Forever Pretty in Pink.
I’ve been blogging here, on previous versions of this site called Scraps & Lagniappe, and other sites for 14 years.
14 years, bitchachos!
No one is going to stop me from writing my truth. I’ve been writing since middle school. I was published in a national magazine at 18. I wrote for my hometown newspaper my senior year of high school.
I’m going to keep writing and nothing anyone says will tear me down. Yes, I have a mental illness. I may be down for a day or days or weeks, but I won’t stay down. You can hurt my feelings, but you know what? I have the courage to write.
So, this is what I have to say: maybe you know me in real life, maybe you know me on Facebook, maybe you’re a friend of a friend and you don’t know me, maybe you don’t know me at all and saying something about me doesn’t mean anything to you because you DON’T KNOW ME. For the most part, my blog readers are and have always been Internet Strangers and they have been kinder than others. That’s hard to imagine, isn’t it? But true. And thank you.
So, here it is in a nutshell: you don’t have to read my blog. Because it’s mine. It will go on with or without you.
In other words, bitch, don’t join my fan club.
Before I continue with my “I’m fine” series, I’m saying it again (or, rather, I’m letting Faye Dunaway as my hero, Joan Crawford, say it for me: Don’t fuck with me, fellas. This ain’t my first time at the rodeo.
Yes, I know I’ve left my Dear Readers waiting, but I have a good reason. I have had something traumatic happen and I need to take a break, but I will be back very soon. I promise. And I never break promises.
And if we’re friends on Facebook, yes, I’m putting on a brave face. But that’s what brave faces are for.
I’ve read so many articles on news sites, medical sites, Christian authors’ sites, and blogs enough to know this will probably rehash a few things you have read before. My purpose of writing this is to tell you what anxiety feels like first-hand, from someone a lot of my readers know or you’ve been reading this blog long enough that you feel like you know me. Many of the later have sent me emails and I appreciate it very much. I, too, have read other bloggers for a length of time and they feel like a friend. Thank you all for being my friend.
Having anxiety is knowing you have what honestly feels like you have a million things to do, but literally cannot fathom getting up to do a single one. I say literally because it’s true. You do not know how to start your day.
Having anxiety makes you feel awful about breaking plans with a friend because you cannot leave the house. Not because you’re too busy. Not because that friend will talk your ear off and pick a restaurant you don’t like. Because leaving the house means taking a shower. Taking a shower means you have to do your hair and makeup and not wear yoga pants and slippers like you’ve been in for two days because you can’t face people. Because facing people means you’ll have to talk to people and that’s the last thing you want to do.
Having anxiety means you put off phone calls because you don’t have the energy to call and pretend you’re ok and normal.
Having anxiety means you might take a medication just to get you through the day, but that medication might make you so relaxed that you’re comfortable watching a movie on your sofa instead of getting out.
Having anxiety makes you procrastinate. Even procrastinate doing things or seeing people you love because of what the expectations might be.
Having anxiety feels like everyone is judging you for not being at whatever the event is that you didn’t go to.
Anxiety means you sometimes have to fib about why you weren’t at that event.
Anxiety feels like you’re lying and it’s only a matter of time before you’re found out.
Anxiety feels like you’re wearing a mask when you’re in public.
Anxiety makes you feel that you’ve let other people down.
Anxiety makes you feel like you’ve disappointed people.
Anxiety makes you feel like you should give up.
Anxiety can (not always) lead to panic attacks. Panic attacks feel like a heart attack. It’s a physical AND mental thing.
Panic attacks make you feel like a freak.
Panic attacks make you not want to engage in the activity or go back to the place in which you had the panic attack.
Most of the time you cannot stop a panic attack from happening or simply make it stop.
Having anxiety makes others around you say they understand because they’ve been anxious before.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder is not just being anxious. It is a disorder just as Autism Spectrum Disorders. No one would argue that Autism is real, however people often do not understand of believe that GAD is a real disorder.
Anxiety makes you feel like you should be able to “snap out of it” or “cheer up,” as well meaning people tell you. But you can’t. Just like you can’t tell an autistic person to stop being autistic.
Having anxiety makes you angry when people tell you to “give it to God” as if you haven’t tried to pray away your thoughts and feelings. Sometimes praying is all you can do when your thoughts are racing and you can’t sleep because of them.
Anxiety makes you wonder if those same people tell people with cancer to just “give it to God.”
Having anxiety means you are sent this verse by Christian friends and family: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
Having anxiety means you ask yourself if those friends and family members send Bible verses to friends with heart conditions as a cure-all for what ails them. And you answer yourself: “no, they would ask if they’ve gotten a second opinion. If they have a good doctor. If they’re taking medication.”
Anxiety makes you feel as though you let your Christian friends down even though you know what is in your heart.
Anxiety makes you feel alone.
Having anxiety feels like there is no good reason for how you feel, yet it’s inescapable.
When you have depression and anxiety it’s another dibilitating two-for-one package.
Having anxiety means no one can see on the outside that something is wrong.
Having anxiety means you don’t have a cast or a cane (even though you feel broken). You’re not dragging an oxygen tank behind you with tubes going to your nose (even though a panic attack makes it incredibly hard to breathe).
Anxiety feels like a slow death. Dying from the inside out with a life expectancy the same as any other “normal person,” only you’re not normal.
Thank you for reading as always.
I meant no offense to my Christian friends. I’ve been a Christian since I was 11 and I love Jesus. I don’t blame Jesus for not “curing” my anxiety just as you would not blame Him for not curing your tuberculosis. It’s not a matter of not believing enough. It’s not a matter of the condition of my heart. It’s a mental condition.
Before I continue with my “I’m fine” series, I have a confession: I lost my cool and yelled may have threatened)at a survey company that has called my home at least 7 times since Friday. I did not use my “Doris Day voice,” but rather dug deep to my best “Joan Crawford going-off-at-the-Pepsi-board-of-directors ‘don’t eff with me fellas, this ain’t my first time at the rodeo-voice.” For those of you who need the reference, I give you Faye Dunaway in one of my favorite movies ever, Mommie Dearest.
I’m back in front of the keyboard and ready to write. I’ve been down and wanting to write and not wanting to write at the same time, wanting to share, but having the moment flutter away and changing the channel on the TV to something mindless and telling myself there’s no main reason keeping me from writing. Except myself. So, Monday I said I was going to write, but stayed in my new art space upstairs doing a canvas for an Etsy client (more about Etsy later) and getting a few things organized up there. Then Monday was over. Tuesday came and I had to go to the grocery store. I didn’t hear back from my Etsy client on a photo I had sent her Monday night, so I spent the afternoon with my anxiety wondering what she could possibly thinking about the canvas and worried she didn’t like it.
Anxiety won over writing.
I wasn’t going to let anxiety win today. So here I am.
Two days before I was released from Ye Olde Mental Hospital, we had what they called a Family Meeting. The Family Meeting is held with the therapist and preferably the family member(s) you’re going home with on your release day. My husband came for the meeting that morning and we met with my therapist. We discussed the plan for when I came home and what sent me to the hospital in the first place. Were there any guns in the house? Were they in a locked place? Did I have access to any weapons? Scott signed my home plan, I signed it, he left to go to work. I went back to my sofa and waited for snack time like a kindergartener.
That day during our morning Group Therapy, the head nurse came to tell Whilhelm his sister was there to pick him up for his release. He got up like a rocket and was out the door – no goodbyes, no see you later, no good luck – just the wind. But at least I didn’t have to hear him tell me about something that happened in “our era” again. It was odd when people left. Some people were nice and said goodbye, some just went through the door like they won the lottery. What would I do the next day? Did I care enough to say goodbye? Good luck? Don’t be crazy?
I knew I was leaving the next day and so did everyone else. And just as Wilhelm went out, in came Courtney. This Year’s Girl. I’m typing exactly what I wrote in my journal about her. Courtney arrived on our unit in mid afternoon on my 5th day. She was nice enough. Pretty young, bleached hair with dark roots ant light pink tips. I semicolon tattoo for the Semicolon Project (more on that later). I told her I liked it. She and I were the only ones left in the gameroom when everyone left for Courtyard Break, which everyone called Smoke Break. I told her she could change the TV to whatever she wanted and she said “that’s ok. I’ll just come sit by you.”
It’s weird when you’ve been in a psych hospital for 5 days. You start to see how normal you are. Normal by your own standards. Normal enough. If I had my makeup on and had been using my regular hair products, everyone here would assume I was a therapist. The thing is that the revolving door patients, the repeat customers, have all heard the talk before. They knew it all. They’re the ones who try to tell you about the meds they’ve been on that have worked, the number of pills they took (Sabrina took 75 Restarils with bourbon. She counted them because of the OCD). I would not be the know it all to young Courtney. I was not her mother, her nurse, her therapist, her friend. I was a patient.
I told Courtney to sit down. She said she moved to Houston from Louisiana. I asked where – she said Shreveport – my hometown. She said she had lived there her whole live in a subdivision that wasn’t even built before I moved from Shreveport in 1997. I told her that her voice reminded me of my sister’s. I always struck me as strange that my sister had this almost-twangy accent despite that we’d grown up in the same house, gone to the same schools – it made no sense. 15 minutes later, Courtney is telling my roommate that I was also from Shreveport. “Yeah, she sounds just like my sister.” Courtney asks “where is she from?” Could she have forgotten our conversation in 20 minutes? Then I reminded myself I was in a psych hospital. The next morning at breakfast, This Year’s Girl is telling everyone she was going to attend Captain Shreve High School, but there was another “big school for smart people.” She couldn’t remember the name. I said “Byrd?” She said yes. It was the high school I graduated from in 1993. Someone in the Courtyard was wearing a Nirvana tshirt. She said she loved Nirvana – “that one song, I can’t remember the name.” She wasn’t born until years after Kurt Cobain took his life.
It was funny that This Year’s Girl came in as I was leaving. From my hometown. Blond hair and sounded like my sister. Had the same hometown, but none of the experiences that I had growing up. No birthday parties at Hamel’s amusement park (long partially torn down and replaced with a church – just think – a church where I’d blown out candles on all those birthday cakes and ridden the logride). No Water Town, it was now called something else. No late nights eating homemade dumplings or crackers with green goddess dressing at Murrell’s Diner, also torn down. She was from the new version of my hometown. Now her hometown. The new version, with a Super Target on Youree Drive and countless restaurants and stores like Barnes and Noble and Hobby Lobby where the movie theater I had seen Annie in when I was 6 in my version of my hometown. My version of growing up in a neighborhood, not a subdivision. Before cell phones. Before teenage girls went to salons for highlights and not used Sun-In or tried coloring my friend Kimberly’s sister’s hair with black cherry Kool-Aid. It was a different world. It was a world where if I were a teenager, I would have been diagnosed with depression at 16 and put on drugs and had therapy. Maybe I would have highlights. Maybe I would be popular. Maybe I would would have finished college and not been afraid of leaving my dorm room because of the crippling anxiety. Maybe.
Walking back to my room, I dismissed all the maybes and finished my friend Amy’s book. The dark humor wasn’t lost on me that I was reading about a family coping after losing a husband to suicide. As I had to read from my Treatment Planning and Goals Group worksheet, I was there for a breakdown and attempted suicide. It was a constant reminder. As was the daily meeting with my doctor. That afternoon asked to read a paragraph from Amy’s book in Group that had given me a revelation and Mean Doc Pomus rolled his eyes and muttered while I spoke and after I finished reading. It was something he needed to hear, but didn’t want to hear. Many people don’t want to hear things they need to hear, but I was open to hearing what others had to say or what the therapist had to say. Unless it was my roommate. Or anything Tracy said because she was Big Crazy.
But I was leaving the next day, so the crazies didn’t bother me as much. My roommate and Tracy were already talking about becoming roomies after I left. When I heard that I excused myself to the restroom to have a “smack my head” moment in private. I put all my things back into the paper bag which my things had been brought to me on my first day. Everything except my journal because I had to have a record of what was going on so I wouldn’t forget.
As if I could ever forget.
As longtime readers know, I am nothing if not an authority on millinery, or as the less stylish know it, hattery. I am also of the fine line between subtlety and ostentatious. The following hats fall somewhere in between.
To mark my return to blogging my series on mental health, I thought I’d do something special for y’all. This is my audition tape for Lip Sync Battle for People You’ve Never Heard Of (which is not actually a show, but fingers crossed).