Pete and I had the following conversation the other night:
Me (Two beers deep, taking a moment to look up from my MacBook to engage in adult conversation now that the kid was snuggled deep in her bed, and Pete wasn’t working late brainstorming the latest strategy to get people to change insurance companies, or buy more televisions): Do you think I’m anxious? Am I anxious again?
P: What are you talking about?
Me: I don’t know. I think I might be anxious, or maybe a little bit depressed.
P: No, you’re not. You’re fine. You’re doing great.
Me: I don’t know. Do I get mad a lot? You’re always telling me how mad I am. I’m mad all the time, aren’t I? See? That’s a symptom of anxiety. No, depression: that’s a symptom of depression. I think I might be a little depressed. Why do I get so mad?
P: You’re not depressed- nothing has changed. You’ve always been angry. Everyone knows that about you.
(Cue my head starting to explode and I found myself getting- SHOCKER!- angry.)
I am argumentative, aren’t I? If you’re friends with me on Facebook and have paid even a speck of attention to my feed, surely you have seen my defensive rants when I feel like my beliefs are being called into question… or if you’re a Republican. I like to think of it as “feisty, spirited and passionate”, when it usually comes across as “surly bitch”. That isn’t a new development, my steadfastness and quick-to-snap demeanor, I’m pretty sure it’s built-in to my overall make-up, along with unsightly freckles and a good metabolism. I’ve seen traces of it in the three other members of my family. We’re all defensive. We’re all quick to anger and hold grudges that last longer than a box of Twinkies. (Not really. That would be ridiculous considering they have a shelf-life of what? Thirty years?)
Is that okay, though? To get mad so easily? Is it a sign of something more? I mean:
“Everyone knows that about you.”
I fucking hate that.
I spend a lot of time wondering if everyone else feels the same way I do. I look around at other mothers at the playground, other drivers while stopped at red lights and other hikers that pass me on the trails, and wonder if, at that moment, they feel the same way I do: if they ever have. Do they ever feel completely disconnected from their bodies, as if their brains are filled with nothing but cotton candy and they’re living in some kind of dense fog? Sometimes, I do.
Do they ever feel so off-balance that it’s as if they can almost feel the earth spinning, and the dizziness takes their breath away? Sometimes, I do.
Do they ever find themselves compulsively yawning every 30 seconds, inexplicably hyperventilating for no discernible reason? Sometimes, I do.
Do they ever find themselves backing out of social get-togethers at the very last minute because all of a sudden they’re overcome with this sense of doom, crippling nausea and fear? I do. It doesn’t matter if you’re my oldest friend- someone who makes me belly laugh that I have known since my crocheted-vest and choker years- I will still panic about those drinks/that lunch/the playdate. Not all the time, but it happens. Most of the time I internally scold my stupid fucking mind and show up for said get-together, although sometimes it wins for NO GOOD REASON. It’s hard, you know. It’s hard to maintain friendships when everything is such a struggle: when the thought of getting a manicure with a lovely person whose company I enjoy makes me want to throw up. Crazy, right? Who else has a mind like this? Surely nobody. So, for those of you that have fallen victim to my sketchy disappearances:
It’s really not you, at all, any of you. It’s 100% me.
Before you send me concerned emails about this and that medication, and how much SSRIs have changed your life and how there is no reason for anyone to fear manicures with friends: yeah, no shit. I get it. I started Paxil at age 22 or 23 after my panic attacks became so debilitating I found myself in the police station in Penn Station for “heart attacks”. TWICE. I changed to Celexa in my late 20s and only weaned off a month before I conceived Lotte. I wanted to see if I was “okay”. My mother kept telling me my anxiety was “just a phase” and how she had it in her 20s but, “it passed”, so I went for it, and it was scary.
Pregnancy was terrifying. Birth was terrifying. The entire first year at home alone with this new, strange being was terrifying. That wasn’t necessarily anxiety, though, that was just motherhood. Right? I have no idea. Surely I wasn’t the only new mother pushing my Quinny through the streets of Brooklyn in a tear-filled, exhausted haze during those first few months. That shit was hard.
So, it’s been almost 5 years since I stopped taking meds, and not a day passes where I don’t wonder, if only for a fleeting moment, if it’s back. If my drug-free means of coping, which involve berating the shitty feeling until it subsides, are no longer working. If my short temper is a sign of something darker. If the scatter-brained feeling is my brain somehow asking for help, or just the mark of a tired parent. We’ll see.
For now, please be patient with me, because I *might* blow off your barbeque/holiday party/dinner invitation.
Although you probably already knew that about me.