I saw a post today that dropped me to my knees with tears. The tears were because I am beginning to see that more people are speaking about their challenges navigating mental illness and I could relate to it today more than ever.
The post that brought me to my knees was, "Imagine future events and trying to figure out any surprise that may make things not go according to the plan... Because you are worried this surprise may trigger your anxiety."
I felt that in my core.
I have suffered from Anxiety for more than half of my life (I can recall as early as 10 years old) now has increasingly become worse in adulthood. My anxiety was overlooked for years before I was diagnosed and began treatment about 10 years ago.
I have just left the dental office. I did not have a wonderful experience. I planned for the visit. I was awake at 4am anxious about the 9am appointment. It usually takes this amount of time for me to prepare for anything, even to go to the corner store. I am constantly planning A, B and the possibility of C happening. I am constantly trying to make sure everything is thought through, i.e.: the route I will take, the time I should leave, the things that may happen on the way and on the way back, gauging traffic, the possibility of a car accident, the possibility of taking the wrong exit or turn, leaving enough time for the possible mistakes of not getting on the right road… I always take precautions to avoid everything my mind can conceive happening. This is how I prepare in coping, trying to prevent any attack as I know that an attack in public has often, been perceived as a person "going crazy" but no one knows...
The settings that we find ourselves in are with businesses and personnel who do not know that we suffer anxiety right away, unless they are our medical doctors who are currently treating the anxiety. And since there are no precursor conversations, we are suddenly thrusted into worlds each day where we must suppress, cope, deal with, hide so that no one will know or so that it is not triggers in the presence of those who do not know. We live alone and must do things on our own such as scheduling and planning which may come with a great deal of anxiety. And when and if it does rear its head, we are fearful of being judged for something out of our control. I am finding that though anxiety is spoken about daily, anxiety is still not something that is visible upon meeting or interacting at first sight. Therefore, the people you deal with inadvertently do things that could easily bring upon those anxieties.
I called to schedule the dental appointment for a cleaning in advance. The dental office advised that they would call insurance to verify as well. However, after I did not hear from them after 24 hours-knowing my appointment would be the next day, I called them back. I could hear the frustration in the representative’s voice right away over me calling back to ask if she was able to verify insurance… But what she did not know is that I was already experiencing anxiety knowing that a step in my plan was not cleared yet. (Me needing to know this information prior to going into the office, me needing to confirm that insurance would cover the visit, me needing to know that they are clear about what I am coming into the office for so that I can prepare for that alone because I do not do well with surprises such as finding out something is not covered after a procedure is done)
I feel like this event would affect the person who does not have anxiety also, but to have anxiety it brings on panic, sweat, dizziness, nausea, loss of appetite, worry, contemplation, jitters, rapid heartbeat, nervousness, fidgeting, pacing, and the inability to focus on anything else whilst enduring the wait.
Upon arrival, check-in went well. However, I felt rushed when I was not given enough time to read and complete paperwork. This, followed by being ganged up on by staff to pay for additional services that I had not planned for.
Meanwhile, in my head, but… but… but… when are we going to get to the reason I am here? I did not plan for all this other stuff. I am being made to sit to discuss payment and payment plans for things that are not covered and that I was not at the visit for. Anxiety is beginning…
I am clinching my teeth. I am holding my chair tightly trying to compose myself before they see me cry. Before they see me break down. Before they see me begin to shake and gag. I am trying to find the right questions and how to ask without seeming rude, or mean or ignorant. I am alone. I am unable to focus on this point. A headache/migraine is coming on. It has been 1 hour now- I am feeling dizzy. I hear words but I cannot fully understand what is going on and why we are not getting my teeth cleaned right now. I can not deal with the sales pitch.
I asked… “For clarity, are you saying that I can not get my teeth cleaned today even though insurance pays 100 percent of the cost?” One question for clarity caused them to become intolerable with the anxiety they were causing with forcefully selling additional services before even addressing the issue of why I was there. I was taken to what they call a tranquil room after enduring an anxiety attack. I was afraid to remain at the office for the cleaning at that point due to the feeling that I had upset the staff and that they would not manage the cleaning with care at that point. They told me that I "should have told them that I have anxiety." Hummm, another topic for another day.
This is a common thing for me. Especially in social settings where someone may ask something as simple as, “What do you do for a living?” Then having to sit and have an adult conversation with a stranger. I can do all the planning in the world and still not leave the house at times. It is the things that I cannot plan for that cause the most anxiety and I am still searching for the right tool to use when I find myself in those situations.
I am grateful that more people are having conversations these days. I would like to see it continue. I would love to see families address it with their loved ones who are experiencing it daily because understanding is what we need most. I am grateful that anxiety is a conversation at the table now and that it’s being diagnosed sooner than later, and I am also grateful that more doctors are paying attention. People who suffer from extreme anxiety feel like they are fighting for themselves sometimes and it is a wonderful feeling to have a team of supporters to assist with navigating through.
Disclaimer: Article in part has been shared with NAMI https://www.nami.org/Get-Involved/Share-Your-Story