It’s 8 a.m. I wake up in a panic because the shrill sound of an alarm clock sets off my anxiety. After I turn it off, I’m immediately exhausted because even though my depression makes me exhausted, my anxiety keeps me up at night. I get up, brush my teeth, wash my face. Is that a pimple? What if people stare?
I make myself tea or coffee. I probably shouldn’t have much caffeine, but I can’t function without it. Depending on how my always-in-knots stomach feels, I may or may not have breakfast. I feed my cat and she meows at me in gratitude. If no one else is home, I go back to my room, warm drink in hand and open my laptop and check my phone. Has anything I’ve posted on social media upset anyone? Are my friends and family OK? Is the world alright?
Later in the day, I’m asked if I want to hang out with a friend. Most of the time, I say yes even if I don’t really want to go. It’s better if I force myself out of my comfort zone so my depression doesn’t take over. Is it worth it?
I get dressed in something sensible and not too eye-catching. My hair is too short. My face is breaking out. I change a few times until I’m forced to choose a pair of shoes and finish getting ready. I pack my bag with a book, a pen, a small notebook, some lip balm, a stress ball, my favorite chewable necklace, some gum, my wallet and some earbuds. Most of the things I take with me aren’t necessary, but it makes me feel better to have them around. Depending on where I’m going and with whom I’m going, I may be forced to drive — one of my biggest fears. I’m not a bad driver, it’s just a performance anxiety thing. What if others are judging my driving? What if I drive too slowly for someone’s liking? What if I do something embarrassing? Luckily, my friends understand and always offer to pick me up.
As I’m out and about, I feel as though I’ve made a bad choice regarding my outfit. I feel self-conscious about my appearance. My hair is too short. I don’t look feminine enough. Or maybe today I feel too feminine. Sometimes I prefer to look androgynous, but sometimes I want to look especially feminine. Both are hard with my in-between hair length. My face is breaking out and I didn’t have time or feel confident enough to put on makeup. Red lipstick is too noticeable. But so is acne. What if people are staring? Am I walking strangely? Am I talking too loudly?
We get hungry. Unless we go through the drive-through, I’m forced to talk to someone. As the line moves up, I feel my stomach tense and my mouth dry. We’re getting closer. I’m getting quieter as my companion talks to me. We’re next.
I order. “Can I get a bacon cheeseburger with fries and a drink? Thank you.” I could’ve just said the number of the combo. I’m so embarrassed. We get our food and I quickly get my drink so I can be the first to choose the table. A quiet, empty spot in the corner. We all sit down and begin eating. Of course, I’ve gotten a large stack of napkins and extra straws just in case someone else forgot. Now that we’re all together and partially isolated, I can relax.
After our meal, my friends ask if I’d like to hang out a little longer. I say yes and we spend the rest of the day in my comfort zone: curled up on a couch I’ve sat on many times playing video games or watching a movie in a home I’ve come to think of as mine away from my own. I don’t feel anxious until I realize how much I’m talking compared to how much they’re talking. Am I talking too much? Am I talking too loudly? Am I boring? I talk less and lower my volume.
It gets a bit late and my friends take me home. I greet my family, feed the cat again, wash my face, change into a more comfortable outfit and go back to my room. I turn on my lamp, light a candle, put on some soft music, get into bed and open my laptop. I stay this way, scrolling through social media, perhaps doing a bit of writing, almost always talking to my boyfriend, until it’s time for bed.
Everyone else has gone to bed. Aside from the sound of my dad snoring and my constantly-playing YouTube playlist, the house is quiet. It’s getting late and I lie down. I’m comfortable and I’m getting ready to fall asleep. I suddenly feel anxious. I tell myself there’s absolutely nothing to be anxious or worried about, but it doesn’t help. It gets worse and I start to feel nauseous. I know what’s coming.
I get upset at myself for feeling this way because I know I shouldn’t. I know there’s no reason for me to feel this way and I’m upset because I can’t stop it. I have a blog dedicated to helping others with this kind of thing, but I can’t help myself. I start to cry out of frustration and it escalates into a panic attack. I tell my boyfriend even though I worry about waking him. He talks to me until it’s over. I lie in bed until I’ve stopped crying and feel less overwhelmed. If I feel OK, I start my post-panic attack “routine.” I tell my boyfriend goodnight and try to sleep. I toss and turn for a few hours, my thoughts keeping me awake, until I finally fall asleep. It’s almost 6 a.m.