I had the strangest experience the other day. I became totally overwhelmed with anxiety. Not your run of the mill worries. Not an “Oh man, this sucks, I wish I didn’t have to face this” kind of worry. I’m talking about an “OMG, the world is closing in around me, I can’t breathe or scream for help and no one seems to be noticing” kind of worry.
It didn’t matter that what I was worried about was being hugely exaggerated in my head. That if my fears ever did come true, it would be eons in the future. It didn’t matter that I knew many things would change in the coming years that could make all this wasted energy irrelevant. It didn’t help when I reminded myself that there were many people and backup plans to support me if my fears did happen to come true. I was gripped by unrelenting, dark, suffocating, paralyzing fear. I felt like I was being buried alive, watching the light disappear as dirt fell around me, squeezing away the air pockets that would keep me alive. I was utterly alone, isolated, terrified. It took enormous energy to get through each moment, feeling like the activities swirling around me – kids playing, dog barking, neighbors mowing the lawn – were actions in a movie. I was only watching. I wasn’t part of the life going on around me. I was instead held hostage inside my own head. A tightness gripped my chest, so tight that when I tried to take a deep breath, it only confirmed that I was suffocating, because no matter how much air I tried to suck in, no matter which relaxation trick I tried, it only left me feeling more deprived of air, more desperate, now even further from the calm I so urgently craved.
When my husband came home that night, I told him what I was feeling. He showed concern but there wasn’t much he could do. It was all in my head and I was the only one who could fix this. That experience – of trying to reach out for help, for connection – only made me feel worse, because it reinforced just how alone I was. I was the only one who could change this and since I felt powerless to conquer this overwhelming fear, I was truly, totally, completely screwed. Impotent. Doomed. Continue reading