A Monster Called Anxiety

My anxiety has gotten worse. I have never been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder before; just depression.

This last week, I have been put on a higher dose of my antidepressants to see if it will help the anxiety that has become more prevalent in my life. I want to tell you a few things about it.

I have always struggled with presentation anxiety and nervousness leading up to and during a presentation, or just talking in class. For presentations, I have to write everything out in full sentences because I am unable to form sentences in my head from just bullet point prompts. Even if I know the information like the back of my hand, I can’t say it how I had it organized on paper or screen. Same goes for in-class comments, answers, or discussions. If my teacher or professor (this goes back to 4th grade when I began public school) would ask the class a question–even if I was 100% sure of the answer–I wouldn’t say it.

The same goes for being called on in class; I freeze up, and a lot of times I don’t make sense, or the info isn’t not clear. One of my professors this term–who knows of this problem I have–asked me before the class discussion if he could call on me. This gave me a few minutes to write my thoughts down, but it wasn’t enough time for me to write them out in sentences, so I still didn’t say exactly what and how I wanted to say. My heart pounding in my chest, the shaking hands, and quivering voice made me too distracted to concentrate.

Another recent time was a class group presentation I had just a few weeks ago. Like I always do, I had all my notes written out in sentences to help me during the presentation. This, of course, makes it more difficult to actually present well because I read aloud, which means I talk faster. I’ve been like this for most of my life, so that’s just how I thought my mind worked through it. However, this isn’t the point I want to make. The point is that I was the one who was going to bring the laptop to hook up to the projector for our presentation, so of course that meant getting there 40 minutes early to make sure everything works, even though I have used that same projector in that same room before, with the same laptop. I just needed the time just in case something didn’t work right, even though I was 99% sure that nothing would go wrong. My anxiety took over and made me take extra time out of my day to unnecessarily triple check everything.

The same went for the conference I went to a few week ago. My professor and I had our seminar after the luncheon they provided, but I was so nervous and anxious about presenting that I had to leave early to collect myself and try to calm down because I felt like I was going to throw up, pass out, or break down and cry. Or all of the above. I even tried breathing exercises to try to slow my heart rate, but honestly I think it just made it worse.
I got to the room we were presenting in early–but not 40 minutes, surprisingly. However, I immediately regretted it when I discovered that the video wouldn’t play on my laptop. I didn’t have enough time to fix it because I had to figure out how to set up the room as well (getting the projector the right distance for the screen, but also having the laptop close enough to where we would be standing). My professor didn’t get there until 5-10 minutes beforehand, and we just used her laptop. But my final added notes weren’t on her copy of the presentation. For some reason, I thought that those few sentences were crucial to the presentation so I scrambled to add them right before we started. But I didn’t have enough time to add everything. Whatever calmness that I had found before the presentation had disappeared and my heart was racing, my hands shaking, my stomach in knots, and I was almost in tears…all over again.
But the presentation went beautifully. Better then I had even hoped. I definitely began quite nervous, but it did get a little easier. I think that was the first time in years that I hadn’t felt anxious or nervous for the entire duration of a presentation. That was a huge step for me.

However, my anxiety didn’t just go away after that. Conveniently enough, I needed to renew my prescription for my antidepressants from a doctor, so I decided to bring up my increased anxiety during my appointment. We came to the conclusion that my anxiety stems from worrying, but further than the average person experiences. This made sense because I always have so many things to do, assignments to work on, personal matters, and I get extremely stressed out thinking about how much it is and when they’re due…but then there are the days when my depression shows up and I don’t have the energy or concentration to do those tasks. Even though I had all of these worries that were driving my insane. How does that make sense? To have a mental disorder, it has to impair daily functioning. Which is what has happened, because there will always be something for me to do…which means there will always be something for me to worry about.

So, on this increased dose of my antidepressant, I began experiencing some side effects, like usual. However, they didn’t hit me until two days later when I was at work. I work at a Pita Pit (a sandwich shop, but with pita bread), so I deal with tons of customers, and it’s a very fast-paced job. I was also the stand-in shift lead for that night.
The side effects came onto me gradually. I was kind of shaky, and I thought that maybe my blood sugar was low; when I get low blood sugar, I often times shake. I popped open a bag of chips and nibbled on a few of them to see if it helped, which it usually does. But I was still shaking. Quite badly.
Then it got worse. I then realized what was happening. From then, I began to just feel uncomfortable. I felt like I was in a bubble, and I couldn’t hear people a few feet in front of me. I couldn’t concentrate. I could not remember something that someone just told me. When I was helping a customer with their pita, they would say a couple veggies to put in there, and I could only remember one. That was embarrassing. I also couldn’t grill because it is already loud underneath the hood due to the fan, but I couldn’t hear outside of this “bubble” that I felt that I was in. I also couldn’t even run the register because I was shaking so badly when handing cards, cash, and our rewards points card back and forth to the customers. Again, my memory would not allow me to remember what the customer had just said, let alone try to hear them from the bubble I was in.
I could only do tasks in the back. But I couldn’t just do that. I eventually got so bad that I had to call someone and have her cover for me. I felt so bad that I made her come and work when she had the night off, blaming myself for what was happening, even though I had no control over it.
Obviously I couldn’t take that higher dosage because of work the following few days. I decided to risk my potential insomnia and take the pill at night so I’d (hopefully) be asleep when the jitters kicked in, so I would be able to work the next day. They say that the meds may cause insomnia, but I had to risk it. I was able to work the next two days with no problems. I began taking the dose in the morning again after that so it would be on my normal schedule. That was Friday.

Here I am, still feeling some side effects–especially the shaking–but it is not to the extreme that it was. Last week was Spring Break for me, so this week I am back to school. Anxiety and I will have to face off this week, and I just hope I win this round for once.