This blog post will get real, fast. If you get easily offended by curse words, this post is not for you.
Ah, yes. Anxiety. You know her? She's an asshole.
It has been my experience that people who have struggled with anxiety issues "get it" and people who haven't, simply do not/cannot understand. "Everything's fine" or "it will be ok" or "just stop worrying so much" or "geez take a chill pill" or "but you know that won't happen so stop acting crazy" or "you can't control that so stop thinking about it" are all sentiments that have been said to me throughout the years by folks who are unable to relate. They mean well, but none of that is helpful because I already know it.
I've never been able to pin point exactly when it started, but I cannot remember my life without anxiety. It's a very weird & unsettling feeling, like you have the weight of the world sitting on your chest. It's especially unsettling if you fully recognize that you live a beautiful & fortunate life. The guilt of knowing you're better off than so many others in the world and STILL have anxiety issues, fuels the frustration fire even more. Like you shouldn't be allowed to feel this way. Like, how DARE you feel this way.
Does this stuff sound familiar to anyone or am I alone here?
Here's the truth... I know that statistically, when I get onto a plane it won't crash. I know that statistically, my husband won't choke and die when he's eating. I know that statistically, he won't randomly seize in the shower (he doesn't even have a history of seizures), hit his head on the tile, bleed out and die. I know that statistically, my family won't go to sleep one night and then not wake up because of carbon monoxide poisoning. I know that statistically, my friends won't have a huge tree fall & crash onto their RVs on their yearly summer road trips. I know that statistically & because of family medical history, I probably won't wake up to stage 4 cancer. I know that statistically, I won't be working in NYC at the exact moment a terrorist attack happens there. I know that statistically, a "The Day After Tomorrow" style tidal wave won't be something that actually happens. I know that statistically, a "Final Destination" style car accident won't be something I experience in my entire life. I know that statistically, my sister won't die from Covid-19.
I know ALL of this. It DOESN'T matter. This is the mental place my brain can take me, regardless of my rational thoughts or how much yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises I do.
I'm pretty sure I live with a constant low/mild level of anxiety 24/7, but when I have the actual anxiety attacks, that's when the "fun" starts. Stress sweat, overheating, sometimes a slight shiver/shake, heart palpitations, darting eyes taking in my surroundings (even if I'm obviously safe at home), throw in some uncontrollable quiet tears for good measure. If I'm home, I'll hide my face under a blanket or pillow or go into another room so my husband won't notice and get scared or feel the need to save me. In those moments, I don't want to be a burden and am so frustrated with myself because even in the midst of an attack, I am able to rationally think and know I'm ok. But it doesn't matter. Mix that all up in a blender and you've got the recipe for a Jac attack. And what's super exciting is that I haven't found a rhyme or reason for why they will happen or what my triggers are. Good times!
I remember my worst attack was back around 2011ish when I was living on Long Island. I had to take the LIRR into Manhattan for a shoot. I boarded the peak hour train, it was super crowded (as usual) with standing room only. I had my rolling ZUCA kit (what some makeup artists use to lug around their supplies) with me that luckily could be used as a seat. I was in the vestibule part of the train, not inside an actual car because it was so crowded. This was NORMAL. I did it almost every day, but for whatever reason, I felt an attack coming. I sat down on my ZUCA and my first thoughts were something like "Fuuuuuuuuck me. I'm going to pass out on this fuckin train & they're going to have to stop and wait for an ambulance at the next station and I'm going to completely ruin thousands of people's mornings, even though I know I'm totally fine but still can't stop this fucking attack from happening." I could feel the strangers standing around me starting to notice something was up. They were staring at me sitting on my kit, breathing deeply. I looked up at the guy next to me and said, "Hi, I know this will sound crazy, but I'm having an anxiety attack. I'll be ok, but in case I pass out or something, you don't need to call an ambulance." I popped a Xanax, something I hated doing, but did a few times a month back then.
I didn't end up passing out, which was pretty cool, but I definitely scared the strangers around me. The initial attack lasted the entire time I was on the train, so close to 40 minutes. It took about 6 hours or so to fully rid myself of any residual effects. I was on set working through it, fake smiling and using the rest of my energy pretending like nothing was wrong. No one knew the difference.
The attacks have been less and less since that day because I researched different ways to chemically (naturally) support my brain. I HATED taking Xanax. I didn't want to put it into my body anymore. Once I started a holistic regimen, I noticed the major anxiety attacks decreased a LOT. Like, a lot a lot. Like, enough for me to notice and feel good about (huge win). Even though I still get bouts of elevated anxiety from time to time, the big boys haven't happened in many years. Supplementation + exercise + doing my best to put more focus on the good things in life have helped me so much. I'm also way more open about my anxiety problems. It's much easier to talk about it these days.
I used to be very ashamed of my anxiety, like I wasn't supposed to have it because of my pretty great, charmed life. The intense guilt that was attached made me feel like I couldn't talk about it for fear people would think I sounded like an entitled whiny little bitch who shouldn't complain. Although I've certainly lived through my share of "crap times," I recognize that I was fortunate to be born into my awesome, loving family, to grow up in a safe, beautiful town, to not be scared of eviction or living on the street, to not be born into oppression, to not have any health issues, to not be a victim of abuse, etc, etc, etc, etc.
If I can be honest, I'm not really sure how to wrap this post up in a nice little bow. I'm not a strong writer. My anxiety kind of just "is what it is" and it used to be much worse. Anxiety & how we treat it is certainly not one-size-fits-all. I felt inspired today to be as forthcoming as possible with the hope that my story may make it to the eyes of someone who needs to feel less alone. You never know what someone is dealing with, even behind cheerful eyes, a big smile, and a killer sense of humor.