“It wasn’t an attack.” I thought while sitting calmly on my toilet seat, tying the belt of my robe as I took a moment to stare straight ahead and collect myself.
Anxiety is a tricky bastard who plagues everyone, mine is a full on bitch. But this time she was stealthy; I’d just got done tearing up after watching Chelsea Handler’s episode on Breast Cancer Awareness, making me note in my journal to call and make an appointment with my doctor for a check-up.
I had been smoking pot for the majority of the afternoon and was feeling like taking a hot shower and taking a nap. Waiting for the shower to heat up, I checked my breasts (if you don’t know how, look it up and start kneading your tits) and felt a small lump. I froze and didn’t move, my head moving fast through my schedule for the week hoping to get in a doctor’s appointment sooner rather than later. There isn’t a history of breast cancer in my family, but I’m not someone who’s up to taking chances with her body.
Now lets do a little math: crying during a breast cancer special + finding a small lump under one breast + pot = potential anxiety meltdown. I didn’t necessarily feel anxiety while I stood in the shower contemplating my next steps, but my brain likes to mess with me and started working out all the worst case scenarios I might find myself in the future.
Now lets add one more to the equation; my building has a lot of creaks and small noises, and my bathroom for some reason amplifies them all. I wonder if it’s a secret clause in builders contracts that every single bathroom on the planet must attract all sound and echo them creepily. So with my already vulnerable self feeling anxious, stoned, and naked in my bathroom toweling off from my shower, the noises of building suddenly had me gripped in a sense of panic as I thought the sounds were coming from inside my apartment. And what does my fucking brain do? Imagine Zuul waiting behind the door to possess my body (yes, I have watched Ghostbusters recently, thank you for asking).
Suddenly feeling utterly ridiculous that my anxiety was making it impossible for me to even leave my bathroom, I put my robe on and had a seat on my toilet lid. My water bottle was in the bathroom and still full from yesterday so I took sips from it as I reasoned with myself against thoughts of thieves waiting to pounce (yes, I have also been watching Westworld lately, thanks again for asking).
At one point I smiled, amused by the hilarity that my mind had just put me through. That bitch stood quietly outside my bathroom while I showered and slowly I inhaled her anxiety-inducing smoke from inside (for those of you who are new to the game, I personify my anxiety as a chain smoking witch/bitch). Despite it all, I felt proud of myself.
Two months ago I began a daily tracking of my anxiety using a bullet journal (Yes, I do completely buy into that fad, because it’s the best damn thing thats happened to me in years, thank you for asking). Using a 0-3 scale, I assign a number at the end of each day to a chart that corresponds with the journal entry of the date. That way I’ve been able to track and progress the triggers for my anxiety and process how to avoid them in the future. 0 means I had a great day, no anxiety or worries at all. 1 means I felt some stress and anxious for moments, but nothing I couldn’t overcome. 2 means I felt anxiety and physical discomfort, usually I take xanax to help me out. 3 means I had an attack. Attacks appear in many forms for many different people. For me it usually entails crying, pacing, fidgeting, and the occasional hyperventilation.
But this was not an attack. It didn’t get there; sure I felt worried that something was behind the door, but in a weird cliche way the door I was really afraid to open was inside myself (I know…. I’m gagging too…. but it’s the best way I can describe it). What had the potential of assigning a 2 or 3 to my day, was only a stressful 1 (knock on wood, the day is not over yet). I felt proud of myself in that moment.
Relaxed, I unlocked and opened the bathroom door, meandering out to my living room to sit and write this experience out for others to read and know that they are not alone. I know I’m not the only one who gets really scared, anxious, and imagines the most bizarre yet terrifying delusions that could be straight from a Guillermo Del Toro film. I know I am not the only one who’s locked themselves in a bathroom because they’re scared that something might be wrong. I know I have a mental illness that blows small concerns way further out of proportion, just like so many others on this planet.
I know I am not alone. I also know that there isn’t a monster hiding outside my bathroom.
Follow me on Twitter @JoyPearson for more of my delusional anxiety ramblings and incoherent thoughts about a Jurassic World/Downton Abbey cross over called “Jurassic Abbey”.