My Anxiety Timeline: From the Start Until Whenever

3 Jan

No one ever recognizes their first anxiety attack. I liken it to the clown from IT because in my case, they always come in the form of things I fear the most. I don’t think I can pinpoint my first attack, but I can remember the time in my life when they began.

 

I was around twelve years old. I was in junior high school, possibly the most insecure time in anyone’s life. My household had always been full of dysfunction, but it was when I was twelve that I started to recognize it for what it was. I would wake up in the middle of the night around three or four in the morning, shaking so bad from head to toe that my kneecaps felt like they could pop off my body. To this day, I have an insane fear of vomiting. It is the one bodily function that I don’t feel like I have control of. So when my attacks came on, my thought pattern often went like this: I think I have to throw up. What if no one hears me? What if I didn’t wake up, I would’ve choked? Well it’s coming. I feel funny. It must be about to happen. Oh my God I’m going to vomit. I’m going to die. I am going to vomit to death. Oh my God, I’m going to die. I’m going to die. I’m going to die.

 

Weird shit huh?

 

I would go to my mother’s bedside crying and shivering. “I can’t sleep,” I would say, “I have to throw up.”

My fear of vomiting was no secret and any time I went to my mother worried that I might have to throw up, she would accompany me to the bathroom and stay with me until the ordeal was over. One night while I was in high school, I was sick and decided to brave the ordeal on my own. My mother’s bedroom was above mine. Somehow she heard me and still came into the bathroom and stayed with me until I was able to go back to bed. When I was in junior high however, most nights I was not ill, just anxious. My mother would say, “I don’t know what to do with you. Nothing is wrong. Go back to bed. Go read until you fall asleep.”

But how could I read when all I was thinking was, “I’m gonna die?”

 

My anxiety attacks, plus a lame suicide threat, and some inappropriate behavior landed me in a few therapy sessions with an overweight white woman, who’s face stayed hidden behind huge glasses and shaggy blonde hair. I am not sure who lost interest in these sessions; myself, my mother, or the therapist herself, but therapy with her was so short lived that I don’t even remember her name or anything she might have ever said to me.

 

After that, the dumb behavior cooled off and I didn’t threaten suicide again for another ten years, but the anxiety attacks continued. My aunt decided I should drink chamomile tea before bed, and that helped significantly. I could sleep again and only experienced anxiety in what seemed like more appropriate situations such as public speaking, or meeting new people.

 

Then, less than a year out of high school, I got pregnant.

 

The constant worry about vomiting returned full force due to a morning sickness incident on my way to take a final on an unseasonably hot day in May of 2002. I spent every day for the first two trimesters of my pregnancy vomiting, or worrying about vomiting. It’s safe to say, being pregnant was a highly unpleasant experience for me, although many women experience prolonged nausea and vomiting. The nausea and throwing up ceased by my third trimester, but the fear lived on, and acid reflux did not help at all. Even after I gave birth, the fear continued to hover. Its only now I that I realize the fear persisted due to my external conflicts.

 

As aforementioned, my household growing up was full of dysfunction. My childhood was not horrible, but the way the adults treated each other was a horrible example of how people should treat each other. There were long periods of tension thicker than triple layered cakes. My room, my notebooks that I wrote stories in, paperback novels, my Prince CDs, and VHS tapes provided much solace and escape. Outside of my bedroom door three dependent yet alpha women-my mother, grandmother, and aunt- battled over anything from money, to furniture, to food, and most disconcertingly the five children they were raising together. So I hid.

 

But once I became a mother, there was no more hiding. My solace disappeared. At nineteen, I had a baby hanging from one tit, and a man hanging from the other. I relied heavily on Mylanta tablets throughout my pregnancy to absolve nausea, and Benadryl to fight motion sickness. After giving birth I continued to walk with Mylanta and Benadryl in my purse. Soon it became just Benadryl. Gradually, Benadryl became the answer to everything.

 

Yes, you read right.

 

I developed an addiction to Benadryl.

 

How can Benadryl be addictive right? I don’t know. All I know is I couldn’t relax and I was tired of not being able to relax. I only felt good when I was paying attention to the baby, or when I was sleeping. So whenever I felt like I just couldn’t bear… I popped a Benadryl, or two… maybe even three. Oh yeah, by the way, I am aware this was full on Postpartum depression. I just hate the word depression because to this day I never felt sad… just tired and afraid.

 

I had gone from one household of dysfunction to another when I moved in with my child’s father and my fear skyrocketed. Being raised by three alpha women, I believe I inherited alpha woman traits. I am not completely sure that I am an alpha woman myself as I have learned over time how and when to let my male significant others lead. Yet, I longed to run my own household, but I had literally moved across town to live under someone else’s parent and be treated like a child, strictly due to my age and not necessarily my maturity level. For months I popped Benadryl capsules back to back to sleep through the oppressing feeling of not being in control of my own life; a fear that manifested itself in the form of nausea.

 

My days melded together so much so that one day my mother said to me, “When was the last time you washed your hair?”

I was standing in my old bedroom in a nightshirt, my skinny legs and ashy knees were showing, and my hair, partially matted crowned my head like a bird’s nest. “Did you even eat today?” she pressed.

I don’t know, and at the time I probably lied and said I did, but honestly I remember when she asked me that question. But in that moment I couldn’t remember if I ate.

 

The dates get jumbled in my mind, but I had been to the emergency room several times in the year 2003 due to dehydration. I was not eating or drinking. I was just mothering and sleeping. Although the memory is vague, I know the last time I went to the ER, the doctor explained: You haven’t been eating. So your stomach is shrinking. That’s why when you try to eat what seems like a normal portion to you, you feel ill. To deal with the nausea, you take Benadryl… you take Benadryl repeatedly, and you end up taking it on an empty stomach. You’re deteriorating your shrunken stomach with an antihistamine.

 

I stopped taking Benadryl.

 

My family made it a point to see to it that I ate three times a day and got sufficient rest.

 

But I had lost over thirty pounds at this point. That probably doesn’t sound like much, but pre-pregnancy I was about a hundred and ten pounds. At my last appointment before giving birth I weighed one hundred and thirty-eight pounds. At my first appointment after my final ER visit I was eighty-nine pounds. This was a huge deal.

 

From 2003 until 2007 my doctor could not figure out how to get my weight back up. Contrary to popular opinion… I ate. I was a young housewife with a growing child, I cooked every day, and I ate what I cooked. The only thing that could be confirmed was that I was lactose intolerant. However I still ate the typical Black American and Caribbean diet… rice and beans or peas every day, turkey, oxtail, chicken, steak, seafood, vegetables, and an array of sugars in bread and pastries. Pasta has been and always will be my quick go-to, so we ate spaghetti and/or ziti at least four times a month. Still my weight fluctuated between eighty-nine and ninety-three pounds. At this point I had lived with tension in my bones for so long that I gave up on the idea of ever relaxing and adjusted to walking around on edge. That constant robotic-like state, I believe, kept me from achieving and maintaining an appropriate weight.

 

Like a light switch, my weight began to climb exactly one week after splitting with my daughter’s father. My doctor’s exact words were “You’re one hundred pounds. Do not go back.”

 

I failed to mention the other aids I relied on besides family after that last ER visit in 2003. I was back in therapy.

I went into premature labor that had to be stopped in my second trimester. My doctor deduced it was a result of stress anxiety and set me up with a therapist. I stuck with her until my daughter was a month old. I would go to her and mostly just talk about my feelings. She moved away, and my doctor saw that my psychiatric care continued with both a psychiatrist and a social worker. The psychiatrist prescribed Paxil for a while, and some other pill. I couldn’t deal with either of them. Although I enjoyed the sedation of Benadryl, antidepressants offered sedation that felt more like tunnel vision. I literally felt like I could not see anything in my periphery, and I felt like I was always in the dark and like my ears were clogged. My body felt numb. I guess antidepressants are supposed to numb mental and emotional pain, but for me they numbed my five senses and heightened the intangible discomfort. My doctor didn’t press the issue of the psychiatrist or the meds, but she felt it would be good for me to continue counseling sessions with the social worker.

 

The root of my pain was the lack of control I felt in my life. My social worker knew I would not leave my child’s father and so aside from being a listening ear, she provided coping methods. Chamomile tea and breathing methods are what I used to calm down and bring myself back to reality in an anxious state. Music and frequent me-time kept most of my episodes at bay.

 

When I left my daughter’s father, the likelihood of an anxiety attack decreased significantly. Now, eleven and a half years later, I can probably count on one hand how often they happen. I no longer live in a state of fear. I’ll be honest, the idea of being sick and regurgitating still jolts me, but it’s not an all-day everyday thing anymore. There are still situations when an anxiety attack can creep in, and instead of completely losing my shit I face it. If I’m with people I say, “Hey, I’m having an anxiety attack, I want to sit, I want to go outside. Can I have some water?”

 

Fuck it. I am prone to panic and/or stress anxiety. But it will no longer control my life to the point where I need a Benadryl to walk to the corner store, or I am severely underweight.

 

The only depression I will acknowledge was the Postpartum. So much was happening to me mentally, physically, and emotionally that it made more than enough sense for my body to be completely out of whack, and cause me to literally neglect my own personal needs. For someone like me, anxiety is just a part of life and depression is not an option. I fight hard on the days that look dark. However, now I recognize the darkness only occurs when I feel helpless. In my helplessness I look for solutions. As long as I am working to solve my problems, I cannot be consumed by them.

 

I am not sure that I have ever told this story in full before. But here it is. Here are the rest of the pieces of the puzzle for those who know who Van Moore really is. I present no solutions, only my experiences and the coping mechanisms that worked for me. Still, I hope the story is helpful.

 

 

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One Response to “My Anxiety Timeline: From the Start Until Whenever”

  1. Christie January 3, 2019 at 10:49 pm #

    I totally understand my fear was not having control of I felt I couldn’t control any thing I would have panic attacks and I would make my self throw up to have some type of control.

    Like

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