This is going to be a difficult post to publish and I apologize in advance that I don’t know if I’ll be able to respond to comments. I had what I think was my first anxiety attack last night. First, I feel like I owe an apology to anyone who has ever had one, I had no idea how truly physical it can be. I was honestly scared I was having a heart attack. This is hard to talk about because it’s kicking up so much shame and anxiety (I’ve never know the exquisite joy of being anxious about being anxious. NOT a lot of fun. And trying not to be anxious feels a lot like someone saying to you “think about anything but pink elephants.”)
Life has just been kicking my butt lately. Things had finally settled down with the situations I had been struggling with, but then I started working a lot of overtime over the summer. We have a release going out that is really documentation intensive, so my workload has been larger than usual even for the end of a release. Right about the time my boss told me he was moving the release date back a month, my severely abused immune system collapsed. When I finally went to the doctor’s it turned out I had a really nasty sinus infection. Then that kicked off my asthma and I spent over a week sucking on a nebulizer. Not breathing well does nothing for your energy level, let me tell you. Then we went to a wedding and went I got out of the car and put my left leg down, my knee gave out. It was in such bad shape, I ended up walking with a cane for over nine days (and don’t get me going about the level of shame that brought up). (It’s feeling a lot better now and I have an appointment with my ortho specialist at the end of the month. I suspect it’s my arthritis). But all of this is making it very clear that I need to deal with my weight. Which is feeling impossible right now but I am also terrified of becoming a burden on my husband and kids or preventing my husband from enjoying his retirement.
And oh, I forgot. My work computer kept crashing. It died, they fixed the hard drive (thank heaven my backups were up to date). Less than two weeks later, it seized up again. This time they replaced the hard drive and the UPS (that burned up, nothing like the scent of burned insulation in your office). They fixed that. Then I came into the office to realize I had only one functional USB port, so I could connect my backup disc, use my mouse or use my keyboard, but only at one time. I felt something snap inside and told the sys admin, I was going home (I could work on the computer using remote desktop) because I was going to hurt someone otherwise. So I worked home most of this week while they finally built me a new system (the sys admin, who is a good friend, went to my boss and told him “enough, she needs a new computer.” She kindly didn’t quote me since I said “Tell him if I don’t get a new computer, I quit!”) I lost probably close to a week’s work plus the stress. I did finish configuring my new system on Friday so I’m ready to go on Monday. Oh, I’m not working this weekend because my husband has been working OT all this week. So we’re swapping on Monday.
Did I mention the family of four who came to visit labor day weekend? Fun but, you know, no time to get anything done around the house.
It’s also time for fall training on the Crisis line on which I volunteer and am a peer trainer. Which means in addition to my phone shifts (with trainees coming for observation shifts), I also had to attend a Peer Trainer’s meeting. OK, I told you all this to set the stage for what happened last night.
We were planning on doing role plays with the training class on Friday night from 5 – 8. So I was up early (for me, I’m a night owl and have flex hours) and left work early. I was feeling pretty exhausted (as a matter of fact last weeks’ session had been spent discussing boundaries with BN and how stretched out I was feeling. Oh, I forgot something else, it had been my company retreat the weekend before. Your whole family is invited so my husband and I went together. It was fun and should have been relaxing, but one of the roles I fill at the company is an informal position of director of entertainment. 🙂 I’m the person who, when I walk into the room, someone says “ok now we can start the party.” In case that sounds too vain, I am quoting a co-worker from the weekend. I can be really funny and I’m good at keeping conversations going and to be very honest, I often get a kick out of being that person. I love to make people laugh and I’m insecure enough that blatant displays of approval are always welcome. 🙂 But I was tired and ended up resenting having to be “on.” BN and I discussed that I really didn’t have to be “on” but it becomes very scary for me to set a boundary that makes things about what I need, and even moreso when it means I’m not being useful. So I left therapy knowing I needed to work on setting more boundaries.)
SIDENOTE: I think it’s helpful to write this out, because as I’m writing this, being stressed out and tired is starting to feel a lot more reasonable. 🙂
So I’m heading down for the training session and realizing I am going to have to push to be “on.” When I arrived, the class was just taking a dinner break. I ended up in the kitchen with some other peer trainers. The woman who runs the program came in and told us that she decided to try something different with the role plays, so that each of us would be alone with a group (usually there are two peer trainers per group) and I think because I was so tired, it just sounded scary. So we’re sitting there and I realize I am not feeling well. I am getting seriously flushed and feel really overheated and kind of feverish. I’m dizzy and my chest is feeling really tight. And then I realize I am having trouble staying focused and that everything felt unreal. So it’s getting worse and worse and I’m not saying a word (which is, trust me, highly unusual for me) and no one is noticing. So now I feel invisible which is a bit triggering. I realize I have to speak up. So I cleared my throat and said to the director, L, “Um, I’m not feeling too good.” As soon as I said that, everyone stopped speaking and looked at me. You want to know the only thing worse than feeling invisible? Having everyone focused on you when you feel needy. I must not have looked good cause everyone looked concerned. So they started asking me how I felt and I was trying to answer but was also really fighting wanting to just burst into tears. Then didn’t want me driving, so I ended up calling my husband to come pick me up. I have to stress that everyone was incredibly kind, caring and reassuring; I just felt like a total ass and terrible for bailing at the last minute to boot.
After I called my husband, the other director, C, came and sat with me in the lobby (comfortable chairs and a good view of the parking lot. My husband has never been there before and its difficult to get into the building after hours if you don’t know the protocol). The other director came up to see how I was doing once she got the role playing groups settled, and I apologized to both of them and then I did burst out into tears. Again, they were very reassuring and told me it was just important to take care of myself. And I know it’s unreasonable on my part, but it really FELT like I was doing something totally horrible by not being able to follow through on training. C sat and listened to me and about ten minutes in I realize I am pretty much babbling. I stopped and looked at her and said “you’re really good.” She smiled and told me we were actually a lot alike, to which I replied “oh that’s why you always catch me when I’m not practicing good self care.”
My husband arrived and we headed home (my car is still there) and I was falling apart between feeling like a failure and being scared that something was really wrong. It’s sounds silly to say it now, but I lost one of my dearest friends to a heart attack six years ago and guess what, she was six years older than me. So what’s running through my head is “OMG, am I going to have a heart attack at 53?” I did realize on the way home that my temperature had returned to normal. When I got home I took my blood pressure and while it was a bit elevated for me, it wasn’t anywhere near being too high. So I ended up looking up the symptoms of an anxiety attack and I had 9 out of 12 symptoms. I think I went into it already feeling tired and like I had to push and I think when L said we were going to do things differently, I just went over the edge.
I am feeling a lot shame (I know it’s not true, but the feelings are there) about “why am I overreacting so badly?” “There’s nothing here that I should have had an anxiety attack about” followed of course by the “when will I ever learn decent self-care? If I’m so anxious I’m developing anxiety attacks how much better can I be.” I also realized that, in the moment, despite the shame, it was really nice to have people fussing over me and being concerned. Then I felt ashamed for feeling that way. You know, that somehow I managed to cause all those physical symptoms because I’m a drama queen and an attention whore. Wash, rinse, repeat all of the terrible things you say to yourself about how slow you are, and how you really aren’t changing and things haven’t gotten any better. I suspect a lot of you already know this drill. I called BN this morning and he did remind me that my fear that things will only get worse if I let some things go is just the shame, so I’m trying to work on it. And again, typing this out lets me hear how very harsh I am being with myself.
I was really torn about writing this post, because I have not been available for anyone for what just feels like so long and I don’t know if I’ll even have the time or energy to answer any comments, but I also am recognizing that I am feeling really needy and I need to learn to let it be ok to say that. So I’m going to say thank you ahead of time to people for reading and/or commenting, I really appreciate any support anyone has to give and please forgive me for not responding to comments in case I am not able to.
Pushing the publish button is going to be hard, but here it goes!