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How 'Worry Paper' Attacks Represent My Anxiety Attacks

Editor's Note

If you struggle with self-harm, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, visit this resource.

Any medical information included is based on a personal experience. For questions or concerns regarding health, please consult a doctor or medical professional.

Please see a doctor before starting or stopping a medication.

I wish I could go to bed. I need some good sleep.

Mania has hung around because of these dang steroids now for about a week. Before that, I was manic because of the steroid shot. And before I became manic due to the steroidal drug intervention, I was extremely depressed and pretty sick. Add to those things, within the past six weeks, both of my parents have been hospitalized with late-night emergency room (ER) visits and I also went out of the state for a fun but hectic vacation.

I guess I wouldn’t be a human being if I wasn’t exhausted under those circumstances. Anyone would be. Even neurotypical people can get insomnia or nervousness with steroids — just not quite to the extent it happens to me.

But the extra fun part is the cascade that happens if you have mental illness. Exhaustion isn’t remedied by sleep … exhaustion often causes more symptoms, like anxiety rearing its ugly head with a mighty roar, which causes even less sleep.

Last night I fell asleep much later than my usual time, but still not extremely late. So insomnia wasn’t a big cause for why I didn’t get a lot of sleep. This time, it was anxiety.

I deal with anxiety a lot — day and night. When I’m doing well, I can even sometimes fight it and keep it from overwhelming me. Last night was one of the worst episodes of extreme anxiety I’ve had in a while.

I woke up maybe around 2 a.m. (after going to sleep around 11 or midnight). The thoughts started … and got scarier … and more worrisome … and I spiraled and spiraled. I almost called my boyfriend because I just couldn’t stop thinking about the worst outcome for every situation I am dealing with right now (and there are several — with many possibilities for some pretty bad worst-case scenarios).

Think of it this way: you have a thought about a bad thing that could happen to you written on an individual small piece of paper. The edges of the papers are all razor-sharp — think extreme paper cuts. This is multiplied by all of the horrible possibilities available and written on thousands upon thousands of papers. These papers are then folded in such a way that makes them easily carried by the wind.

On a “good” day, there might be a breeze, but it’s only picking up and blowing one or two “worry papers” at you every few minutes.  They flit and float and when they do hit you, you hear what they say but you can brush them off before they even really make contact. Some miss you entirely and the others come in so softly that even the ones that do connect, don’t cut you.

An average day, there’s a constant wind. Sometimes it’s stronger and sometimes it’s lighter, but those “worry papers” are coming at you at a much higher frequency. Some of them are tossed at you by the strong wind, and not only does the “worry paper” hit you, it also cuts you as it does. But even then, they are small cuts that heal pretty quickly, not ever becoming a gaping wound. You are able to keep going with only small band-aids to stop the bleeding.

On a night like last night, it was gale-force winds: a hurricane of worry papers that headed my way and finally landed around 2 a.m. Every, single one cut so deep it created a wound … and they just kept coming. There were so many that eventually some cut me in the same places I was already wounded. It happened so fast that even the biggest band-aids I had didn’t stick due to the amount of blood already there. I wasn’t able to keep going; heck, I wasn’t even able to stand. I just lay there being pelted … and pelted … and pelted.

Thankfully, even the worst hurricanes eventually die out. It wasn’t me getting stronger, as I was still a prone, bleeding mess when it slowed down and then stopped. But hurricanes move farther inland and lose strength as they do, and so does this type of extreme anxiety. I was able to get a little grounded and the winds got lighter, the band-aids were finally able to stick, and though it was still compounded by nightmares, eventually a rainbow came out and I was able to keep going and get back to sleep.

Original photo by author