Because of my recent undiagnosed illness, and the difficulty with irregular blood pressure and pulse rate, I am supposed to keep my anxiety and activity levels low for the time being. Not only does this mean I’m on medicine that makes me want to sleep 12 hours a day (which I don’t have the luxury of doing, because the dog has to get walked, and rarely will my roommate think to do it so I can sleep in, even when he’s up.), and I’ve gained 20 pounds between retaining water and not being able to exercise, and I have no money because my job put me on “probation” for the entire month of October and effectively cut my workload by 2/3rds, it also means my social outings last less than three hours and frequently involve some level of panic attack or social anxiety getting there. The fact that I have not been diagnosed or treated means I still have symptoms of anxiety, need to be careful monitoring my blood pressure, and am on Valium every waking moment for vertigo, and still get 2 to 3 “migraines with aura” each month.
The condition they think I might have is a complex one, one that requires a $1200 test my insurance won’t cover just to get a diagnosis. The traditional treatment for this problem is 6 months of bed rest to see if it heals on its own, benzos (in my case, Valium, the only one I can tolerate.) for vertigo and anxiety, and treatment for depression or other associated issues. If the problem does not heal itself, surgery on the inside of the ear is needed.
You’d think all this would be the breaking point for me: the 12 doctors, the insurance company that isn’t convinced I don’t have a “pre-existing condition” and won’t pay for anything, the lack of funds to get the diagnosis and subsequent treatment I need, the constant calls from creditors, the potential Valium addiction, and the fact that my mother just had her 5th stroke and won’t leave the house, and my father is in a nursing home facing the loss of his legs. You’d think this would be the breaking point for someone they DON’T repeatedly point at and say “You have an anxiety disorder”, much less me.
But it’s not. Somehow, I’ve been surviving. The breaking point is the lack of understanding from those in my life.
My roommate has been stressed; he has depression and anxiety and is working 50 hours a week. So, he doesn’t do things around the house, leaves a dirty panini maker with smelly chicken grease on it for days, dishes piled up in the sink, and is constantly leaving me notes or calling me during my work day so I can do favours for him.
Today, he sends me an e-mail telling me I need to cut him some slack because he spends all his time working. (I complained about the panini maker). Then he asked if I could load and unload the dishwasher, walk the dog when he normally does, and etc. He said “You’re the one that’s home, and you’re doing it with medication”.
Never mind that, yes, I’m trying to do everything on a combo of medication that would keep most people my size asleep for the past three months. Never mind that I don’t exactly get slack: he has friends over to watch TV (and not a single one of them, or the TV is quiet), knowing I get migraines from lights and noise and am supposed to be RESTING. He doesn’t do me the favour of walking the dog before work so I can get some extra sleep, knowing that with my meds, I need it…even when he’s up. I don’t get a free pass for being sick; if I don’t do stuff, nobody else will. If I don’t do my work, I get fired. And everything he asks me to do, I do…I don’t complain about how stressed I am and how much I work. Prior to getting sick, I’d easily work 50 hours a week, every week, and have the stress of deadlines and other people working for me to manage. It didn’t mean anyone cut me any slack.
And by the way, I am not AT HOME. I am WORKING AT HOME. There is a difference.
And then there’s the Guy I Am Currently Dating, who, on one hand, tries to help me out through this difficult time as much as possible, supports me when I can’t leave the house, runs errands for me, reads the stupid crap I write, loves me even when I doubt my ability to succeed at something as basic as monogamy and committment, and has even offered to help me pay for the cost of the expensive test I need. On the other hand, when I forget to do something on my to-do list, he lectures and pushes about it, reminding me of how the situation is only going to get worse and worse and worse, not a great technique for someone with anxiety that’s prone to feeling unable to handle the weight of the world on her shoulders. When I asked him to stop because I couldn’t handle the anxiety he was creating, he then got withdrawn and “Fine. Whatever. You don’t want me to talk”. On a good day, someone shutting down and just being unwilling to communicate because they don’t like what you have to say is a tactic that raises my blood pressure through the roof, and hurts me intensely. I had to hang up the phone on him, because I couldn’t handle the arguing and the way he was upsetting me.
All this after he pointed out how physically and practically difficult it was going to be for me to get home for Christmas…which I already know…but that the alternative is missing out on what might be the last Christmas my family is ever able to spend together. And instead, I’d be alone in my sad little apartment on Christmas, eating my TV dinner, because he’ll be with his mom, the woman who lovingly referred to me as the ugliest piece of shit ever, Casey Anthony, and when I was out of the hospital for a day, told me three times she hoped I’d die.
The question isn’t why doesn’t anyone cut me some slack, or why am I having a hard time coping. The question is why don’t I spend more days feeling suicidal, because not being here would make life so much easier to deal with.
I’m tired of being alone. I’m tired of nobody understanding what I’m going through. I’m tired of being the one it’s OK to treat like shit and dump all of your crap on because your life is hard.
NO. It is NOT OKAY.
Meanwhile, I still have to work and maintain a semblance of a normal life and can’t sleep the 12 hours a day the drugs I’m on want me to because I still need to work, and there’s never enough time or money or energy.
Many of the doctors I’ve seen have suggested all of my symptoms are psychiatric, and there’s not a single thing physically wrong with me. While I don’t agree with that, and there’s enough evidence to support the idea that I, in fact, have an inner ear disorder that was the trigger for my anxiety and panic problems, I’ve come to see that I do in fact have some form of anxiety disorder.
I resisted everyone telling me that because I’ve been through tough situations and always been able to cope. So, to all of the sudden, experience debilitating panic attacks, extreme social anxiety (an irony for a person who’s never been happy being less than the centre of attention, and couldn’t understand why someone wouldn’t like large groups of people), and an emotional feeling of “If you push me one step further, I am going to snap and go postal” that it’s hard to control…it doesn’t make sense to me. I’ve always been stronger than that.
For the first time, I see why I might have developed an anxiety disorder that reached a breaking point after 30 years. It is because inside, I am sad. I am angry. I am totally pissed at being marginalised, put down, unappreciated, or the one who is always there to take the brunt of a negative situation or pick up the slack because I’m a good daughter, a good friend, a good co-worker, a good Meetup organizer, a good roommate. I’m angry that, when I’m the one who needs help, most people are focused on themselves, or look at me helplessly saying “I don’t know what to do.”
I’m pissed off because I don’t want to be the strong one, the fixer, the one who constantly gets kicked around by life, but dusts herself off and smiles and goes out for drinks. I don’t want to be the one who gets treated horribly and is required to hear horrible things about herself or is just ignored because I’m empathetic and compassionate and understand you have problems.
Know who has problems? ME.
I’m angry because I don’t deserve to be the one you always want to change and think love is about pointing out “Here’s what’s wrong with you”; the one you care about but won’t leave your wife and family for; the soulmate you wouldn’t choose over money and stability; the one you loved but cheated on and lied to for years until you married someone else; the one you hook up with and never call back, or tell all your friends about it later; the one you try to drive out of town with rumours and gossip and are cruel to because you don’t approve of her choices and lifestyle; the one you pretend to be friends with but bash behind her back; the one you have to pretend you don’t have history with or feelings for because it doesn’t fit in how our lives work today; the one you love now but won’t leave your overly clingy mother to start a life with somewhere as independent adults; the one you get close to and then push away because you “just can’t deal with it”; the one you turn to when life is rough for you but don’t really need the rest of the time; the one that’s just not worth noticing despite being a largely fucking amazing human being.
Know who else just can’t handle it? ME.
And maybe now that I’m sufficiently pissed off I won’t have anxiety anymore. That would be awesome,if it turned out that my anxiety was just 30 years of repressed desire to punch other people in the face, instead of being nice and smiling and hoping everyone still likes me.
Know who just doesn’t care anymore if you like her? ME.
It’s time to start taking care of me and putting me first, because apparently not doing that makes you one amazingly pissed off human being, but since anger, rage, frustration, and punching others in the face are not kind and ladylike ways to respond to situations, you have a martini and smile and call your best friend to vent.
It’s not enough. It doesn’t work. And that’s why I know so many people in their 20′s and 30′s on anxiety medications or mistakenly told they’re “depressed” or “bi-polar”, and put on a pill or two that makes them feel that way if they didn’t already. That’s why it’s easy enough to eat tons of junk food or just not eat anything at all, in an attempt to make the stress go away. That’s why it’s easy enough to start drinking as soon as the office shuts down. That’s why we’re a society of broke, pissed off people with tons of responsibilities that are addicted to one thing or another and often define “happy” as the point in time when other people leave you alone and let you sleep.
Plenty of people work 50 hours a week, so clean up the freaking panini maker.