I started this blog with the hope of informing more people about what it was like living with mental illness and hopefully reducing the stigma surrounding mental illnesses. Perhaps the best way of doing that is giving you a little insight into a day with anxiety.
7 am – Leave for the train station. When I lived in an apartment I would pull the door so hard I’d almost break the knob in order to confirm it was locked. I’d then tell myself in my head, yes it is locked. I’d then leave and inevitably worry nonstop that I’d not only left the door unlocked, but open and now the cat had escaped and what is happening to the poor cat out in the world. Sometimes I’d feel the need to go back and confirm one more time that it was locked. Now that I have a house I watch the garage door close, then double check in the mirror as I am driving away that it is still closed. Still worry everything is open and that cat will rush out, burglars will rush in and what the hell have I done. Note: I know logically that none of this is true and that I’ve never actually left a door just hanging wide open, but my anxiety still whispers these little lies in my ear.
7:30 am – I wait for the train. I assume that I am surrounded by psychopaths and that one of them will shove me in front of the train as it pulls in. I know that I am greatly overestimating the likelihood of psychopaths being near me, and that even if the guy behind me was secretly murderous, it is too damn cold in Illinois for him to take his hands out of his pockets long enough to push me. I still keep an eye on him just in case. When the anxiety is really bad I just stand at the back of the platform and wonder if people are worried I am going to push them.
7:30-8:45 am – I ride the train in and assume everyone is judging me in secret. I often just look at my phone and pretend the other people aren’t there.
8:45 am – I get off the train and walk to work. When the anxiety is really bad I am worried people are judging me, that people are angry at me for being in their way, and I slouch, trying to make myself small. (I actually have a whole post on what my commute with anxiety is like, if you’re curious.) Some days I am too worried about whether the cat has escaped through the unlocked door to worry about the people around me though.
9am – 6pm. Work. I assume everything I do is wrong, and feel, as I described yesterday, that I am lazy and not working hard enough and assume that every meeting will involve me being criticized or disciplined. Instead I usually get praised and wonder why they think my work is good.
6:30 -7:45 – Train home. I worry relentlessly that I forgot to do something at work. At this point I know I can’t do anything about it if I did and try not to worry. I usually fail. Also, fairly sure people on the train are judging me again.
8:00 – Get home. Apparently, I didn’t leave the door unlocked and the cat is still there and is very happy to see me. My anxiety gets a little better now that I am in the comfort of my own home again.
10:00 – Bed – Or at least that is when I am supposed to go to bed, but all the worries from the previous day bounce around in my head like ping pong balls, meaning that instead of relaxing into sleep my mind is on overdrive as these anxieties create anxiety about what will come the next day, and the day after that, and shit did I pay that bill I was supposed to? Thanks to therapy I’ve learned ways to distract myself before going to bed and sometimes it isn’t so bad. On bad days I can’t sleep until my body is literally so exhausted it practically falls asleep standing up.
The next day will likely be a repetition of this. Fortunately, with therapy, journaling, meditation, and other coping mechanisms it is getting better. On good days I can call out the lies my anxiety comes up with and walk through the day with confidence and ease. Other days I’m not so lucky, and they are just another day with anxiety. The victories, and there are some, are measured by having more good days than bad. And that is happening more and more thanks to the help I’ve gotten. And that is fucking amazing.