woman stressed holding her head

To Those Who Think I Cancel Plans Because I 'Don't Feel Like Going'

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I am going to be very, very honest here. I wish it was that simple. I really do. If only I could tell you that I canceled a lot of plans because I “just didn’t feel like going.” It’s just not the truth, it’s not even close.

I cancel because I can’t go. I cancel because my head feels like it’s about to explode, because my legs feel like they’re going to break and, most importantly, because every fiber in my body screams “fear, fear, fear.”

I cancel because I have severe social anxiety.

Days, sometimes even weeks before an event, my anxiety kicks in. My brain starts to make lists of how awful it’s going to be, how I’m going to embarrass myself and how everyone will laugh at me, point at me, or talk about me. As a response, my body gets tense, and that’s where the panic attacks come in.

Trouble sleeping, breathing and functioning. It’s exhausting.

That’s what makes me cancel plans. And even after I’ve canceled, the anxiety stays with me for hours. People might think I’m an awful human being. People may think that I’m doing exactly what the title of this article says. Believe me when I say, “I can’t come to your party.” It’s not because I don’t want to, but because at times it feels like an impossible task.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability, disease or mental illness, and what would you say to teach them? Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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Dear Anxious Mom, Only You Can Convince Yourself You Are Enough

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During my pregnancy I did what I’m sure a lot of mothers-to-be do: I listed the things I would do differently from my mother. Then I immediately reminded myself I would definitely find myself saying or doing things that would make me think (or my husband say), “I’ve (you’ve) turned into my (your) mother!”

Once my beautiful daughter was born, I switched gears. Being someone of anxious nature (not the way the term is loosely used: “I am so anxious!” “I can’t find my keys, I’m having a panic attack!” I mean actual anxiety), I started worrying about all the negative things, physically and emotionally, my daughter would inherit from me and how I had basically doomed her from the start and how could I think passing on my genes could be a good thing?

One day, in the middle of a terrifying anxiety attack, I realized part of the source of the anxiety worrying about my daughter. I so pitied her for having me for a mother, screwed up as I was. And I asked myself a question I’ve been asking my husband since we got married, “Why do you love me?”

Another day, when I was experiencing one of my first postpartum periods and reliving the excruciating pain of first-day cramps, I felt sorry for my daughter, knowing there was a good chance she would suffer her periods as badly as I did in my teen years, one time almost to the point of passing out. I felt as I if I had chosen to give her painful periods and how horrible of me for doing that.

When we took her for her one-month check-up, the doctor told us she hadn’t gained any of her birth weight back. While it was a good thing she hadn’t lost weight, she hadn’t gained like she was supposed to (her need to nurse every hour even after nursing for 40 minutes suddenly made sense). I clearly understood that in no way was I at fault for not producing enough milk and yet I felt terrible for not realizing she wasn’t getting enough to eat for four whole weeks. I felt disappointed that my ideal of exclusively nursing for a full year came to an end so soon. I felt inadequate that I needed to supplement her with formula.

On a daily basis I questioned my parenting. Am I giving her enough attention? Is she happy? Does she get enough fresh air? Do her diapers fit her comfortably? Is it OK that I went back to work nine weeks postpartum? Is it OK that she seems to love the babysitter [almost?] as much as me?

Then one day, while doing guided imagery, I envisioned myself as an infant. I tried to picture infant-me ecstatically happy, like only an infant can be, hands clapping, big toothless grin. And the image that came to my mind, the face of that infant, was not my own. It was my daughter’s. As I tried to imagine happy infant-me, I saw my daughter clapping her pudgy hands, smiling widely, with her two bottom-front teeth clearly visible. And that’s how I knew I was good enough. I am a good mother. The picture of a happy, healthy infant in my mind, in my subconscious, was the one I had helped create and raise.

No matter how many times those whose opinion you value most will tell you you are a good mother, the only one who has the power to convince you, is you. It is so much harder than it sounds. It’s not telling yourself “I’m good enough, I’m OK.” Anyone can lie to themselves. It’s knowing it. Not having to tell yourself. It’s feeling it. It’s knowing you’re more than good enough. Your best is truly best for your child. Your best made this child the happy, giggly baby she is. No matter how flawed you think you are. No matter how screwed up you think you are — that flawed, screwed up person created and raised a beautiful happy baby. You are the perfect mother for your child.

The Mighty is asking the following: Are you a mother with a disability, disease or mental illness? What would you tell a new mother in your position? Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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In the Moments I'm Here, but My Mind Is Gone

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I write this in hopes that the next time an argument or conflict causes a person to dissociate, those around them will understand what is happening in their mind. As a disorder that causes the mind to flee the body as a defense mechanism, dissociating separates the victim from the situation, but to everyone else they are still “there.” During times of conflict when this occurs, it seems like the person dissociating stops listening, refuses to speak or respond, or is giving some type of stubborn cold shoulder. When questions are being asked but you are not mentally there to perceive and answer them, people tend to get upset.

 Please, take a moment right now to engross yourself in the thought process of someone dissociating during a conversation, and maybe next time you can help them feel safe enough to “come back to reality” instead of getting even more upset and heightening their flight-response.

***

We are sitting in your car, talking about some issues we’ve been having lately, issues that bring up personal events in my life I am never fond of talking about. As the questions began digging deep into my past, my mind does all it knows to do to protect me: leave. I want to answer your questions, I want to look you in the eyes and I want to be responsive right now as you grow angrier at my lack of emotion. I want so badly to be able to control my mind, but unfortunately those of us suffering from mental illnesses cannot always do so. Hopefully most have a person beside them that makes “coming back” a little bit easier, the way that I have you.

Heart racing; I feel a pen cap my fidgeting fingers have found. Life is continuing around me, but all I can hear are the clicks as I open and close it,

open and close it,

open and close it.

My chest aches where my heart is, crying a desperate plea of desire for the pain to cease. 

I hear you talking, I feel the tension, I see warm breathe crafting clouds of smoke each time your mouth opens and closes, opens and closes, opens and closes…but I can only stare straight ahead.

How can I look you in the eyes? Those eyes perceive life through a lens of grace and gentleness. Those eyes remind me of everything beautiful in this world. 

You stop talking, waiting for my response.

Silence.

I try to speak, but it feels as if something is caught in my throat. The dull pain in my chest makes me nauseous as I swallow and attempt to say something…anything — knowing it could be the difference between “see you later” or “goodbye.” I try to talk, but my body surrenders control as the throbbing extends to my stomach. Breathing becomes a task as the snow covered tree branches out the window of your car blend together, forming a blur of wonderful white and brown lines.

Next to me, you stare. Waiting. Expecting. Hoping.

But my mind has gone blank. I can’t remember any particular thing, I can’t remember anything. I close my eyes, trying to shield myself from the faintness, from the migraines. I am out of my body, on the outside looking in; away from the hurt, the pressures, the disillusionments of this distorted world. Finally — stillness, tranquility, peace.

I feel a hand on my shoulder, and am violently dragged back into reality.

Fear, panic, terror. I want to leave again, to never come back.

But that hand belongs to you, and you are worth staying for.

I turn towards you. How can I avert those eyes? Those eyes perceive me through a lens of grace and gentleness. Those eyes remind me of everything beautiful in this world.

The Mighty is asking the following: For someone who doesn’t understand what it’s like to have your mental illness, describe what it’s like to be in your head for a day. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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When the Idea of Anxiety Treatment Worsens Your Anxiety

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Most people would be ecstatic to hear “Pack your bags, you’re leaving Saturday and going to be in Tampa, Florida, for two weeks.” I’m doing just that. I’m leaving Saturday, and I’ll be in Tampa for an anxiety treatment program for two weeks.

But I’m not ecstatic. To be completely honest, I’m slightly terrified. My anxiety has gotten higher and higher as I’ve been trying to mentally prepare myself for it.

I hate unknowns. I like to know exactly who I’ll be talking to, about what and exactly how many questions I’ll have to answer, and what questions at that. Of course. I don’t know any of those things. This entire trip is full of unknowns. My mind fills with questions, five more questions for every question that remains unanswered. What if I don’t like the therapist? What if it doesn’t help? How long will I be there?

I’m going down for a program to treat my anxiety. You’d think with the thought of something that’s supposed to help my anxiety, I’d feel overjoyed and enthusiastic with relief. Instead, I just feel even more anxious. Anxious to the point that I popped my favorite water-filled stress ball. Anxious to the point of tears. Anxiety. Always. Lots of it. Never ending. Anxiety.

What am I supposed to do? How can I ever get the treatment for my anxiety that I quite obviously desperately need if my anxiety keeps getting in the way? It would be so much easier to treat my anxiety if I didn’t have so much anxiety. But of course, that is not an option. It’s rarely that simple. After all, I wouldn’t need to treat my anxiety if it didn’t exist. But how am I supposed to handle my anxiety leading up to the treatment?

I don’t know much about the program. I know they’ll be doing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Exposure Response Prevention, both of which have helped me in the past. You’d think that would put some of my anxiety at ease, to know they’re doing something that has helped before, that will most likely help again. But still. my mind swirls with questions as I feel my heart beating faster and faster. It’s different this time,” my anxiety seems to whisper in my mind. “You’re different this time. This is a partial hospitalization. You’ve never done this before. This is different. It’s far away. A 15 hour drive. None of your local supports will be there.” My body reacts to my anxiety going over it again, and I feel my muscles becoming tense. “Deep breaths,” I remind myself “In and out. You can do this.”

So, for now, in the meantime, I’ll do what I seem to do best. I’ll distract myself from the things spiking my anxiety — in this case, my anxiety treatment itself. I’ll take care of myself and remember to breathe. I can’t make my anxiety go away, but I can find ways to calm myself down until I get to somewhere people can and will help me. It’s going to be OK.

The Mighty is asking the following: What was one moment you received help in an unexpected or unorthodox way related to disability, disease or mental illness? Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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To My Fellow Warriors, How About We Actually Live This Year?

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To say I’m anxious is an understatement. I’m more like a forecaster of doom. You know, the mundane oblivion we’re all destined for, the kind that’s coming for us on the sure horizon.

I roll my eyes at the hoarding doomsday preppers stockpiling their munitions and canned foods in repurposed school buses. But I wonder if they might roll their eyes at me if a documentary crew followed me around, taping my tells —

how I feel for swollen glands at the top of my neck at stoplights as some might glance at a text…

how I time my pulse sometimes when I think my blood pressure is up and a stroke must be coming on…

how I swallow hard after a new meal I didn’t make (Was I allergic to something? Did it expire?)…

how I follow self-exam instructions to the laminated letter in the shower every day and think of a friend lost to something that looked like a mosquito bite she didn’t know wasn’t…

how I remember my late father’s diagnosis of multiple myeloma at age 55 and how his doctor and my doctor and another doctor said it wasn’t genetic…wasn’t genetic…wasn’t genetic…

how I dream up all the things I might have but don’t know because I didn’t land in med school…

how I think of all my grandparents’ ages and how they’re completely rocking their 80s and then my mind turns to the ratio of what I’ve lived versus what I might have left, and I wonder if I haven’t done enough, said enough or been enough yet and how we’re doomed, doomed, doomed if I can’t settle everyone’s checks first…

how I think of writing a note to my kids in case of an accident so they know what to do in case I’m gone, and then I wonder where on earth I’ll put it because the house is always such a blasted mess — and why is the house always such a mess? — and is it making us sick over the long haul? — We have to get rid of the carpet.

It turns out I’m worse than the end-preppers. I look at them and think, “But the weather’s nice today. And I’ll bet you haven’t read all the David Sedaris your heart can handle yet, have you? And do you know how to make a good crab cake? I’ve always wanted to do that.”

But then they probably look at me and think, “You’re totally screwed. You’re over there worrying about K-cup carcinogens, tomatoes in aluminum cans, and bad feet when you need to grab the Beanie Weenies and run, bunions be damned.”

I’m starting to hear that our message is the same: We don’t have much time.

We’re both right, unfortunately. But in the midst of trying to salvage what we’ve got, to fight the end, and to keep our eyes wide open all the time, we’ve missed the point completely. We’re trying to lengthen something we don’t own.

You would think with all these worries I’d take slightly better care of myself — go on walks, lose the same old pounds, look up sweet potato recipes, eat more kale, sleep more.

I don’t.

Like the jerky hoarders, I live in survival mode. I’m no better.

So, let’s just stop this year, OK? We’ve been running and avoiding running for too long. We’ve got to get over the onions and coconuts — the little hang ups that keep us from figuratively eating that which would otherwise bring us sublime joy.

We’ve got to stop hollering over fire ants and moving those hills into our neighbors’ yards — even on accident. Our paranoia is contagious, and that stress is contagious, and that fear is contagious. These are the things we should truly be afraid of — the pressure that will cook us from the inside out.

My daughter is in eighth grade. People are asking her what her major will be and where she will go to college.

To them my husband and I say, “Do not pollute our lakes and rivers.”

She is stressed because she is not stressed about that which stresses them. Come on!

Here’s our litmus test for our children’s success:

  • Do they love learning and know how to do it on their own?
  • Do they understand the importance of hard work and intentional rest?
  • Do they know to put people, in every instance no matter what, before things?
  • Do they have enough love in their pockets to give some away?

To quote my Rowling-loving daughter’s response, “The wand chooses the wizard, Mr. Potter.” And she’s talking about a calling here. She gets it. When you know, you know.

Let’s not be in a hubbub about college acceptance this year. She’s 13. She really is just now starting to know what she likes on a sandwich.

Let’s believe the best about this year for a change. Let’s just live for a bit! How about it?

Let’s line our pockets with love instead of fear.

Let’s warm the hearth not because we won’t survive the winter if we don’t but because the flames are pretty.

Let’s write love letters and actually mail them this time.

Let’s fall asleep and let late work be early work because those REM dreams are worth having (the sleep, not the band, but to each her own).

Let’s work miracles in the daylight, surprising people with our generosity of spirit.

Let’s remember how far a glass of water and a deep breath go.

Let’s have people over with the laundry on the couch.

And let us feel the echoes of each new joy all year long.

Follow this journey on DeidrePrice.com.

The Mighty is asking the following: Write a letter to anyone you wish had a better understanding of your experience with disability, disease or mental illness. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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Little Moments That Shouldn't Cause Anxiety, but Do

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Yes, I get extremely anxious going to unknown places and meeting strange, new people. Yes, sometimes even family visits or friendly get-­togethers scare me. But the little moments are the worst…

The doorbell.

Every time! My heart starts beating in my chest, and I really, really don’t want to go and open the door. Even when I know people are coming: the screeching sound makes my muscles tense.

A call from an unknown number.

I wish we could all use email. All the time. When I hear my phone ringing, I can’t do anything but stare at it. I should pick it up, but I don’t know who it is. What do I say? What if it’s someone I don’t know? What do I do? And if I decide to let it go, it gets even worse. Because now I don’t know who’s been calling me, and that’s enough to make my brain go wild for the next couple days… And if they leave a voicemail… well… that’s like forcing me to call back.

When someone doesn’t return a text.

As you’ve probably figured from the one­ above, I always text. And when someone’s read my text (how awful is it that you can see that?) but doesn’t reply, my anxiety goes through the roof. They have to be mad at me… I’ve said something wrong…

And when that person replies a little later, with 10 silly emojis, my anxiety doesn’t stop. Because that would just be too easy…

Going to the toilet at night.

I’ve had this fear as long as I can remember. I can’t get out of bed in the middle of the night. I practically see myself getting murdered or kidnapped or slipping on the floor. This is one of the reasons I can’t see myself living in a house instead of an apartment. I can only imagine my fear when there’s a whole other floor just beneath me.

There are hundreds more — especially when you count the “occasional” ones, like cooking over a fire. Sometimes I only focus on the biggest, baddest anxiety kickers, but that doesn’t mean these aren’t equally important — or any less satisfying to overcome. Because I recently dared myself to shower when I was home alone… and I did it!

The Mighty is asking the following: Create a list-style story of your choice in regards to disability, disease or mental illness. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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