Every time I begin to write this post, I close the laptop, and with a churning stomach I promise to tackle it later. I find therapy and comfort in writing and articulating my emotions yet for some reason this post, this particular post, I haven’t been able to bring myself to. I don’t know how to articulate what this new monster is, because I have yet to understand it. I have yet to get a hold on it and fully grasp it. Although my ulcerative colitis slipped through my hands, I always felt I had an understanding of what was going on. But this new little pest does not live in my gut. It lives in my head and my hands can’t reach it.
But I’m going to try and lay out a road map of what’s going on. Because, like IBD, I know others struggle with this monster too. I’m going to try and put it into words for my own comfort because every post I write brings some sort of relief in the form of connectivity between myself and readers. And if anyone has some sort of relatable tale, I welcome it with open arms. I warn you though, I have no guidelines for this post and I’m letting my fingers lead the way. I don’t know where it’s going to go so I can’t promise my best work, but I can promise you honesty and hopefully some sort of positivity in a dark cloudy mind.
Anxiety. My new monster.
Let me clear this is not stress. I do not have a long TO-DO list that brings me stress because of deadlines and specific tasks. This is different. This is a nervousness, a worrisome heart, an uneasy feeling and the inability to find relaxation. I struggle to calm myself, especially in the calmest of times. I do not feel anxious during a busy day, or a hectic week. I feel anxious in the evenings, and weekends, when I should be resting. Perhaps this is why I have not been able to sit down and write, because I’ve been too anxious to find the time. Where most people find the most relaxation on Sundays, I feel the most overwhelmed. I feel an approaching darkness as the workweek creeps up and another week has gone by without accomplishing much productivity. I feel scatter brained and unfocused. I feel confused and forgetful.
Rewind. This little pest of mine began last year. In my 2015, the year that holds a very special, yet grim place in my heart, I first met anxiety. If I were to paint a picture of when I could pinpoint its birth, it would be in Med-6, in an isolated room ridden with C-Diff at 10 o’clock at night and a never ending flare up. I was meeting my surgeon for the first time and surrounded by my sister, Mom, and the most caring nurse, we listened to the risks of what would inevitably be my future. Complications. Fertility issues. Ostomy. Incisions. Recovery. More hospital. Infections. Scarring. Waiting. I was sent home with my head full of these words, on the verge of tears but keeping it together so my mom (and nurse) wouldn’t cry, with the uncertainty of yet another Remicade infusion would work…..and after 2 more hospital stays, it was obvious it wouldn’t.
The anxiety last year was surrounded by a lot of uncertainty. Like I said, I was uncertain if the Remicade would work. I was uncertain if I could wait to try a new drug. I was uncertain if I would make it to Sara’s engagement party, New York or even back to work. I was uncertain if surgery was what I really wanted. I was uncertain if my face would ever go back to normal or why my hair was falling out. And all of this uncertainty surrounded waiting for answers.
Don’t get me wrong. I am happy with my decision to have surgery. I am not running to the washroom every 5 min. My hair is growing back. I can work a full 8 hour shift. I can eat. I can sleep. I can socialize. Life is better….Except for this new pest who just wont go away. And who is growing.
And that’s where I struggle to understand. During a time where I am healthy and living a somewhat normal life, I am struck with this overwhelming despair. I am either struggling to breathe, on the verge of tears or am lost in a very confused and scattered mind that can’t make sense. Of course there are the very obvious reasons why I feel anxious. Will my ostomy leak? Can I afford all these supplies? Am I sure about the J-Pouch? Will I ever be able to move out? Will anyone ever date me again? What foods can I eat without gaining more weight but also won’t cause a blockage? Do I have enough energy today to work out? These are thoughts I have on the daily. But then there are moments where I know everything is fine. I am an intelligent person who can navigate these thoughts. The moments where I know I am okay. And that’s when my monster strikes.
Please spare me your solutions. I have heard them all. Psychology. Medication. Meditation. Pod-casts. Essential oils. Healthy Foods. Exercise. Time off. Massage. Retail therapy. Good night’s sleep. Sunlight. Get organized. Magnesium. Fish oils. Time with friends. Time alone. Reading. Acupuncture. Writing. Vacation……I know. I get it.
The problem is that each of these solutions requires me to act. And the process of acting is so overwhelming that it brings on more anxiety. Medication brings unwanted side effects. Supplements and essential oils cost money. I don’t have time to read or write. Psychology requires me to open up my benefits package: a huge folder that is ridden with an overwhelming amount of information. Time off has already been taken. Sunlight is bad for your skin. Time alone is lonely. Time with friends is fun but always comes to an end. It’s sad, I know. This negativity is unlike me and this laziness to be pro-active is also out of character. But that is what this monster is doing to me. It’s suffocating.
But maybe this is the first step. Maybe this post alone, and putting it out there is the first step to tackling the monster. Maybe since I can recognize my feelings and recognize the toll it is taking I will eventually start to take it head on. Maybe I can feel proud of myself for showing courage to share this story as well. It’s funny how willing I was to share a story about shitting myself, yet so reluctant to share a story about anxiety. Maybe I can find comfort not in your solutions but your willingness to listen (or read). Maybe I take on one small task (like writing this post) at a time. Maybe I take it one day at a time. One hour at a time. One monster at a time.