I want to start by recapping the highlights of my day yesterday. It was typical of a day in the life. There have been much worse, and there have been much better. My day to day life runs pretty similar to this experience.
I have written of late that my stomach gave me a nearly three week reprieve before letting me down again late last week. It has continued to be unsettled and cause me anxiety, but things have generally been better than that first day last week. I had to leave yesterday for work earlier than normal. It certainly wasn’t early by most standards, even mine, but for this job it was earlier than I typically get on the road. I left the house at seven for a rather remote destination about 2 ½ hours away. About twenty minutes from home I passed through the biggest town I was going to see on the way. My stomach was feeling uneasy, but I felt a little hungry too so I took the chance and swung into a fast food joint. I know this crappy food doesn’t help my stomach, but it doesn’t bother me every time I eat it, and my stomach acts up plenty when I haven’t had any in days.
Thirty minutes or so later it was clear that I was going to pay a price for this. The discomfort was higher in my stomach than normal, of course right? I did just eat, and it felt as if my body may reject the meal from either direction, or maybe both. At this point my mind drifts to the talk I had heard about a stomach bug that has been around lately, and the thought that I may actually be sick creeps into my mind. About thirty minutes from my destination I pass through the last town of any size I will see and strike off down a lonely road towards a place that truly feels like you have reached the end of the earth.
As I travel down this road I feel the anxiety building. My mind starts to race…There are no bathrooms until I get back out to the main road, what if I puke, what if I shit myself, I could turn back, but somebody would have seen me. How do I explain that? Even if I turn back I am 2 ½ hours from home. Other people are expecting me today. They changed plans to meet me. I have to see them to meet deadlines. How will I deal with the new timeline if I cant do it?, and on and on and on… Suddenly I cant sit still in my seat. I feel the urge to move… To flee. I adjust myself in my seat to release some of the tension. I take a deep breath. Slow in. Hold it. Slow out. The urge passes, but the general feeling of unease stays. My stomach is upset still but I carry on.
At my first destination I get out at a guys house, and we do our business. We are outside and it is raining and about 31 degrees. As I begin to get cold my body wants to shiver and some of the physical sensations of fear are replicated by my body’s reaction to being cold. Luckily the business is short and I am back in my vehicle with the heat cranked up to take off the chill. About halfway back to the main road I have to make a second stop. Here I am alone, but again outside in the rain, and the chill triggers the anxiety false alarm again. Again the heat is cranked as I make my way back to the world.
When I get back to the first store I stop and go in to grab a box of Altoids Mints. The strong peppermint sometimes settles my stomach and I eat them three at a time. They actually begin to help some. By now it is ten in the morning and I am two hours into a constant feeling of physical illness and general unease that was punctuated by one pronounced anxiety spike. I make my way to the next stop and am feeling somewhat better when I arrive. Much of the stomach pain has quieted down, but the uneasy feeling won’t go away. At this stop I have much to do. I am making patterns and taking measurements. The process will take about 90 minutes and there is no restroom. About half way through with paper spread all over the place I begin to feel trapped. Not claustrophobic, but it occurs to me that I cant just leave. I have a lot of stuff to pick up and I would take me ten minutes or so to be in a position to leave. Normally this thought would not have entered my head, and if it did it wouldn’t have bothered me, but in the aftershocks of the morning’s anxiety it result in instant stomach cramping. I try to let my body relax and keep working hoping it will pass and it does. They cramping comes and goes one more time while I am there. Throughout the remainder of the day I am plagued with repeated short bouts of stomach cramping. Luckily they are never all that severe and they don’t last all that long before passing, but here is still one more surprise in store for me.
In the late afternoon I am scheduled to see my shrink to update him on the Klonopin situation. This blog post notwithstanding things are going well, and it is time for him to write me a letter and get this process with the Coast Guard moving again. It’s about three in the afternoon, and I have switched from light hearted sports talk radio to an afternoon current events show I enjoy. The show is often funny and a little irreverent so I can get some interesting perspective on the day’s news while still getting the occasional laugh. Of course to get to the show I have to get through the actual newscast. One of their stories talks about seventy some odd people being killed at an Egyptian soccer match when the fans rushed the field. I later discovered that the deaths resulting from actual fighting between fans on the field, but that information was not in this initial broadcast. My mid is flooded with images of people being crushed by a wave of humanity. I am suddenly one of the players seeing the swarm of people and turning to escape only to discover the swarm is coming from every direction. Before I can stop it I am in the crowd. I can feel the pressure of the bodies pushing against one another. I can feel the fear of trying to escape the crowd, but not being able to press through the mass of humanity. I imagine the consequences of falling to the ground. Finally my mind returns and I chastise myself for allowing my brain to go down that road, but it happened so damn quick. It was all over in the time it took to read this, but I cannot allow my mind to do that to me.
The appointment goes well, abd the ride home should take an hour. It has been raining on and off most of the day with temps either side of freezing, but now it is dark and getting colder. As I drive away from the coast the roads go from wet to frozen. There are cars off the road. Traffic is moving at rates from 15 – 25mph. On one hill an eighteen wheel fuel truck is stopped. He cant make the hill because of the ice. I pass a truck who had blown by me just prior to the point where the roads went to shit. He is off in the trees, and the police are already on the scene. Conditions are dangerous and I am tight, but there is no anxiety break through. In fact my biggest anxiety issue is what if my line of traffic gets stopped by an accident and my stomach acts out. The last twenty miles takes nearly and hour. When I get home I pull into my drive which slopes downhill. I put the van in park and let off the brake. As the van rolls into the parking break and is stopped I slide another foot down the driveway. It was a nasty night. My stomach does eventually explode, but thankfully I am home, and it only involves a couple trips up the stairs. The day is done.
So by now if anybody is still reading they are probably wondering what the hell the point is to all of this. It’s simple. Many people who have never lived it or been close to it look at those who suffer from depression or anxiety as weak. It makes no sense to them. Having lived through this I say the opposite. I challenge anybody who thinks folks who suffer from depression and anxiety are weak to live through the day I just described, or any other sufferer’s day, and complete their job. I will freely admit that my job is affected by my condition, but I live through better and worse variations of the day I just described every single day of my life. Despite all of that I function reasonable well. I have heard that those who are anxious can’t be counted on if things get dangerous, but I made that trip on horrible roads with no increased anxiety at the end of a day dominated by anxious thoughts. I am not weak I am strong, and I bet you are too.