Over the past year and a half, I’ve lived with an anxiety disorder that’s been both a blessing and curse. These are more than “just panic attacks” many people say I have to “work through”. Chunks of my time disappear through dissociation. Falls are a regular part of my day. Conversations are confusing and frustrating for both me and any party involved. Some of what triggers these events are manageable; others are random, making it feel impossible to categorize and concur. I’m being treated with psychotherapy and medication. The process is long, slow and depressing.
That adds a whole new element to my world.
When anxiety moves from the emotional realm to the physical, there are a number of compromises. I was very good at the job I can no longer hold. A book can take me weeks to finish instead of two or three days. The most difficult compromise is my lack of independence. I shouldn’t drive—I never know when I might black out. For the first time in 25 years, I’m not working—I need to rely on my husband to support me. I don’t go anywhere alone. I Miss my Independence. I Miss getting in the car and visiting a friend on a whim. I Miss buying myself a treat because I put in long, hard hours and can spend my money as I wish. My husband is wonderful. He’ll take me wherever, whenever I want and he tries not to knock his head against the wall as he reminds me I don’t have to “ask” before a purchase.
But it’s different than being in control… than living independently.
Why should this be such an issue? On the surface, I have a very easy life. My husband makes a good enough salary to support us. Beyond that, he trusts me. He knows I won’t go on a spending spree on a whim. He knows if I could work, I would. He is understanding when I have days where I can’t do much more than the basics needed to live. He doesn’t take my contributions to our home for granted. He doesn’t blame me for needing a long time to heal. (Yes, he has a brother. He’s married too.)
Have you noticed anything about my very easy life?
It’s very, very tiny.
I love my husband. I’m grateful every single day for him. But I do have friends other than him. I have fabulous friends. I don’t see them. I don’t have a “girls’ night out”. Why? I don’t have the freedom to go without arranging for a ride. It’s difficult to set up a play date for me. We don’t live too far away from each other but I have to inconvenience someone to take 2 hours out of their time to drive me. How fair is that? To anyone?
Public transportation isn’t the answer. 1) It exists as a very limited resource in my literal neck of the woods. 2) If it did and I had a major attack while riding, I’d end up in the ER. (Yes, these attacks can be bad enough to scare someone into calling 911.)
So… I end up isolating myself. Friends have called. I have nothing in the way of news to tell them and our conversations end up dying out. My anxiety twists my perception of reality and I’m afraid to call them. It’s a pattern. I see it. I don’t know how to break it.
Where’s the blessing? I know I have the unconditional love of my family and friends. Not having to support myself affords me ample time to heal. I’m learning more about myself than I ever have before.
And although my progress feels painfully slow, I know this is only temporary.
To be continued….