I wake up every day unable to breathe. I have severe anxiety.
My chest is tight, my heart is racing, I tremble, I gasp. I close my eyes and try to calm my body, try to take deep, slow breaths, fill my lungs with air and empty my mind of thought.
I have anxiety. Severe anxiety. Debilitating, paralyzing anxiety that makes every day hard.
I was diagnosed with asthma as a child because of the attacks and episodes I had – difficulty breathing, tight chest, tingling all over my body from lack of oxygen. Inhalers never helped and traditional triggers never set me off. It wasn’t until years later that we realized it wasn’t that my lungs were inflamed, it was that my brain was.
I wake up every morning, unable to breathe.
I run through the day’s schedule in my mind and instantly see a dozen ways my children could be hurt.
I check my phone to make sure my husband made it to his office safely. Why hasn’t he texted me yet? Is my contact information saved in his phone in such a way that a hospital or EMT would know how to get ahold of me?
I didn’t die in the night like I’d been afraid I might, so now I’m back to Googling symptoms.
Better check my emails again in case any teachers need to tell me something about my kids. WHY don’t my kids have their own phones so I can check on them?
These are all running through my mind within the first minutes of waking, as I breathe deeply and fumble for my medication.
It’ll be a little while before it kicks in, so I lie in bed and breathe. Breathe. Breathe.
I live with severe anxiety, though sometimes it’s so overwhelming that there isn’t much living done. Field trips terrify me. Car rides petrify me. Natural disasters, bridges, food allergies, spiders, politics, medical diagnoses, school shootings, sports injuries, online predators, financial ruin… there is no shortage of things to worry about.
I live, every day, in constant fear of it all.
In fear of my children being harmed, of my husband getting hurt, of myself being diagnosed with something terminal.
In fear of terrorist attacks, in fear of mold spores, in fear of wasting my life in fear.
At any point you encounter me in the day, I’m painfully aware of a dozen ways I could die in that moment.
Most days I can still function for large chunks of time, but those chunks are constantly speckled with fear, dread, the unknown, the desire to control it all and the crushing inability to. Most days I can brave the great unknown beyond my front door and operate in the big, scary world that threatens at all times to take my life, take my peace.
But at some point every day, usually a few times a day, I’m so overwhelmed by the fear that I sit, I take my meds, and I wait for the terror to pass as I breathe. Breathe. Breathe.
I have severe anxiety which makes me live in fear of everything.
I’m told to get over it, to let it go, that I have nothing to worry about, that it’s not that bad.
I’m told to get some sunshine, do some jumping jacks, eat some fruit, take a nap.
I’m told a lot of things, but none of them help.
Because I have anxiety, not a cold. Anxiety doesn’t run its course or go away after you take a few pills.
It’s not an infection that you treat once or a mindset you can will away with affirmations and a brisk walk. It’s a raging chemical imbalance that threatens me and treats everything as a threat.
It’s a wiring in my brain that views every open door as an open grave. It’s a medical condition that is very real and very, very hard to live with, so most days I just survive it.
I live in fear of everything. I wish I didn’t also have to live in fear of judgement.