a young woman's experience with anxiety

Archive for November, 2013

a new normal?

i helped set up a party this weekend and something happened that made me think.

the event was held in a huge building with very long floors — it reminds me of a giant warehouse with multiple levels. tammy, one of the women who was also helping out, was in traffic and needed directions to the building. she called terri, the coordinator, for directions and they hung up.

10 minutes later, tammy calls again. she’s on our floor now and can’t find our room. she is very worked up–almost unreasonably so. the first thing she says is, “i’m about to turn around and go home if i can’t find this room!” she’s totally serious and even starts bickering with terri, who is trying her best to give her further directions. i don’t know tammy very well but the whole exchange surprises me.

a few minutes later, tammy enters the room. she’s visibly bothered, uncomfortable and tense.  “i was getting ready to take the elevator and go home,” she announces. “i really don’t like to not know where i’m going.”

* * *

tammy had endured traffic as she traveled from her suburb to the city and was all dressed up for this halloween party. yet she was totally ready to go home because she could not find the room we were in. and even though she bickered with terri on the phone, i knew she wasn’t angry. she was a little annoyed — and very anxious. and it was a weird experience for me to see that happening in someone else (part of me wishes i could go back and help her work through the anxiety). her tension did taper off once she found the room, but i wondered…

…could she imagine feeling that way all the time? could she imagine not being able to relax even though she found the room? she really was handling being lost very well, so how would she handle feeling that way most of the time? would she adapt to it, like people with anxiety disorders do? would she just get used to feeling wired? of existing in a fuzzy bubble? what would she have done if she wasn’t able to come down from her panicky feelings?

i remembered being that scared once upon a time: when i had my first panic attack. it was unfamiliar, uncomfortable, weird and i didn’t like how it made me feel. but then, as i went from feeling anxious only sometimes to most of the time, it became my new normal. i just became used to existing in this uncomfortable state. thinking about it that way actually blows my mind. it made me remember that…i wasn’t born feeling this way–i lived a life without this feeling, once upon a time. it sucks to know that this went from being an occasional discomfort to an almost daily discomfort. and it sucks that the only way to the other side of such a primal discomfort is to sit with it and know it can’t hurt you.

it does make you a stronger and more empathetic person, that’s good.

but still…i wish this wasn’t my normal. i wish this wasn’t the norm for so many people.