What a (Bad) Day in the Life of Someone With Anxiety Looks Like
I have struggled with my mental health for most of my life, even when I didn’t know I was mentally ill. I just knew life was harder some days. Sometimes people ask me why I can’t, “just do [insert seemingly mundane thing here]” or people will tell me, “it can’t be that difficult, you were fine yesterday.” I decided to document what one of my worse days is like, to try and give some perspective.
My alarm goes off. I open my eyes to try and find my phone, and realize the light coming in through my window is blinding. My head is pounding. I get migraines more frequently when stressed, and I’m supposed to be packing and getting ready to move for a new job in the next few days. I still don’t know when I start this job though. All of these thoughts are swirling around my head while I can feel my pulse behind my eyes. I have two options: stay awake and try and power through, or go back to sleep.
I power off my phone and shut my eyes.
Crap. I didn’t mean to sleep that long. My head is still pounding but at least I can see now. I check my phone — no emails from work, no emails from the new job and no missed calls. Just a text from my mom reminding me it’s my aunt’s birthday and some game notification. I yawn and realize my jaw and teeth hurt. I’d been grinding my teeth again, and realize I’d been forgetting to brush my teeth again. I start to panic that they are all going to fall out. I spend the next 20 minutes looking in the mirror to see if I can see something wrong with my teeth. I realize the pain in my jaw is because my wisdom teeth are coming in. I start to panic again because that means I’ll have to go to the dentist. I decide I’m going to start taking better care of my teeth.
I make myself a bowl of cereal and sit down to watch some Netflix while I eat. I take my anxiety medication as well as some pain relievers for my migraine. They don’t really help but it’s better than the migraine getting worse. I’m not really paying attention to what I’m watching; my brain is going a million miles per hour. I look around at all the packing I still have to do and think I’ll never be able to finish it. I pull my knees up to my chest and try to breathe. I feel like a failure because every task seems too daunting to start. I think about how I’m moving in with my best friend, and he’s going to get sick of me because I’m such a mess. I start crying because I’m going to lose him and everyone I love. The world feels like it’s closing in on me. I curl up on the couch and cry myself asleep.
I can’t believe I fell asleep again. It must be the migraine, or I exhausted myself with that panic attack. Probably both. I get up and start getting ready for work. On days like today, I am grateful most of my clothes match easily enough that I don’t have to think too hard, and grateful my hair is short so I don’t have to do much to it. I put on a headband, wash my face and head out the door.
I go to the store to pick up packing tape, tissue paper, mouthwash and floss. I’m serious about taking better care of my teeth. I also have to run and pick up some other things for work and try to ignore my gas light going on. Clearly, nothing is going right today. The voice in the back of my head reminds me nothing is going right because I haven’t done anything today. I ride back to work in silence.
I make it into work. I’m the box office and house manager for a theater company, so I tell the staff to head off to their dinner break before the show tonight. I do my usual routine, and then realize I’m still wearing my sunglasses. My migraine is making everything so bright I didn’t even notice they were on. Then I realize I haven’t heard from my best friend yet today (we’ll call him Tim). I immediately think he’s mad at me, even though logically I know that’s not true. I also start to worry he’s hurt or sick. He did say he wasn’t feeling well yesterday. My head is throbbing again.
The show went off without a hitch. I talked to Tim during Act 2, so I know he’s OK. I still think he’s mad at me, but it feels silly to ask since I know he’s not. I’m trying really hard to just not think, but I still have to close up the office and I’m also pacing because I’m anxious so everything is taking twice as long. My head still hurts, but I don’t want to think about that either. I text Tim again and head on home.
I walk in the door and straight to the kitchen. I hadn’t eaten since that bowl of cereal earlier but I’m not really hungry, nor do I have the energy to cook. I pour a small glass of milk, drink it, and head upstairs to my room, pretending like I don’t see the stack of dishes I have to do from yesterday.
I am lying in bed, and remember the promise I made to myself about my teeth. The pain from my migraine is so bad I think I might throw up, but I feel so anxious when I think about not brushing my teeth. I run out to my car and grab my floss and mouthwash. I text Tim that I’m going to bed, even though I haven’t talked to him in over an hour. Part of me feels like I need someone to know I’m OK (even though I’m clearly not) and part of me just doesn’t like not saying goodnight to someone. Three years of living alone haven’t changed that. I finish brushing, flossing and rinsing my teeth, and head off to bed.
I lay in bed for 45 minutes and decided to take my notes from my day and turn it into this story. Today, I mostly experienced anxiety and depression symptoms, but it varies. Some days, instead of worrying, I can’t concentrate, I’m hyper or I get sensory overload. One thing is for sure: I can’t be the only one experiencing days like this. I look on Twitter, or Tumblr or The Mighty and realize there are so many people like me whose brains work just differently enough for things to be difficult. As horrible as these days are, that realization makes them just a little bit easier.
Photo by Alex Brisbey on Unsplash