What a Tidal Wave of Anxiety Looks Like


I kiss my daughter goodnight and pad out of her room to finish switching the laundry over. I bend over to pull the wet clothes out of the dryer, stand up… and a tidal wave of anxiety washes over me. Instant sweating, my heart goes up in my throat, everything tenses up, my stomach churns. “Hello anxiety,” I think. “How nice of you to want to come out and play, but I’m busy.”

But my anxiety is busier.

My hands start to move faster, switching piles of clothes from the washer to the dryer. My head starts spinning, itching for something to occupy the space that the anxiety is currently occupying. Both of my kids are asleep, and my husband is upstairs watching the game. I start moving in fast-forward. The house is quiet but the noise in my head is loud, making my body want to run in circles to try to beat it. I have an unstoppable drive to contact one of my best friends just to tell her, “Hi, I’m anxious right now,” because for some reason telling someone else — someone who understands it — makes it “better.” But, it doesn’t. I itch to call one of my other best friends who has the most soothing voice my ears have ever heard and have her read the dictionary or a cookbook — just something so that she keeps talking — and keep listening to her voice and just maybe that will be enough to quiet the noise, to slow the breathing, to slow the brain. But I don’t; instead I move on, I make lunches for the next day, I literally walk in circles in my kitchen; my brain won’t stop spinning, it’s loud, it’s dizzying, it’s short tempered, it’s everything I wish it wasn’t.

I think about my meds; I think about how this has been going on for an hour. I think about how my therapist assured me that it was OK to take them when I need them. I weigh the pros and cons, I think about how I can barely stand feeling like this for another second. The spinning won’t stop. I go for the meds, and bless those pharmaceutical folks because whatever is in them makes my brain stop firing over and over again. Relief washes over me a mere 15 minutes later.

Anxiety has a way of taking over your brain when you least expect it. In a perfect world I could handle it by myself. I could be with the feelings, soothe them and that would be enough to make the physical symptoms dissipate. But, I’m a work in progress and I have a lot of tools under my belt, some sharper than others. But, let’s be honest — in the moment, I sometimes I forget everything I have learned. In other moments, I remember one thing, and then another, but it’s too slow and the spinning is too fast. I grasp on to what I know. I know that there will be a next time. I will keep my notebook handy, I will reread the steps, I will try with all my might to not resist it — to be with it — no matter how uncomfortable it makes me, because it will pass. It has to.

I am learning — we all are — and with practice comes patience and calmness, steady breathing, living and overcoming. Even if it’s just for one time, keep practicing. We all just keep practicing.

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