anecdotes and reflections on life with depression and anxiety
The soft glow of my Kindle fades as my eyes drift closed. I force them back open and try again to find my place, determined to stay awake for one more sentence, one more paragraph. (Such is the life of a near-fanatical bedtime reader.) But despite my best efforts, I am soon rolling over, pulling the blankets up around my shoulders and wedging the now-darkened Kindle halfway under my pillow. I sink into a comfortable sleep for five, ten, twenty minutes -- bliss -- and then, suddenly, I am awake again.
I’m awake again because the unwelcome nighttime jitters have yanked me into consciousness, replacing the luxurious, drowsy feelings of bedtime with a maddening creeping sensation throughout my body. Rising in my gut and moving relentlessly out to my limbs, the feeling is comparable to hundreds of ants crawling underneath my skin, scratching at me from the inside. From my fingertips to my tailbone to the bottoms of my feet, I feel a complete inability to stay still, a desperate need to somehow get myself outside of my skin. My insides clench and churn. A horrible unsettledness pervades my body.
My anxiety monster has crawled out from under the bed.
I am reading cozily, tucked under the covers as my husband lies next to me reading something or other on his phone. I take a deep breath and settle more deeply into my pillows. I sigh heavily, poking the Kindle screen periodically to turn the page. Another conscious, intentional deep breath. My lungs don’t seem to fill. If I take my mind off of my breathing for even a moment, it becomes short and fast and I can’t get enough air. I remind myself that I’m in control of how I breathe, and put the book down so I can focus only on deep breaths, in and out. I still can’t get enough air.
I sit up, feeling that this will help, and take a sip of water. I try to remain calm, convincing myself that this is within the realm of my own willpower. You just need to breathe, I tell myself. By now my husband is looking up at me, a knowing but concerned look on his face. I try to keep breathing slowly. He will offer to open a window, turn on a fan, bring an ice pack from the kitchen. I will shrug him off and tell him I’m not hot. He will remind me that temperature changes are grounding for me. That I need to be grounded. That I am experiencing anxiety, not just shortness of breath for no reason. I try not to gulp in air as I think of ways to cope.
This time the monster has crept out from behind the closet door.
Sometimes it wears a different outfit or hides in a different place so it’s harder to recognize when it appears -- the genius of my personal anxiety monster is in its clever disguises and sneaky hiding places. Crawling sensations. Body aches and general discomfort. A blinding headache. Severe stomach cramps. A pounding heart. Shortness of breath. An inability to get comfortable.
Different camouflage, different manifestations -- same beast. If only the anxiety monster could turn up as a fuzzy, cuddly kitten once in awhile. Then we'd be getting somewhere.
oh, hey --
My name is Lauren. I'm thirty-something, and I like to take naps and read good books and watch bad television. I love my husband and I love my cat, and I live with depression and anxiety, which is mostly what you'll read about here.