Hi there. It’s me, Rhiannon. I am currently super caffeinated. I am currently not super depressed. Those two things have nothing to do with each other, I just wanted to give you a head’s up about the first thing. The blog post is more about the second thing.
Am I all sunshine and fucking roses? No. There are too many circumstantial things in my life right now for all that noise but I am willing to compromise with “not currently in possession of the desire to disappear.”
How did I come to this mediocre state of being? I have no idea. That’s sort of the thing about depression, or at least my depression — It exists and then it doesn’t and there is no way to know which piece of spaghetti was the one that actually stuck on the wall. Could have been the extra therapy. Perhaps it was the Cymbalta. Or the hotel? It would be nice if depression filled out an exit survey.
Anxiety has quieted itself a bit, too. It’s more my normal overthinking of all the things and less the constant not-quite-panic attacks. I’ve only had to take an Ativan once in the last week.
Recently, I tried to better explain the concept of the not-quite-panic to my therapist. Here is how the latest Ativan-required episode went for me:
We had Lorelei’s Girl Scout day camp dinner on Friday. I checked the radar as we left the house and became increasingly nervous about the little popcorn cells that were appearing. By the time we got to the park it was starting to thunder. I compulsively checked the radar, like that would somehow help what I already knew — it was about to storm and I was outside with a ton of people. Is there an official GS weather patch for pointing out that this was starting to seem like a very bad idea?
I was really hungry and surrounded by hundreds of people. Kids were in a post-camp tangle of chaos and exhaustion. Lorelei was whining that she had to use the bathroom while we were in line for food. Rowan had turned himself into a weapon of flock destruction.
The sky was growing darker and nobody seemed concerned. I kept imagining the future documentary about the time an entire park full of Girl Scouts and their families were electrocuted while they ate pizza and chicken nuggets. The Tragedy at Forest Hills Park.
By the time we left, the air felt charged with that certain adrenaline-fueled feeling that comes with some storms. Soon after we left the picnic I saw a huge streak of lightning cut through the sky in the distance. When we were driving over the interstate on our way home I had a great view of a shelf cloud with a tail and lots of precipitation coming out of it. I narrowly missed capturing a bolt of lightning angling down from the storm.
My day had been spent drinking leftover iced tea at work. Then I found myself stuck outside with a bajillion people in a storm, and Lorelei would not. stop. talking. I felt myself retreating deeper into my head.
It’s a physical feeling — like my eyes are the only part of my body I’m still directly connected to and they feel like windows through which I am watching everything. Doctor Who fans will understand when I say I feel like I’m steering a teselecta version of myself. My breathing is too shallow. Deep breaths may help for a second but they seem to let that detached feeling surround me even more. My body feels generally heavy, while my skin feels kinetic. My eyes feel like they are moving too fast. Energy is building and I want to scream.
The tiny version of me who lives in my head is absolutely screaming at the top of her lungs, while I use all my energy to remain in control. The only times it crosses into the sure-I’m-dying territory of a panic attack is if it catches me off guard in the middle of the night, otherwise I’m aware of what’s happening, and I desperately want it to stop.
Eventually, these feelings ebb, or else I take an Ativan to speed up the retreat. I feel my brain, eyes, and lungs all slow and calm. I want to sleep, to rid myself of this anxiety hangover from hell. It takes a while before I breathe a sigh of relief, satisfied that my brain is back on track. During the height of the period after Rowan’s birth, I was being hit with this multiple times every single day — sometimes back to back to back over the course of hours. During this more recent uptick in anxiety and depression, I would say maybe a few times per day. It’s nice to be back to my more “normal” once every few days to every week.
The only high-stress symptom that has not waned is the compulsive need to pick at my skin. It’s one of my least favorite habits, though one I can usually control enough to not let it be visible unless you look closely. This past weekend we went swimming with the kids and my friends’ family. I was standing in her bathroom, changing into my bathing suit when I went to put my hair in a ponytail. I realized my back looked horrible. I decided to leave my hair down.
When I’m bored/stressed/anxious my nails find any small blemish and scrape and squeeze. I imagine my scalp looks similar right now. My upper arms have enough freckles that it’s not visible there, which is a small consolation. Sometimes it’s a semi-unconscious habit of idle hands, while other times I lose myself in the bathroom. I want to get to bed but I can’t stop until I get to a certain level of frustration with myself. If I do not exit the bathroom at that moment, I will once again find myself standing in front of the mirror examining my nose and cheeks and chest and and and… wash, rinse, repeat. Always trying to find the exact moment when it feels right to stop. I remember one time, Lorelei yelled into the bathroom after I had said I was just going to go brush my teeth and then I was coming to bed, “Mom! Are you distracted in there again!” Yes, yes I am.
This sounds depressing in its own right. My point is that even when depression fades and the anxiety calms to a dull roar, there are still the shadows of OCD and anxiety left behind. Come the rapture and I will still be convinced my friends secretly don’t like me. That I’m screwing my kids up. That I’m failing. A shit writer. I will continue to overthink all the things. And yet I hang out with friends, my kids fight each other to get in my lap, and I’m still here writing all the things that I am overthinking. My friend Claire likes to say, “For someone with this much anxiety, you certainly get shit done.” It’s true. Maybe it’s my super power (maybe some day I will believe that).
Driving home you see a cloud
Makes the sun a giant shroud
Makes you understand the phrase: silver lining
Though it’s dark as far as sight
Dark can’t terminate the light
Somewhere on the other side the sun is shining
— Nerissa and Katryna Nields