Weekend Depression is a Thing

Let’s get real, shall we? I share about my anxiety and panic attack disorder often on the blog, but not my depression. Mostly because mental illness sucks and I hate that I have so much of it.

What I have realized lately about my depression, is that it is worse when I’m taking time off work.

Umm. What?!

You would think when I have days (hours more like.. I am a freelancer after all), I get super blue and depressed. Nothing interests me. During the week when I am going on hour 13 in a single day, I want nothing more than to throw my laptop against a wall and vegetate in front of the TV. Yet when I do finally finish with work and am ready to relax, I’m unable to.

Brains are fucked up.

I actually first started noticing weirdness when I went from “Holy shit, how am I going to pay my rent AND my cable bill?” to “Cool. I’m totally caught up on bills and not stressed about money right now.”

(As a freelancer, I realize this is short-lived.)

When the stress over finances and work went away, suddenly I became more anxious and more depressed. I re-stressed myself out over the fact that I couldn’t handle the lack of stress anymore. I couldn’t figure out what the problem was. The first thought was: Do I LIKE the stress?!

I don’t think that is what I’m missing, I just think I suffer from depression, but when other things are on my mind, I don’t notice it as much. This is essentially what weekend depression is. You are finally able to relax and unwind, which is great. The bad part is that your brain has enough time to think about things, and it’s not always what you’re expecting.

I miss the days when I could sleep until noon and watch Netflix marathons for so long, I didn’t remember if I ate that day. That used to be me. Now, I am a bit of a workaholic. Anyone who knows me, understands how insane that is. I hate working. At least I used to. It’s awesome that I found something to consume me so much, because it means I am almost always motivated to keep working. The problem is that, even when I technically can take a day off, I don’t.

So, maybe it is a combination of depression and plain ole’ workaholic-ness. That’s not a word. But I’m a writer and I can make up whatever words I want.

How about you? Do you find that during the weekend you’re not quite as excited as you should be? I have a feeling I will get the typical “What is wrong with you, FREAK” responses. I totally don’t blame you. I hate me a little bit too.

HAPPY SATURDAY!

 

Anxiety Diaries: Learning How to Drive Again

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If you suffer from anxiety or panic attack disorder, you are currently nodding your head at this quote. Truer words have never been spoken.

The root of all evil in my life is my imagination. My brain likes to talk to me when I’m trying to do normal things that humans can do, and it tricks me into thinking if I concentrate hard enough, I will cause my heart to stop beating. I will be the first person in existence to let her imagination literally kill her.

So that’s fun.

Great way to start off my Anxiety Diaries update.

When I got my very first real panic attack, I was behind the wheel. It was horrifying. I had never experienced anything like it before and I will never forget the pure terror I felt. Unfortunately, that kind of thing sticks with you. It makes driving difficult.

While driving is not easy, I have managed to learn how to drive again. I have to trick myself and I can only drive down certain streets and I go way out of my way so I can try to avoid turning left at stoplights and hopefully prevent myself from ever going on the freeway or over the bridge.

I would say I mange it without any major episodes about half the time. The other half I am just trying to get home. There is a stretch of road near my house where there is a wall on either side of the street, so no escaping. I just speed up that road and hope a copper doesn’t catch me. The whole “flight or fight” thing is no joke. I just need to know I can pull over and get away from where I am if I need to. It’s another reason I can’t drive on the freeway yet.

My biggest enemies while behind the wheel are:

  • Stoplights where I have to wait a long time or turn left.
  • Getting stuck behind the train at a stoplight.
  • Freeways.
  • Driving next to walls.
  • Bridges.
  • Traffic.

Other than that, I seem to be doing okay. I don’t drive far and I play all sorts of tricks on myself. I count backwards from 100, shout “NO!” like my mom taught me, pretend I’m just casually listening to the radio, or I sing really loud and terrible so I am more concentrated on my embarrassment.

It is easier than walking because you can get a lot farther when you’re driving. I have had to run up hills more than once carrying 50 lbs of grocery bags due to severe panic, and it’s not fun.

While driving still has its challenges, I would say my panic disorder overall is improving slightly. I don’t have the frequency of panic attacks that I used to, though they have not left completely. They’re just different now.

The biggest trigger for a panic attack is a panic attack (it’s as stupid as it sounds), so I just hope my next one isn’t for a while. Otherwise it’s back to holding onto the steering wheel so tight my hand has gone numb.

Happy Panicking!

 

The Anxiety Diaries: 5 Panics in 1 Day? Yep.

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This picture above is by far the best depiction of the thoughts that go through your mind during the beginning of a panic attack. 

The past three days have been hell, I won’t lie. Even talking about or thinking about these major panic attacks I have been having, and the tunnel vision, heart racing, chest pains and shortness of breath comes back. So it’s hard to blog about, but I feel the need to document it. I have a feeling a therapist is the next person I will see outside of my house.

It all started about 3 days ago, when I was going for a walk with my dogs. That’s it. A walk with my dogs. Walking anywhere is a bit of a struggle, but mostly with general anxiety, and not these major attacks. On that day, however, I got a major attack after swallowing my water wrong and dry heaving, which made me feel like I was choking, and it just escalated from there.

The following day I got another one when walking to the store. This was one of the “mini heart attack” ones where I get it for about 10 seconds in a single location, usually somewhere I have had a panic attack previously. No surprise, this was in the exact spot I had the one the day before. It’s like you’re walking through a tunnel of anxiety, but once you get out of it, everything is fine. So that’s basically what happened. My entire body got weak and it felt like I was crawling through the tunnel, but I made it home.

Today I experienced 5 of them. FIVE. I would cry, but that gives me heart palpitations which we all know just makes everything worse. The first was when I as again, walking to the store. I thought it would be no big deal because I didn’t have any anxiety this morning. It didn’t matter. As soon as I walked out the door, I felt it coming. On the way there, I had the mild anxiety I generally have while walking. And then it got worse. After about 1/4 mile (which is halfway to the store) I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to make it home. I had to reach out for things at every opportunity, to brace myself. (Which makes me think I have agoraphobia). I grabbed telephone poles, gates, fences, even tree branches. Anything.

Once I was in the store, I was fine, but then I had my 2nd one that day on the way home. This was bad. I actually felt like I was going to pass out. I grabbed my phone and was about to call someone to come get me, but I didn’t think anyone would be available. So I just ran. This is how you know it’s serious. I don’t run. Anywhere. I can barely make these walks without being winded. But with 3 heavy bags in my hand, I ran as fast as I could the 1/2 mile home, including up a super steep hill to get there.

Number three attack of the day occurred about 2 hours later when I was attempting to take the dogs for a walk. We made it about a minute through our housing community before I picked them both up and ran back home. Again, similar to agoraphobia, I just felt like I was too far from home (was so close I could see my house still) and had no control over my surroundings. When I got home, I sat on the steps and let them pee in the yard, but I felt bad about cutting the walk short.

The biggest surprise today was that the last two panic attacks were at home. I almost never have them at home. Probably not even 1% of the time. They always happen outside the home, when I feel like I can’t control where I am, especially when I’m out alone. The first was when I was just sitting at my computer, working, and all of a sudden I was sure my heart was no longer beating. I can’t describe it too much, as it is getting me all anxious and sweaty just thinking about it. The next was in the shower, which I also had to cut short. Seriously? I can’t even take a damn shower now?!

The ones at home got so bad that when I was in the living room going from one side to the other where there is nothing but empty space, I felt those “mini heart attacks” just trying to get past that empty space. What the hell? I think it’s therapy time. This is insane. And the more I am having, the worse it is getting.

So that was a fun time. I have been looking up and asking for advice on natural treatments in the meantime. So far, I am going to be trying mindfulness, yoga, chamomile and green tea, lavender oil, and counting backwards. Any other recommendations?

 

The Anxiety Diaries: It’s My Panic Attack and I’ll Cry if I Want to

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I haven’t actually had a panic attack in a few weeks, not a full blown one anyway. Then the other day I had chest pain and lung pain (no clue the reason, it’s gone now) and immediately I started panicking. This is one of the main sources of panic attacks and general anxiety occurring at home.

To be honest, the majority of my anxiety happens when I’m out in the world. I am usually okay when at home. But my biggest fears are my heart stopping, choking, or not being able to breathe, so any type of chest pain freaks me out. It also commonly leads to heart palpitations, which we all know is just a big mess for me.

It escalated exactly how I expected it to. I kept trying to suck in deeper breaths, only to realize I couldn’t, which then made me feel like my throat was closing and my air was being cut off. Then my throat got dry, which in turn caused it to be harder to breathe. Then the inevitable coughing fits, therefore worsening my chest pain.

Have we talked about stupid panic and anxiety is? It is basically a series of events of you virtually causing the attack in the first place.

Midway through the panic attack that lasted about 45 minutes, I started crying. I always know it’s going to happen, but this was the first time I realized I cry almost every time I have a bad one. I think it has something to do with being afraid and frustrated.

My anxiety frustrates me more than anything. In the midst of one, I am fearful for my life, but I am mostly just irritated at it happening. I know I have to wait it out, I know it will be hell until it’s over, I know afterward I will feel fine and like a crazy person. So I cry. Because I just want this part to be over. I want to never have one again. I want to be normal and be able to have chest pains or walk across the street or over a bridge without feeling like I am a 33-year old about to have a heart attack or a stroke.

Hopefully I’m not the only one this happens to. I can’t seem to control it either. It just happens. It is one of those cries where you feel like you are either going to cry or throw up, if that makes any sort of sense.

If I haven’t said it enough times, anxiety is super fun!

JennSig

The Anxiety Diaries: Overcoming My Everest

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I stole his from Pinterest. This post is in honor of it being March 9th, National Panic Day!

Not the actual Everest. That’s a really tall mountain, right? Yeah, pretty sure I would have a heart attack and plunge to my death after about 5 minutes. No, my Everest is the crosswalk down the street from my house. I know it sounds ridiculous, but when you have a mental illness (i.e. anxiety and panic attack disorder), most things do, but you can’t really explain them.

As I mentioned in this post, I used to only have GAD. Just an overwhelming feeling of anxiety and panic, not actual panic attacks. There’s a big difference. If you only have one or the other, you are missing out on a whole lot of fun. Anyway, my first real panic attack was about a year ago when I was walking across the street about ½ mile from my house, just trying to get home from Starbucks. Let a girl have her coffee!

I survived it – barely – but since then, I haven’t been able to go across the street that direction. Just that crosswalk. Others do kind of freak me out, but I can get past them if I walk-run, and even better if someone else is walking across at the same time. The first time I attempted it was only about a week after the major panic episode. The little green walking man lit up, I lifted one foot to put it onto the street, and just froze. I literally couldn’t move. I waited for the light to go through about 3 rounds before I gave up and went home.

Since then, I have figured out ways around it. Not only is Starbucks across that street, but Five Guys, Game Stop, and Cupcakes. CUPCAKES you guys. When I really need a sugar or caffeine fix, I can either take my shoes off and J-Walk across the middle of the street about a block before the crosswalk, or go about ¼ mile down the way and use the other crosswalk. This one just seems shorter and easier, even though it isn’t and my head is just a jumbled mess.

I don’t understand the no-shoes thing. For some reason it helps to feel my feet on the ground. Someone figure out what that means and get back to me.

For about a year, I have been doing this, mostly just avoiding all the things I love. But then a few days ago, I really wanted a 16-ounce, 600-calorie “coffee” and I just did not feel like going the long way around or trying to run across the street, carrying my shoes, and looking like a mental patient. (No offense to mental patients)

My husband convinced me to just walk across the street. As someone who doesn’t have anxiety or panic attack disorder, he doesn’t really get it. And you can’t expect anyone to. He has hypochondria, which I think is just the stupidest illness on the planet, but like I said.. when you don’t have it, you just don’t get it. His advice was, “Just walk across without thinking about it.”

No shit. Think I haven’t thought about that?  For some reason, this time I followed his advice and did it. I figured out the trick to it. I literally have to just go without thinking. It’s not as easy as it sounds. If I have to stand there and wait for the light to change, watching cars go by, it won’t work. The longer I stand there, the more my brain wheels start moving. So I have to time it perfectly. About a block down the way, I have to watch the cars and how the stoplights change. If I can manage to get to the crosswalk right when it’s about to change, I can just get onto the crosswalk and make a run for it.

It worked. The first time I got to the other side, I swear to God I thought I just finished a marathon. I half expected someone to run up and give me a medal for my bravery. Nobody was there to give me my reward, so I just self-high-fived myself, and have made it across twice since then.

If you are being kept from something vitally important to your existence, like sugar or caffeine, I suggest just taking off your shoes and making a run for it.

The Anxiety Diaries: My First Real Panic Attack

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I wish I had some elaborate story where my first real panic attack was just after saving a box of kittens from drowning, and even though I suffered the debilitating panic attack, I managed to come out of it a heroine. Like Superwoman. Or another female superhero I don’t know the name of.

But no. Because this is me. My first real panic attack was walking across a crosswalk. That’s it. Just a random crosswalk.

Without a car, I do a lot of walking. When I had my first panic attack, I was walking across the street after hitting up Starbucks, just like I had done dozens of times before. The panic came when I was about halfway across, and I suddenly couldn’t move. I froze right there in the middle of the crosswalk at a super busy intersection. This wasn’t a little casual side street, it is a major street with a shit load of cars all waiting to pass. So there is about 20 cars on either side watching me as I stand without moving in the middle of a crosswalk, clutching my heart thinking I am having a heart attack, and not being able to breathe.

There were no warning signs, it just came out of nowhere. Completely random. I always thought a real panic attack would be triggered by something, or I would feel my normal anxiety first. But nope. One minute I’m fine, the next my feet feel like they’re made of concrete, I can’t breathe, my throat is dry, it feels like it’s about a million degrees, and my heart palpitations are so bad I just keep waiting for death to take me.

Luckily, I was able to move my concrete feet enough to stumble across and not die, but it sucked. I still felt like I couldn’t breathe and that my heart would stop beating any second, so I clutched my latte and ran for it. I don’t run, so you know this is serious. Like, if a serial killer was chasing me with an axe in his hand, I would try really hard to jog briskly.

It was about a week later when I realized I was traumatized by my first panic attack, and could no longer walk across that damn street. Since then, I have had all kinds of panic parties. When I’m riding in the car, while walking my dogs, just before falling asleep when the heart palpitations start, when I’m watching cartoons normal shows that adults watch.

I’m an introvert with social anxiety that now has her worse panic attacks when going outside; it’s a miracle I ever leave the house.

What about you? Have you ever suffered a similar experience? Tell me about so I don’t feel like a crazy weirdo.

JennSig

The Anxiety Diaries: Heart Palpitations

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Get the heart plush here.

At the very beginning of my new life with anxiety and crippling panic attacks, heart palpitations were my worst enemy. Nowadays, I don’t get them as often, but when I do, it ultimately leads to a panic attack lasting anywhere from 15 minutes to four hours or so. They are by far one of the worst things I experience, since I can literally feel my heart beating.

Everyone has different situations that cause them to go into ultimate panic mode: for me, my biggest fears are not being able to breathe, choking, or that my heart will suddenly stop beating. Enter heart palpitations. Every time I can feel my heart beating so severely, I am just waiting for it to stop. It doesn’t make me feel better knowing it is still beating, it only gets me more anxious. So that leads to more anxiety and restlessness, which then makes the heart palpitations even worse.

It’s a vicious cycle with seemingly no end in sight.

Some nights, I am so terrible that I pass out as I am listening to the heavy, frightening beats, and wake up the next morning not sure how I managed to fall asleep. Other times, though, it takes me hours to relax.

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Here are some helpful ways I have found that help me put a stop to the heart palpitations:

Distract yourself. It is by far the best way to start slowing them down. They won’t go away immediately, but if you can find something else to occupy your mind, they gradually calm. Personally, I have to get up and watch TV, read a book or even write a blog post. The moving around helps as well as the mental distractions.

Get exercise. If you’re getting heart palpitations during daylight, you can go for a walk outside. In reality, any type of movement is helpful. I have found by moving around, I don’t notice the heart palpitations. once I think they’re gone, my heartbeats actually calm, really making them go away. It’s just a little trick I have learned.

Drink cold water. While you’re up, get a glass of cold water. For some reason, cold water slows down your heart rate and helps about 50% of the time for me. Mine get pretty bad, so I won’t lie and say this is a magical cure. Others swear by cold showers, but.. pass.

Perform breathing exercises. Anyone struggling with anxiety disorder or panic attacks should know proper breathing techniques. I’ll be honest here: they don’t work for me all that often, but that doesn’t mean they won’t work for you. Completely worth a try.

Things you shouldn’t do if you get heart palpitations frequently:

Drink excessive amounts of alcohol

Drink caffeine before bedtime

Take certain medications

Stay off Google. You WILL somehow end up on a page telling you palpitations mean an impending heart attack. Just don’t.

JennSig