What do you do when anxiety, fear, and worry leave you nothing but scared of the world around you? You FIGHT. I was DETERMINED that anxiety was NOT going to rule my life forever.
My first anxiety attack that I had my car back in 2014, combined with my obliviousness to the symptoms of the daily anxiety I was living with, together left me living in a state of denial and constant stress. It was not healthy. It did not help that I was too proud for my own good and did not want to admit to anyone, let alone myself, that there was anything wrong with me. I did not want to admit that my mind betrayed me and even worse; that my mind had the ability to affect my body.
As I dealt with the increase of my anxiety, I was so ashamed of myself for what I viewed as a blaring weakness. Before anxiety took hold in my life, I remembered the times that friends had came to me after having experienced panic attacks and anxiety. My friends wanted someone to talk to and I was glad to be there. I didn’t understand it one bit, but as their friend I wanted to help them through whatever life threw their way. I didn’t know what to say to them to help. I didn’t have a clue what I could actually do, which was so frustrating. I am ashamed to put this into words…. but as one of my best friends was talking to me about her anxiety attacks, I was inwardly thinking that she was weak and just needed to get over it. I remember thinking to myself that she just needed to not worry. How hard could it be to just stop worrying? Stop obsessing over something that had not happened yet? Couldn’t she just move on, not think about it, and get over it?
I feel so wretched to know I thought these things. My own thoughts that I had towards my own friends’ anxiety was part of the reason I didn’t want to admit what was happening to me. I had found myself in exactly their shoes and I didn’t want someone thinking those things about me. At that time, I cared what people thought more than I cared about the changes that were taking place inside my mind. I remember telling my friend to just get over it…man is that the wrong thing to say now that I have anxiety.
Anxiety is not something you can just get over, because someone tells you too. In fact, someone telling you to just get over your anxiety feels like they are dismissing how hard it is to overcome what you are feeling. It is something you WISH you could “just get over”. I don’t know how many times I said to others that if I could JUST get over it, I would. If I could JUST stop worrying I would. If I could JUST turn the thoughts plaguing me off, I would. I just didn’t know how to get over it. I didn’t know how to stop worrying. I didn’t know how to manage the constant stream of thoughts that kept me scared and anxious all the time. In the beginning I didn’t even know where to start. Anxiety is something you must work hard towards every minute of everyday in order to be free of it, and it was certainly not just something you "just got over."
The month following my first anxiety attack was hard. Every time that I drove the path to Chris’s house I passed by the place, on the interstate, that I had my first anxiety attack. Over that month, I noticed that every time I got in the car to make that trip, I would worry if it would happen again. What if my legs started going numb and my heart started racing again? What if this time I actually lost my vision or passed out on my drive? What if I couldn’t get over because traffic was too dense? What if something happened to me and I died in a car crash?
I had done this drive so many times before it was hard to count, yet, now that my anxiety was taking root in my life, it was terrifying. The thoughts were scary and made even a simple drive to see the love of my life terrifying. What could I do, though, except to do it anyway? I learned to do a lot of things in fear when I didn’t think I could do them. Everyone’s anxiety manifests in different ways and I was fixing to find out that my anxiety for the next year was going to affect driving the most. In fact, this is still the one area my anxiety can occasionally still present itself (thankfully not short trips, but I really have to really psyche myself up to make longer trips by myself).
Back then, I spent a lot of my time driving. I had to drive to and from work, I had to drive for work, and I had to drive to see Chris. Driving became scary to me, not just because of the dangers on the road, but because this was when I was alone. When I was alone and in my car was when my first attack happened. This was when my mind was allowed to have full control without the distraction of others to keep my thoughts away from worry. I used to love having my alone time; I actually relished in it. When did I become so scared to be by myself? When did I doubt my ability to do something? Why wasn’t I just able to get over this? Gosh it was as frustrating as it was scary.
Aside from the fear I was facing simply being by myself, it didn’t help that Chris’s job in Law Enforcement often gave me details that fueled my anxiety with driving. It wasn’t his fault. Just like everyone does with their significant others, he would ask me how my day was and I would tell him; and then I would do the same with him. Everyday I asked him how his day was, and everyday he would say it was good. Chris would sometimes tell me about wrecks that had happened, deaths, or dangers out in the world that I didn’t already know. I found myself getting overwhelmed with negative things, scary possibilities I had not considered, and new dangers. I wanted to be there for him and listen to him like he listened to me, but it was filling my mind with images and details that fueled my fears, particularly of driving.
I did not tell him this until months later when I had a full on break down at which point he stopped telling me details of his work for my own good, which he still does to this day. It’s not that I don’t support his job, but I can’t hear or deal with some of the things he encounters. I am not him and he is not me, we were each uniquely made to handle certain things; and I was definitely not made to handle what he encounters in his job.
I slowly started to dread work as well. Since I was a Sales and Marketing Director I had a lot of meetings each day. I used to love getting to drive downtown and meet at the offices of my clients. It had been exciting to me. However, I started dreading driving to my clients. I didn’t want to be alone in my car, and I was constantly scared driving would bring on a panic attack. I was also dealing with new fears. How did I not see all the danger on the roads before? Instead of trying to deal with my fears head on, I instead started to find ways to avoid them. I started making my meetings and appointments at my company office and tried to minimize driving as much as was possible.
I was committed to not let this affect my job, so when I did have to drive, I found that if I could just talk to someone on the phone I could get through the drive easier. I had a sequence of people I tried calling first: mom, dad, sister, Chris, and then if none of them answered, I would call a college girlfriend that I hadn’t talked to in a while. I was clever in keeping my true intentions from them all as to why I was calling so much more often. I told them I was just checking in, I was missing them, I just wanted to see how their day was, and that I had read a text from them earlier and decided to call them back instead.
Talking to them was a way for me to try to keep my mind distracted and get me to my destination. Instead of confiding in them, I didn’t want them to know what was happening to me. They were six hours away from me, which meant that I could keep up the front that I was just as put together as I always had been. I didn’t want my family to know that I was changing, because I didn’t like who I was becoming. It was a daily battle every day to get from one place to the next place. It was starting to be a scary place out there…
Now on top of my already stressful job, my moms’ sickness, and planning my wedding from six hours away, I was looking for a new job for when Chris and I got married. Since Chris was assigned a County to work, I knew that the transition would be easier for me to just get a job out his way and move where he already lived. I still had five months until the wedding and I figured it would take every bit of that time to find a new job and get settled in.
I was wrong. One month after applying and interviewing with a company, I was offered a job and I was asked to start in three weeks. I mentally tried to go through my checklist of what would need to be done. I had to put in my two weeks notice, move out of my apartment and move in with Chris (no judgement), go to training in Texas (I was having a hard time driving at this point people….the idea of having to fly out there made me stiff with fear), and I had to find a way to start a new job with confidence.
Yes, I was thankful and knew I was blessed to have found a new job, especially as quickly as I did. No, I was not ready for anymore change at that moment. I remember trying to talk myself through this new change that was coming my way. I told myself that I had flown many times and love to travel. I remember thinking that for goodness sake Ginger, you have studied abroad by yourself many times and traveled all over the United States and the world get it together. What made me so scared this time? Why was I so worried about something that used to fuel my excitement?
I put a smile on my face and tried to think of the excitement and positive things that were going to come out of this. In the back of my mind, I kept thinking I would have loved to have more time at my old job and condo, I really loved the job I had and enjoyed the area I lived in. I worried that this new job might not be a good. That’s always the gamble though, right? I told myself to put my big girl pants on and get over the fears I was paralyzed by, it would be fine.
Unknowns and what-if’s plagued at my mind for the next week to the point that I wasn’t sleeping much. My daily runs were not helping me keep stress at bay, and I now began to stress over getting everything done. I was still terrified to drive anywhere and started to actively decline when people asked me to meet them somewhere. Driving to Chris now took a lot out of me. I would get into the slow lane of the interstate, drive 50 Mph in a 70 Mph zone, and by the time I made it to his house my mind was exhausted after having run through every fearful scenario that could have happened on my hour drive. I would literally be shaking by the time I got there.
I would lay awake at night going over everything from the most minuscule things I needed to do to the most important big picture things that needed to be done. I was obsessing over things that had not yet happened and playing out scenarios in my head at least three different ways. I wasted my days and nights going over things that most of the time never came to fruition. I was also dealing with extreme anger with myself. I did not want to be the person that was so scared and anxious, but there did not seem to be a thing I could do to NOT be that person.
The world was now a scary place to me. I never will forget the feeling of disappointment and shame that came with admitting that I was scared everywhere I went, especially when I used to be fearless. I was now seeing everything as a danger, not just when I was driving. I was having panic attack after panic attack. I started having them at my condo and at Chris’s house when he was working and I was there alone. I was terrified someone would break in. I would go through what I would do if that actually happened, and get so worked up that I was a mess. Granted Chris did not live in a safe area, but still the extent of my fears and worries were irrational. I was living, yes, but not really living a life that was fulfilling and happy. I felt that I was in a constant state of trying to survive. Every minute was a battle for me… would my mind win or would I?
I decided then that I refused to live that way. I refused to live like that for myself and I refused to rob Chris of the woman that he asked to marry him. I was not going to rob myself of the life that I planned for myself that was full of love, happiness, adventure, and travel. I was not going to rob my mom and family of me when they needed me to be there for them. I was going to have to get some sort of help. I had to do this for me, for my future husband, and for the future I envisioned for myself. I was beginning to feel broken and scared but I was DETERMINED to see beauty and hope in the world again. I couldn't rely on Chris to be the only thing to pull me through as he was as helpless as I had been with my friends who suffered from anxiety. Chris was always there for me, but didn't know what to do to actually help. I didn't know how to get better on my own, so I knew I needed someones' medical help. Anxiety was NOT going to rule my life forever. It was devastating to me to admit that I needed to seek help and it was also humiliating and humbling.
Stay tuned for next weeks blog….I will be diving right in to doctors, therapies, medicine, and the overwhelming fear that maybe nothing was going to work.
Until then my readers,
Hey all you awesome people reading my blog. I'm Ginger and this blog chronicles how I live my life fabulously with anxiety.