. Default to the experts: I am outwardly grateful for anyone who I’m dealing with to help me. I’ll be honest and say, “Look…I really don’t know how to do this thing and so any guidance you can give me will be appreciated.” This usually keeps the panic attacks at bay because I’m basically bowing at the expertise of whomever I’m interacting with and people LIKE being recognized for their expertise.

But sometimes time and emergency circumstances prevent either one of those from being options and that’s where my extreme reactions have come in lately.

I had to park at my kid’s school at pickup one day because I had to do something inside the school which meant I was “trapped” because they close that parking lot when the school pickup line starts moving. I knew this was going to happen and had asked Wes what protocol was and he was wrong and so I ended up feeling really dumb when they wouldn’t give me my kid and told me a different way to get him and the panic attack IMMEDIATELY hit me and the uncontrollable tears started flowing. IN FRONT OF EVERY PARENT IN LINE TO PICK UP THEIR KID AND ALL OF THE TEACHERS AND ALL OF THE STUDENTS.

But I had NO control over it. My heart just started racing and the tunnel vision kicked in and the tears started flowing. BAM! Meltdown mode commenced in a much more extreme (and embarrassing) manner than ever before.

This was a week or so ago and yesterday I had another issue. I just realized I was doing something wrong in checkout at the school – as I was doing it -and I basically had to beg for an exception which they would not give me and BAM! Spiked blood pressure, uncontrolled breathing, tunnel vision and MOTHER FUCKING TEARS.

There weren’t as many observers this time. BUT STILL.

The tears are the newer addition to my acute anxiety responses lately which is a terrible addition because it’s the hardest to hide. I can hide my spiked blood pressure and my shaking hands and my tunnel vision. I can not hide the tears that start pouring down my face with no warning whatsoever.

OH! And then there was our trip in the mountains where Donnie made a wrong turn and there was no place to turn around and so we just kept getting higher and higher on the mountain on more rural roads and getting lost is a trigger (especially in the mountains without cell service) and the tears started flowing IMMEDIATELY and my poor husband had no idea how to handle me. THANK GOD I WAS NOT DRIVING.

These acute responses linger longer than they used to as well. The blood pressure spike always produces a headache and the tears often send me directly into a shame spiral which means you can’t count on emotional stability from me for at least 3-5 hours.

I’m going to go to my doctor about this because I’m TERRIFIED of what this means about my major triggers like flying and crowds in terms of the surprise trip to NYC that my husband planned in November. If my mid-level triggers are causing this new version of a panic attack, what will my high-level triggers do?

Ugg. I just fucking hate anxiety. I hate how embarrassing it is. I hate how isolating it is. I hate how vulnerable it makes me. And I hate worrying what people who witness these panic attacks carry away regarding my mental health.

Please be kind, universe. Don’t judge me too harshly for my panic-induced tears.

12 thoughts on “F*ck Anxiety.”

  1. I’m so sorry that your anxiety is like this; if it helps at all, my reaction to someone who suddenly started crying in front of me would be “Oh dear, what can I do to help?” and not “What is wrong with her?” Anyway, I don’t have any advice, just sympathy, but I hope the doctor can help.

  2. I agree with CCR above. I would offer a hug and drive your car or whatever you needed help with. What would you tell your kids to do if this happened to them? Look for the helpers. We’re out there!

  3. I’m a crier. Such a crier! I cry when I’m happy, when I’m sad, when I’m grateful, when I’m angry, when I’m anxious, when other people are crying, and so on. And it can be really embarrassing! I usually just sort of say, “sorry, I’m a crier, just ignore it” and then laugh uncomfortably. Sometimes that helps and sometimes it doesn’t.

    Also, anxiety always seems to find new and interesting ways to mess with us. Just last week one of my coping mechanisms fell apart on me when I realized there was a potential it could backfire and not be helpful in a particular situation. Literally a situation that is less likely to happen than me winning the lottery or getting struck by lightning. My brain is an asshole.

    I hope your doctor has some solutions, because stuff like this sucks. And because I want you to love your trip to NY, because it is a very fun city to visit! One thing you can tell yourself — New Yorkers have seen everything and will not judge you for crying or anything else.

  4. I am absolutely a panic attack crier. I hate it, but I have no control over it, so I just tell people that my panic manifests itself with tears and let them judge if they must.

  5. My heart aches for you, Kim. I know how paralyzing anxiety can be, and it sucks! I echo the other commenters that my reaction would be one of compassion and not judgment.

    What is odd is that I have some of the same triggers, but I guess I’ve had them so long that it just is “normal” to me. As I get a little more emotionally healthy, the isolation I’ve lived with gets more frustrating to me though, and I see how these fears and behaviors aren’t serving me well at all and I should not think of them as normal. But I still miss out on things. I missed a wedding reception a few weeks ago because I couldn’t find parking downtown close enough. I cried all the way home (and most of the night and next day); it was the first wedding I’d been invited to in Huntsville in years.

    I really relate to the googling things like parking and how-to things. Of course, I rarely try the how-tos because I’m afraid I’ll mess up. So easy to not mess up if I just stay home with my books/tv/computer.

  6. Just a thought…. my sister started having uncontrollable crying like this around 45 and it turned out it was pre-menopausal hormones going crazy.

  7. This sounds like me when I began perimenopause which exacerbated already existing anxiety and agoraphobia as well as an overlay of angry depression. Therapy and anxiety meds helped tremendously. However, I did not want to take benzos for the rest of my life like my mother. I realize everyone is different but my doctor suggested CBD oil and once I found the right dose of full-spectrum CBD oil, things became noticeably more manageable. Good luck to you – anxiety is so difficult.

  8. You know I understand this, and PLEASE, text me any time. You know I text you when I’m having a hard time! I’d really like to feel like I could help you as much as you have helped me. Even to just say, I GET IT. I think one the hallmarks of having anxiety issues (GAD), at least to me, is having triggers that don’t generate a response that makes any sort of proportional sense. For example with me, one of my triggers is when more people are added to a social situation than I had anticipated. Growing up, if I was at my cousin’s house, and some of the neighborhood kid dropped by, I would have a full on panic attack. Crying, stomach cramps, adrenaline surges and sweats, and a complete flight response. I would have to call my father to pick me up. As someone who has a hard time with social interactions, I think it would trigger something in my ability to estimate what I who I was dealing with, the personalities, the attitudes, etc. Even just last month, J and I were on vacation. We had already spent a day with some friends, and the next day we were going to spend the day at a museum, just the two of us. When he received a text asking if would like some company on our museum visit (they had some scheduling open up), J replied that it would be great! And then he excitedly told me of the change in plans, anticipating that I would enjoy extending our visit with friends who we barely ever get to see. I immediately went into a panic attack. Angry, lashing out at him as inconsiderate and rude, telling him that I would just stay in the hotel, crying… it made no sense. I was able to explain and apologize once I had calmed down and had a short nap. He understood of course, and once I was able to have some time with the plan, it was fine. But my initial reaction was off the charts. So again… I get it.

  9. Right around when I turned 40, my anxiety was off the charts. I’ve had anxiety my whole life, so I was pretty used to it. But this was different.

    It seemed like whenever I would get triggered (which was also more frequent than it used to be), it was a lot more intense. And! The worst part is that it felt like the anxiety signal wouldn’t turn off for the rest of the day. So I would spend the whole day on the verge of tears all because of something small like my 10 year old son slapping the table when he lost a round on Fortnite. The sound of him hitting the table would startle me and trigger my anxiety, and then I’d have to hold back tears all day.

    From googling I figured out that I had a lot of symptoms of magnesium deficiency. So I started using magnesium lotion twice a day. (Topical application is a great way to get magnesium. That way it doesn’t flush out of your system before it’s absorbed.) After about three weeks of using the lotion, my eye twitch was gone. (I had thought that was from sleep deprivation, but it turns out it wasn’t.) A week after that, my anxiety was so much better. If I did get triggered, my coping skills worked like they used to and the anxious feelings would subside.

    I was so glad that I figured this out, because my doctor wasn’t very supportive when I told her about it. She begrudgingly did a blood test for my magnesium levels. (Which is interesting, because blood tests aren’t very accurate for showing magnesium deficiency. It’s usually just trying supplements and seeing if the symptoms get better in about a month.)

  10. I don’t usually cry when having an anxiety attack, but I did last weekNo shame in crying, that just the way some people do. My church has a box of tissues in every row, and not just during flu season. Many times parts of the message will hit people right in the feels and the tears will come, and that’s just the pastors! My anxiety is usually controlled by meds. but not right now.

  11. I am so sorry. I don’t have any advice, I just wanted to thank you. I have suffered from panic disorder since I was 10 or 11 (I’m 36 now), and reading this made me feel less alone. It is isolating and it’s not something anybody can really join you in when it’s happening but your piece on it is something that I would have loved to read as a young girl that thought I was the only one. I too have seen a lot of memes and posts about anxiety but none of them have ever captured just how debilitating it can be. To me anyway. Thank you for being so honest about that and I hope you find some relief. For what it’s worth I’ve either cried in or darted out of more panic-inducing situations than I care to think about and hate myself for it afterwards. You aren’t alone.

  12. I am so sorry. I can definitely relate to panic-inducing fears and I hope it helps to read the other comments on here and know that you are not alone. I will share with you some of my anxieties and then I’ll share with you what I’ve learned about my anxiety and what has helped me make sense of it so I can accept and love myself while still trying to fight my anxieties. First off, I TOTALLY UNDERSTAND anxiety related to public procedures. For example, I can’t seem to figure out how to use the subway train system. I am REALLY EMBARRASSINGLY BAD at reading and understanding subway maps to the point where using the train fills me with panic and makes me want to cry. Also, if someone comes up behind me and touches me without me seeing them coming, (even just a shoulder tap) , I panic and jerk away. Loud, sudden sounds sometimes make me panic and cry. Sometimes, a new job fills me with so much anxiety that I can barely function without shaking and crying because of the possibility that I might make a mistake. Then, after attempting the new job, I obsessively analyze all the mistakes I made and descend into the shame-guilt cycle over those mistakes until I can’t take my self-imposed emotional abuse anymore and give up whatever new endeavor I’ve attempted. I have spent literally HUNDREDS of hours researching the causes of and ways to overcome anxiety (and also depression, the other side of the mental illness coin), AND I’ve been in various types of talk-therapy. Here is how I currently understand it. If we are exposed to a traumatic event over and over again, (could be getting beat up at school, or a parent yelling at and criticizing you, or being sexually abused), then your brain develops the habit of a strong trauma response. This is the fight-or-flight response. It can look like freezing (shutting down), fighting (showing aggression) or flight (running away from the situation). The more times you are exposed to the traumatic event, the harder the trauma response is to reverse because those neural pathways get stronger every time you are exposed to the trauma. Even after you are removed from the traumatic environment, (for example, bully transfers schools, you leave emotionally abusive parent to go to college, you graduate from a sexually abusive coach), the trauma response STILL kicks in whenever you are exposed to whatever the environmental triggers are that remind you of the trauma. For example, perhaps a boss raises his voice and so you have a panic attack and cry because that is what your child self did whenever your parent screamed at you, or maybe when you were a kid, you got beat up and were repeatedly made to feel unsafe at the playground so now you are hyperviigilant about being aware of public parking procedures. (These are all hypothetical examples). Whatever the cause is, the trauma response lingers for years after the event. This is called COMPLEX TRAUMA or complex PTSD. I think it is possible to reverse the anxiety by changing your self-talk and therefore re-wiring the way your brain interprets and responds to these environmental triggers but it is damn hard to do because you have to consciously re-direct your self-talk over and over and over again, AT LEAST as many times as your brain experienced the original trauma. For example, let’s say that a parking lot gets full right as you get to the parking gate and the attendant gives you a complicated set of instructions to find the other open lot. This uncertainty triggers your trauma response – (freezing/flight), so you cry and panic. But THEN you re-direct your self talk. You say to yourself something like, “I am not in life-threatening danger. I am capable of finding the other parking lot even if I make a wrong turn or even if have to ask for help. If I am a few minutes late, I will not die or lose any close relationships.” This logic-based self talk is not going to stop the panic attacks overnight but maybe if you did it hundreds of times, every time you panic, then the new mental habit becomes unconscious and slowly replaces the old one and eventually the anxiety is reduced. I’m no therapist and I still have anxiety but at least this technique gives me hope that maybe there is hope for a way out of this and maybe I will feel more in-control of my anxiety one day.

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