Like tripping and falling forever

Like tripping and falling forever
Heather Charles, for the ChicagoTribune.

You know that moment when you trip and start falling? When your heart turns cold and makes your entire chest contract and ache and sending signals of the anticipation of pain all the way to your fingertips and down your back and legs? And do you know that moment of relief when you catch yourself and stand still on solid ground for a moment? And do you also know the moment when you do land up on the floor, bruised and embarrassed?

That's what anxiety feels like. That's me, right now, standing on the edge of something, not knowing if I'm going to fall or catch myself. Sometimes I'm even further over the edge, barely holding onto solid ground with the tips of my toes. Every added stress makes me even more worried that I'm going to fall. Sometimes I'm more balanced, able to withstand the changes in life without losing my balance even more. My chest aches all the time. My arms hurt. I feel burdened.

My anxiety is paired with depression. They're such an odd couple. The anxiety wants to do something, ANYTHING, just make it STOP, please. The anxiety is trying to figure out how to scramble back into stability. The problem is that each toe wiggle toward firm ground could also grab hold of loose dirt and make me slide further into the pit. It can't rest until we are at least a mile away from the edge.

The depression, on the other hand, sees the edge, and cares. It cares so deeply, but it is locked underneath a surface of unfeelingness. Depression knows we need to move away from the edge, but it has no energy to move. It just goes through the days, waiting for the surface to lift. So when anxiety ramps up, the two are caught in a battle. Sometimes the depression wins and simply collapses and does nothing. Sometimes anxiety wins, gets overwhelmed, and explodes before collapsing into a depression again.

I'd been slipping closer to that edge for a while, but I pretended it was temporary. The anxiety increased. I worried that it would mean I'm not a good mom. I started getting overwhelmed a lot more often. Consequently I was more unable to keep up with the house. People said it was just being a working mom. I guess that's true, but is it normal for a working mom to have no mental energy at the end of the day to do the dishes or the laundry?

I thought about getting help for a month or so but equivocated over whether it was "normal" or if it was indeed a symptom of a larger problem.

I finally asked for help over 3 weeks ago. My psychiatrist increased my medication, as we'd discussed previously. Winter and the holidays are always the worst for me.

A few days later, the anxiety ramped up. I had frightening thoughts and fears which culminated with a fear of my daughter falling into the river. There is a trap door panel on the bridges over the river, and I've always circled around it, but that day, I was so scared of it I went far away from that cursed trap door, and my brain embarked on a frightening imagined scenario of me being too close, the bridge bumping, and her falling in, would she slip out of the umbrella stroller, or would it strap her in and make her drown faster? Would she survive that drop? Would the water be too cold? Would I survive jumping right over after her? Wait, I should take my clothes off so I don't get weighed down. How can I take them off as fast as I can? My coat, my shoes, my pants. My glasses stay on so I can see her. I need to save her. Would she be floating? I'd rescue her. I'd keep her warm. Would the dirty water cause problems? We'd be in the hospital. I wouldn't be able to hear in the hospital with ruined hearing aids. Would insurance cover it? How could I work without my hearing aids? I should take my hearing aids off at that bridge. Then my coat and shoes and jump in and pull her and yell for help. I would hope someone called the ambulance as I jumped. Make them take the baby first--she goes first. She needs to get warm first...

Then I realized what my brain was doing, far too late. I was ruminating, and I was now extremely anxious. Actually, writing this made me so anxious right now I need a second dose of Ativan.

Which brings me to the second point. I'd also have unbidden anxiety attacks that came out of nowhere--not even a rumination. They happen a lot at work. Sometimes at home. My heart would be racing, and I'd feel pain. I'd feel like I was falling, forever. Then, the third week after increasing my antidepressant, I've fallen into an even deeper depression. I'd barely have energy to make dinner, then I'd feel anxious I'm failing as a mom because I'm making these slapped together dinners of bread and cheese and oranges for my daughter.

I finally told my psychiatrist about this. I finally got a prescription for Ativan--a short-term one to get me through to our appointment soon, after which will involve some medication adjusting and I'm apprehensive about that. How will I work while my brain chemistry is being fiddled with? How can I function?  Is it possible to take short term disability until I feel better? Is that bad? How will I explain?

Still, I am anxious that I am certifiably crazy. I am so sad. I am failing. I have a hard time sleeping lately--more and more so, because my brain is taking a while to shut down the stream of critical thoughts. I wake up early with a start, wondering where my daughter is--she's in her crib. Safe. I stay awake because my brain is telling me everything I did wrong, and making me anxious about the day ahead. The meetings where I will say something wrong. The procedures I will fuck up. The fear that my boss will finally come out and tell me she hates my work and that I'm fired. The fear that maybe my husband is fed up with my broken brain and needs to get away from me.

I am just so close to the edge, and it is taking all my will power and all the self-care time I can cobble together to stay together.

I feel like I am tripping, and that I'm falling forever.

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