Lots and lots of pills

Its 10:30 am. The angry hum of ever-present leaf blowers fills the air on campus. The men in bright green jumpsuits wave their magic wands and from a distance the fluttering leaves shimmer as they jump about. The air is cold and breezy, 34 degrees my phone says; my fingers are almost numb and my ears are long gone. But, I had to be out here, my bangs flying around my face in the wind. I had to feel something.

photo of person covered with brown textile

Right now I am feeling my coat, big and fuzzy and stolen from the 60’s. I did not know when I bought it that the sleeves would feel silly without ladies gloves, or that the collar would feel scratchy on my neck because I do not have a shirt collar to protect me. But I did know about the smell. My coat smells of another woman’s closet, she is sophisticated and clean. I am not. The lining is luxurious and the exterior is like a heavy carpet; everything inside the coat is warm; everywhere that peaks out is not.

I had to be out here.

Yesterday I went to see my therapist. They told me I was in crisis and set me up with the university mental health clinic. They saw me this morning, not even 24 hours passed. When I called I was told it would be several weeks and that the end of the semester is busy for them. Then my therapist called. I got what they call a triage appointment. “Triage” the same word they use in the emergency room on Grey’s Anatomy. I don’t know If I really think my mental health was a “crisis” or an emergency, but they did. My visit fee has been waived. My free counseling sessions have been extended. I have doctor’s notes. And most of all, I have a prescription.

Now, I don’t really know how I feel about prescriptions. When I was in high school receiving holistic yoga therapy, I begged for my mother to send me to someone who would issue a prescription. She never did, instead I kept breathing, and it worked. I was a lot better, but still not normal. Eventually I decided that I knew how to breath and stopped seeing that therapist. That’s when I resigned to my new normal: feeling slightly on edge always, but never over the edge, and breathing the sudden moments of panic away.

If you never looked up you wouldn’t even notice, but between classes is a curious time. All of the sudden hundreds, probably thousands, of students pour out of every building, silently. Huddled bodies shuffle across the mall, but none of them speak above the hum of the leaf blowers. It feels impossible, like I am watching a movie with the sound off.

The breathing does not work when I forget to do it, or when it feels like I cannot breath at all. I can breath, but I don’t feel like I can. Its feelings that bring that feeling on. I feel too much, more than other people I think. When I describe how I feel to people their eyes tell me that they have never felt the same and that they do not know how to say that, but often their mouths utter a sliver of sympathy. I’ve seen a few professionals in my life and every time when I talk about this, if I do talk about my feelings, I see the professional facade slip for a second, the concerned face they plaster on is replaced by a flash of empathy, sometimes heartbreak. I watch their thoughts switch from clinical to emotional and then back again, trying to figure out what it is that I am feeling, and what is wrong with me. The yoga therapist did this often, I could see her wheels turning. One time she shared with me an image that came to mind when she felt what she thought I was feeling; it did not describe what I felt, but it was the only description anyone has ever said to me that comes close to the feeling.

The feeling hurts, but I have grown to appreciate it.

Now, once I finally have a prescription, I am afraid of losing the feeling. I don’t know if I have derived some comfort from it or a dependency. Sometimes I wonder if I secretly want to hurt. It certainly seems plausible while my fingers sting in the cold air as I type.

This is why I am hesitant about the prescription, Klonopin. This is the prescription I decided to go with. The doctor, a heavier set woman with long grey hair and an office with blue-green paintings and a large sort of earthy wooden light fixture, also suggested an antidepressant which I refused for now. I cannot stop remembering the zombie we called my brother while he was on those pills. In addition, she thinks I have ADD or ADHD, but I don’t know. She advised that I consider taking Adderall or another attention medicine. I don’t think I will ever take those.

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I can’t help but wonder now. Am I the exception? Am I so fucked up that I need all of these? Or does every kid who walks through those doors with a “crisis” get offered three different prescriptions? I do not now. But, it doesn’t seem right that after one session she could feel comfortable diagnosing me with ADD, Depression, and Anxiety (she also mentioned fibromyalgia).

Anyway, I am sitting on a bench, alone in near freezing temperatures because I am afraid of not feeling, but I can’t keep feeling the same way that I feel now. So instead I will feel the cold, and the wind, and my scratchy collar (but I cannot feel my fingers).

Anxious

As I write this post, I am sitting in the library desperately awaiting 3pm. At 3 o’clock this afternoon, I have an appointment with my therapist. I do not know why I want so badly to see them; I often feel as though it is just an hour in which I cry about my problems and come up with solutions I will never use. Nonetheless, I need it.

Over the past few days I have been experiencing a level of stress and anxiety I have not felt in a long time. It is hard to explain what I’m feeling but I’m going to try. It starts with a feeling of reservation, my normally bold and outgoing personality is smothered by this timid and scared girl that I do not know. My mind starts to question everything: “does my boyfriend really love me?” “why am I even in college?” “what if I am not as smart as I think I am?” These questions creep in until I can’t think about anything else. And then comes the weight. I start to feel like one of those heavy lead x-ray vests has been placed over all of my thoughts. Everything gets pushed down to the point where only the biggest, and often the scariest, thoughts can fight the weight and they become all that I feel, all that I know and all that I can believe in. Nothing else feels real because I don’t feel anything else at all. The weight is not only mental. My body starts to ache and shake with the burden of my lead filled veins. Walking, talking, even rolling over in bed starts to feel like too much for me to bear. If I can fight it, if I can use all of the logic, the training and the stamina that I have to move, to try to bear the weight, I cannot do anything else. If I use all of my strength to  walk to my class, I cannot also talk on the phone. If I show up to my class, I cannot also listen and learn because I am exhausted from the walk. This is how I have been feeling constantly for the past few days. But this is not the worst of it.

My exhaustion is punctuated by spells of absolute terror or moments of anguish. Like the tears in my eyes these feelings well up all at once and I can feel nothing else. I have no control over them. The sadness is not so bad, I feel it with the intensity of the sun but it cannot hurt me, its almost just inconvenient. It comes up at the worst of times; sometimes it is random while I’m in class or walking or in bed trying to do homework, but often it is triggered by something. On Monday, I was getting my blood work done when they told me I would have to go somewhere else the next day, then I felt it. The tears welled up in my eyes and I could not control what I was feeling, in that moment my mind turned weary and it was all I could do to speak to the nurse through my tears, to tell her that I was crying because I am stressed and that I could certainly return in the morning. I felt so powerless in that moment, crying for no reason at the slightest inconvenience.

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An original work I created to visually represent how I feel during a panic attack

But, if losing my power in moments like those were the worst thing that happened I think I could feel okay. The flashes of fear are much worse. When they come on it consumes me. I can feel nothing but afraid. My heart pounds, sweat breaks on my brow and moistens my palms. Sometimes I jump; all at once it feels like I am in a car crash. I have to think about breathing. I will be sitting down and immediately feel, no, I know that I have to run, I need to hide because something is terribly wrong. I hit the brakes in my car if I am driving while this happens; one time I pulled the emergency break on a bridge because of this feeling. The pickup truck behind me nearly smashed into the back of my ’95 Civic but luckily he was able to go around me. Sometimes I think about what would have happened had someone been driving in the other lane. I could have been killed, drowned in the river, and worse I could have hurt somebody else because in that moment I could not control my body. I do not remember what I was doing before I pulled the brake or what was in front of me, I don’t remember pulling it, I just remember fear. That is what I feel every time. It is not always as dangerous, but it is always convincing. It is like an emotional mirage, a hallucination but without a physical manifestation; I never know what I am afraid of, just that I am very afraid.

This week, I am sitting around fearing that fear. I am worried that I will be overcome by this wave of unrest. As I type this I am skipping a math exam because I am afraid. I canclose up of hands feel myself on the edge of these episodes. My body is weak, my head is pounding, there is a pit in my stomach and the trademark metallic taste of impending vomit on my tongue. Everything feels tight. I am wound up like a toy car, desperately trying to keep my wheels from spinning. But, I know that if I went to that exam I would be overcome by my stress, every effort I am making to not lose control would be in vain. I do not know if I will be able to makeup the exam, but I know that getting a zero would be better than walking into that room and possibly feeling that fear. Anything is better than screaming in terror during a math test, anything is better than throwing up on my exam sheet, anything is better than rocking back and forth staring at the wall while my time ticks away. It is embarrassing and it only makes the feelings worse.

I think one of the hardest parts of dealing with this is that I am not stressed about anything in particular. Yes, there are stressors, but they aren’t why I feel like this. I am the reason I feel this way. And there is nothing I can do about that. I have been breathing deeply, I have been allowing myself to feel my stress so that it does not build up, I have tried my best to fix my problems, to take action against my stresors. Yet here I am, crying in the library, intermittently feeling my waves of sadness, writing this post in the hopes that maybe these feelings will go away if I let them out. But it is not working