I’ve had some really bad anxiety days. Days where I’ve dragged myself to class only to fall asleep in every single one barely keeping afloat because I haven’t slept the night before. Days where I’ve been so anxious that someone closing a door too loudly causes me to panic and want to immediately leave whatever situation I’m in. I’ve randomly walked off of soccer pitches sobbing and slowly sitting on my team’s bench without even being truly subbed off. Usually for me the anxiety I feel heightens around a day or a couple of hour period of panic before it tapers off. This week was a massive exception to the norm for me.
Sunday night I had a hard time sleeping. I didn’t think much of it. I knew I was worried about two big projects with work but I also knew it would fade as soon as I started work on them. I ended up scribbling down thoughts and working for a few hours Sunday night to help ease the feelings. It kind of worked. I went to bed late fighting myself as I curled into bed.
Monday hit me hard – I was sleep deprived and just barely starting to get a sense for just how much needed to be done for one of the projects. I knew what I was taking on was a huge pain point and time consuming but I didn’t fully process what that meant for me. Added to that, I had soccer that night which, for some reason, sparked more panic. I don’t know why this happens to me but I STILL to this day get nervous before playing soccer. You’d think playing a sport for 20 years would mean you are at ease playing. Nope nope nope. It means I am not allowed to make any mistakes and if I do I’ve failed the team. I have tried all sorts of mental tricks to reframe my little brain into thinking otherwise. I still get nervous – feel free to laugh at me. I would.
Side note: I tend to know if I’m cycling into depression if I don’t get nervous before playing soccer. That’s usually a sign I’m being apathetic which, if you know me, is a major red flag.
I came back from soccer trusting that, as normal, my anxiety would fade after playing. It didn’t. I couldn’t necessarily pinpoint why. I was too exhausted from the day to try to do more work so I tried to “relax”. I meditated. I stretched. I tried to read a bit. Wrote a few postcards. Cut to 2AM and I’m wide awake panicked. I don’t know when I actually fell asleep.
I couldn’t even sleep in Tuesday morning. I woke up at around 6am in a panic. I managed to fall back asleep for a bit before dragging myself to my computer to work. It felt like the next time I looked up it was 8:30PM and I hadn’t left the house. I was still anxious yet exhausted from the day. This usually means writing about it or trying to plan for good behaviors won’t do the trick – I need to physically wear my body down. I was sore from soccer the night before but got myself dressed, headed for the car, andddddd found my neighbor had blocked me in. New plan! Work out at my apartment and have a “chilllll night” complete with a netflix movie, texts to friends, etc.
Netflix decides to recommend I watch the movie “Carol”. I remember a friend telling me about the movie so I was game (plus the whole movie was about a lesbian in the 1950s!). Warning: Going to potentially spoil the movie BUT you should watch it. It’s really gripping. The only problem was the entire time I watched the movie, I was convinced one of them was going to kill themselves. It just had to be the way the movie went. There was no way there could be even close to a happy ending. Now you have already anxious Anne watching a movie about two women in the 1950s having to hide their relationship convinced one is going to kill themselves in desperation. Cut to 3AM and I’m still WIRED from the movie because I spent the entirety of it prepping myself for the suicide scene that never came. Combined with that, I knew I needed sleep to be functional for work and to lessen the anxiety I was feeling. This made me anxious about sleep! At some point I eventually fell asleep only to have to wake up at 7:30AM to prep for a call at 8AM.
Wednesday was the scary day – the “oh shit uh this is bad” day. At one point, I went to leave the house to go work at a coffee shop thinking it would help my rapidly beating heart. I grabbed my car keys and walked out the door. As I got to my car, I realized I forgot my house keys. I walk back to my apartment, open the door, put my car keys down, pick up my house keys, and walked down to my car only to realize I had put my car keys down. I finally go back to my apartment once more and grab both sets of keys when it hits me that I hadn’t even put gym clothes on. This is when I had a moment of awareness that maybe I shouldn’t drive. I figured I could still get work done though and proceeded typing away. Thank god I read over my writing because I caught myself multiple times starting sentences only to not end them. I forgot to eat lunch until 3PM which didn’t help anything. I had barely had half a cup of coffee because I forgot about it too (that’s when you know it’s bad).
I worked until I just couldn’t anymore – this helped in a strange way. The major projects that were partially causing me to have this exceptional response started to fall into place as they always do. I managed to fall asleep on my couch for about 10 minutes after shutting my computer before I jolted awake again. I knew I had to get myself to the gym because I was definitely worse off having not done so yesterday. I checked everything 3 times before leaving the house only to think I had forgotten my phone, turning back, and finding my phone in my hand. It was almost comical if I wasn’t in such an anxious daze. I slowly drove to the gym and forced myself not to use any equipment that would normally require me to have a lot of body awareness. I didn’t injure myself so yay!
After the gym, I was better but I could still feel this constant buzz of anxiety mashed together violently with complete sleep deprivation. For the first time in my life, I went to the grocery store and bought alcohol (read: two glasses of wine) with the sole purpose of using it to dull me (really should have gone for weed). It’s almost like my brain had gone haywire and I knew no amount of working out, meditation, healthy food, texting friends, etc. would fix it. I need an off button. I needed sleep. I fell asleep last night at around 1AM and got nearly 7 hours of sleep (had an early AM call at 8AM).
I feel completely reset today. I’m still quite tired but the anxiety and panic has faded into the background. Thanks to the mental clarity brought by getting some sleep, I also now know what was causing me to panic – every aspect of my life had some stressor that was more than normal. Beyond that, I simply did not trust myself at the beginning of the week with the two self imposed stress machine projects I had taken on. This part of the equation, I’m still wrestling with – why don’t I trust myself? In any case, rather than recognizing the whole of stress together across my life, I kept seeing each area as separate. I’d finish work and get anxious about non work personal stuff. I never let myself off the hook.
Ironically, this whole thing happened right when I decided to focus on being really proactive about my mental health. Setting goals around meditating, leaving the house multiple times a day, working out, eating healthy, exercising, stretching, reading etc. I tried. I really really really really tried. I had the food cooked – I forgot to eat it until 3pm. I meditated and worked out – it didn’t help. Blah blah.
The good news? I am off work tomorrow along with next Monday and Tuesday. I have a fantastic date of a day planned out for myself tomorrow including the ocean, coffee, postcards, soccer in the middle of the afternoon, and the San Diego symphony. I am heading to LA on Saturday and deep into nature on Sunday. I have no plans for Monday and Tuesday. Last night’s off button was temporary – this vacation time is the real reset button I know I need. Don’t make my mistake, kiddos. Take care of yourself – even if it means getting some wine so your brain will shut up and you can sleep 😉