Velvety blackness. For only a moment though. It becomes hardened as I focus on the depth of the darkness more.
I open my eyes a bit wider, trying to take in as much light as I can but it’s not enough. The glow from halogen lamps outside struggle to penetrate the wooden shutters in my room. I’m not afraid though. I’ve never been afraid of the dark. It cloaks and hides the world so well.
For a few minutes, I scratch my head. It’s a side effect from having the heater blowing non-stop this winter; my dry scalp that is. I would have the pediatric humidifier going right now if I knew it would have held up its water allotment throughout the night. Instead I only run it until I’m about to fall asleep. The gurgling noise it makes would keep me awake all night anyway. There’s a reason it was at the dollar store.
Reaching for my phone on the bedside table I illuminate the immediate area where my bag sits on the floor. Rummaging through the plethora of pill bottles, I begin to pull out the two largest ones first. I read the labels with the phones glow and after being sure I’ve chosen the right ones, I pop one pill each from them. Then it’s onto the smaller bottles.
There’s the anti-depressant I don’t take anymore. The mood stabilizer I don’t take anymore. There are two bottles of that one. One strength from my psychiatrist and one from my primary doctor. Air puffs from my mouth from misplaced humor as I remember how far apart the strengths are. One doctor wants to overdose me and the other one is so conservative. Oh, there’s the pill that helps me sleep but I don’t take it anymore either. I’ll choose to be a zombie when I have nothing left to live for. Laughing as usual, I glance at the bottle that holds another “anti-anxiety” med that I don’t take anymore. I laugh because it causes me to be more anxious.
Finally, the third and final med I’m looking for. Only half of one though. I’ll be taking two more during the day. Maybe three. Depending on how my anxiety goes and if I need to bring down the old blood pressure.
I find my Styrofoam cup of room temp water and after shaking it, I decide it’s enough to wash down my beta blocker, blood pressure med and anxiety pill this morning.
Laying my head back against my pillows I wonder for the umpteenth time why I still have all those bottles of medications in my bag. It’s the same stupid routine every morning and even sometimes during the day. Forage through to find the ones I need; examine labels and remember what they are for. It’s almost a compulsion some might say but for some reason I can’t bring myself to dispose of them. I brush the thoughts away for another day. I don’t really care right now why I don’t get rid of them.
Sighing I place my feet on the floor and I stretch, scratch my head again and stand up slowly. I know the pills haven’t kicked in yet but the nurse in me reminds myself that I could pass out if I get up too quickly after taking blood pressure meds. My brain works in mysterious ways.
Padding across the wooden floor, I wonder if the people downstairs can hear me at this ungodly hour. I turn on the light over the stove and my vision is startled by the bright light, even though it’s not as bright as the others I will not turn on just yet. I head to the bathroom and sit unceremoniously on the toilet to relieve myself. Adjusting my hair in its ponytail I look out towards the coffee maker.
Should I make coffee? Maybe. It’d be nice. It might also cause my heart to race which in turn might make me anxious and then the vicious cycle has started for the day and all at the peril of my own hands.
Finishing with the toilet I run the warm water and wash my hands, wipe the washrag quickly over my face, smearing the black from my eyeliner from the day before. I never wash my face at night. Too much trouble and I think how many women would chastise me for not doing that if they knew. Who cares, eh? I check my eyes. What do they tell me today? I read my pupils like an old voodoo woman might read tea leaves or animal bones. Except they only tell me that I’m awake too early.
I say a quick prayer and ask for Allah to take my anxiety again today. The anxiety I know will inevitably creep up on me over the next few hours.
Turning on the coffee maker I move to make my bed and then sit down on the white comforter to take my blood pressure. The low battery symbol pops up and I realize I’ll have to eventually venture to the dollar store to buy more batteries and I silently wish for them to last for a few more days.
I’m thirty-eight and this is where I’m at this morning. Every morning for the past few weeks. It’s my routine and while it may seem dismal to others it’s become a comforting routine to an extent. That can be good and bad. Good because it keeps me calm; bad because it’s not outside of my comfort zone. But what would be outside of my comfort zone this early in the morning. I mean what could I possibly be doing at five in the morning that puts me in a different routine? Rhetorical questions this early don’t do me any good so I don’t even dwell on it for now.
The smell of coffee permeates my room and I make a cup. Sitting down at my desk I look at the corkboard above me on the wall and look at my to-do list with the little boxes neatly beside each item. Some things have prices next to them. Those are things I must take care of in the immediate future. Things that need to be done before I leave for my big move.
Sipping from my cup I think of yesterday. Not to live in the past but to remind myself of why I’m so tired this morning. I was so tired last night. That’s what making it through an anxiety attack feels like afterwards. A weariness that permeates your body to the very core once it’s passed.
Yesterday I had to go to the government office to get a new card for my benefits. Thankfully I had a great friend with me to support me while I navigated myself through the motions of what I thought would be a simple in and out adventure. Turns out that routine I had counted on, threw me a curve ball and I ended up having to do paperwork among a room full of children and adults. The fluorescent lighting had assaulted me and the line I had to stand in for all of a split second seemed like a line waiting for the guillotine. I remember though that I should be proud of myself. I had the option of leaving the building and going to the safety of the car to fill the papers out. I managed to push myself to stay in the building of horror and do it there. My hands shaking, tears threatening to spill over squinting eyelids. My friend rubbing my back, me clutching my water bottle and pressing it to my neck.
“Is it hot in here or is it just me?” I had asked the nice girl who handed me a pen.
“No, it’s stuffy in here.”
“I’m having a panic attack and it’s really hot.” I looked at my friend. “It’s hot in here.”
The girl smiled at me as I took measured breaths to calm myself and told me she too has anxiety. I heard her. It’s not that I was ignoring her. She had told me that last time I had been here. I gently brushed her words away because I was hot and my palms were sweaty. I was trying to fill out my information and couldn’t recall what the lady at the window had said to write.
Finally, after waiting for an hour almost, I get my card. By now I’m calmed down. The panic attack having peaked after ten minutes just like they always do and the adrenaline continuing to course through my veins. My friend is telling me to think about being on the plane.
“Ohhh no. I can’t do that right now. I’ll panic again,” I tell her. She explains, that what she’s saying is for me to think of the new life I’m headed to and all the wonderful things about the man who is waiting for me. Then I understand and I do start to think about it all. The house he has for us, the new appliances he showed me the other day on Skype. I think about everything and surprisingly I don’t get anxious.
Back in the car I chatter noisily about what I’ve just experienced and once again I’m explaining to my friend and her husband the science behind panic attacks and why I can’t run from them. I say how proud I am of myself even if it sounds like bragging but why shouldn’t I? It’s something to be proud of and if I can’t be proud of myself, well I know there aren’t a lot of people who are. It seems that lately no matter what I accomplish, everyone’s goal, when I talk about my anxiety and simultaneously add in my new life with that, it becomes this negative bombardment of crazy rationalizations from a myriad of people and now I’m angry in the backseat as we drive to the bank.
Why can’t people just be happy for me? I don’t tell anyone anything anymore except for a handful of people. Why can’t people just not say anything at all if they can’t say something nice?
I’m a nice person. I try not to downplay other’s excitement and their goals when I read or hear about them. I don’t engage in naysaying if what I must say isn’t productive or courteous. I move on. My comments spill out of my mouth at a rapid rate and I can’t stop them. I’m on a roll.
Moving through the next few errands I have to get done, they of course don’t go as planned either and that’s why today I sit here at six in the morning typing this. Today I must go back out and do it all over again. Face the anxiety that is and that’s OK.
Last night before bed, I watched the president’s farewell speech and drifted off to sleep right after. I knew that today would hold more challenges for me. Challenges are good though.
The past few months and certainly the past few weeks I’ve been working hard to overcome the obstacles in my head. The nervousness that has plagued me for so much of my life. I must. And not just because of what I am doing in the coming weeks, but because I’m young. I have so much life ahead of me and I refuse to sit here and watch the world move on without me. I refuse to continue rummaging in my bag every morning to caress bottles of pills that no longer do me any good.
I demand from myself the courage to move through the distress of my day to day life. The anxiety my brain dishes out continuously. I will not be a slave forever to it.
So, when I tell you that I am nervous, anxious, unsure, and fearful…know that it has very little to do with my plans for my life. It has EVERYTHING to do with the irrationality and ridiculousness that is my anxiety disorder.
I will lay back down soon and listen to my hypnosis video for anxiety and panic attacks just like I’ve been doing the past week and I will relax. It’s been helping. A lot. I will try to sleep again and this time the blackness will go back to being velvety instead of hard. I will have found some peace once again. Enough peace to face the world over the next several hours. Enough to face the barrage of naysayers that eat away at my positivity each day. Maybe enough peace to finally rid myself of those people. Who knows.
I realize as I have just finished taking my blood pressure for the fourth time this morning while writing this, throwing my coffee out because two cups was two cups too many and while checking my pulse and tapping my feet to ward off the anxious thoughts…I have nothing to fear but fear itself.
It’s as simple as that.