While I’ve dealt with anxiety in many different forms and at many different times in my life, some of my worst years were spent balancing debilitating anxiety and full-time employment.
I believe the anxiety would have been what it was regardless of my employment status, a requirement to be somewhere by a certain time every single weekday just didn’t meld well with my ever-increasing agoraphobia.
The overwhelming sense of dread would usually begin Sunday afternoon. We would go to church and sometime after lunch, I would become increasingly aware of how quickly the rest of the day was going to go by, and therefore, how quickly Monday morning was going to arrive. By dinnertime Sunday evening, I usually felt sick. This actually became so routine that I started to expect the nauseous feeling, so much so that feeling halfway decent caught my attention more than feeling ill.
The tossing and turning began most weeknights around 2 or 3 am. I never rested soundly after that and usually checked the clock at least once every half hour or so until my alarm (sounding promptly at 5:30 am) finally went off. Rarely did my alarm actually catch me sleeping. I got up and got ready, dread building from my shower all the way through final preparations before heading out the door. My digestive system would also usually make me aware of the turmoil it was suffering thanks to my anxious brain (standby for a post on all the ways my physical body has been affected by my mental angst). I would kiss my husband good-bye, sometimes starting to cry as soon as I turned my face away from him, telling him to have a good day while I knew full well that mine would be anything but.
While making my 30+ minute drive into work (depending on traffic), the anxiety would build further. My mind would race and whisper in my ear that I was about to pass out, my oatmeal was not settling well, I should turn back, actually scratch that, not enough time, find the nearest gas station. On a few occasions, I became so annoyed with the voice inside my own head that I started screaming “STOP IT, STOP IT, STOP IT” to myself while slamming my hands against the steering wheel as I made my way down the interstate at 70 mph. How could I be the one telling myself , with great conviction mind you, that all these horrible things were about to happen and yet simultaneously know it was ridiculous and be screaming at myself to stop?
My personal favorite morning drive routine would occur when I would drive past a construction zone, or a motorist with a flat tire pulled off on the shoulder, and somehow convince myself that I had hit a construction worker or the motorist, without noticing, and the police would no doubt be waiting for me by the time I arrived at work. Just in case my concerns about my own body had started to wane, I could worry about someone else for the remaining 15 minutes. I can thankfully now actually roll my eyes at myself for that little gem.
By the time I did make it to work, I was exhausted. My brain had been through a full day of work and it was only 7:30. If I was really lucky, my body would have me in and out of the bathroom a few more times before noon, just to make sure I was on my toes.
This could all easily occur on a completely obscure day when I didn’t even have anything going on. Add on a special meeting or a project deadline…well, actually things went pretty much the same. I guess that’s what happens when your body is always running on stress mode. The only real difference I noticed when there actually was something of note happening that day was my ability to get ready about 20 minutes faster in spite of getting up at the same time and not cutting anything out of my routine. The feelings were all the same, but the adrenaline pumped harder and I my hands would shake, as if I had started my day with coffee, oatmeal and a bit of meth.
A little adrenaline can actually be beneficial on a day of real stress but to experience this day in and day out probably only served to take a few years off my life. Of course, I really only drilled down on how my morning’s went, since they were the most routine, there was also the random sprinkling of full-blown panic attacks throughout the day that had me pulling off as many layers of clothes as possible while I crouched down in front of the toilet, pressing my face against the stall wall just to feel the relief of the cool metal. I’m a bit of a germaphobe, by the way, so you can imagine my desperation for cool air when I’m making facial contact with bathroom surfaces.
When the week would finally, mercifully end, I would pull into the garage and sit tight in my house, allowing my agoraphobia to ruin anything pleasurable I might have done over the weekend, until Monday morning rolled around again. This is when the depression really started to elbow it’s way in and take control, more on that to come.
I worked for several years while dealing with this and while I did eventually resign (the resignation was coming regardless of the anxiety but my anxious brain did help push it along), the only real tip I have for getting through it is to get help for the anxiety and agoraphobia you’re facing, whatever that means for you. I’ll also be talking about different treatments I sought in later posts.
I would encourage my fellow anxious brains to keep going, don’t hide from work, unless you become spontaneously wealthy, it will always be there and avoidance does not work, but get help! Your Sunday evenings should belong to you and Monday mornings may never be the highlight of your week, but they don’t have to feel like the seventh layer of hell.
Keep pushing and keep working on that anxious brain, it does get better.