When Things are Going Well, Anxiety Doesn’t Stop
￼AMBER LOVE 10-APR-2018 My work is supported by the generous backers at Patreon.com/amberunmasked and they also get first access to what’s happening with my books and podcast. Also, I’m an Amazon Influencer so you can shop through my personal recommendations and buy my books with these handy links below:
Comic Cons + Panic Attacks:
Cons are hard enough. Cons while having panic attacks are impossible. You’re already asking your body to do more/different things than your normal daily schedule. You’re away from home, away from pets, away from your familiar kitchen and food.
The panic and anxiety crept up well before the Garden State Comic Fest began. I had a normal sense of worry about hosting Geek Yoga. The usual worries: Will anyone show up? Will someone ask a question and I don’t know the answer? That kind of thing. Panic and anxiety are the irrational versions of that normal “worry stuff” dialed up to 100.
Before I became a yoga teacher, I had done almost twenty years of practicing some of the principles; and despite that self improvement work, nutrition, not looking for stressful day jobs, and living in a charming little town (yes, privilege acknowledged fully), I knew all that was not enough to “cure” mental illness. I was better, but I was haunted. I was physically in peak shape from constant pilates and a seriously restrictive diet. Everyday, I had a ghost tethered to me to remind me what my day could turn into at the drop of a hat.
I listen to about five hours of hippy dippy new age music every weekday while working at my desk writing. Tracks claiming to help balance chakras and release seratonin, etc. I still have anxiety with moments of getting it under control. When I teach meditation, that’s what I share with people — if you can get a second or ten seconds of that peace from a twenty-minute meditation, then you’re doing fairly well at it.
I could tell by Thursday before the show that full blown anxiety and panic were coming on hard. I don’t have the same physical reactions visible externally as before because of different medications that have made me less vibrant. Even though I feel the same internally as before, people looking at me might not be aware anything is going on besides Resting Bitch Face. Among the relatively new Rx regime for pain management, I also have sedatives. I was almost out of them. I had been low on them for months, but due to the debilitating nature of this I was too scared to call the doctor and make an appointment to go get more. Why can’t we do this shit over secure video conferencing yet?
Snake Oil Everywhere:
Plenty of exercise (see Adventures with Gus), pills, and meditation and I still get too scared to drive more than a couple miles from my house. It’s why I appreciate when the genuine health-care of a person is called “wholistic” rather than “holistic”. I see a difference in a system that will try anything versus one that entirely shuns science and is evident with ads about “crystal bottled water” claiming to cure conditions. Do I use crystals since I’m a witch? Yes, I do; but I also take my pain medicine so I can get out of bed and do my witchcraft, have a life, and keep Gus happy. Would I tell you not to buy a crystal water bottle? No; if you have the money and you like pretty water bottles, go for it. They aren’t going to cure disease though.
What might help? Actual clean drinking water which plenty of the planet is lacking. I drink filtered well water yet, I bet if all I had was pure clean spring water I’d probably have a better chance; or the opposite, if I had toxic lead-laced water or polluted water, my chances of survival would go down. There are bottles designed to help filter water. I digress.
Trying to Function:
Back the matter of going through a comic convention with intense anxiety and panic attacks. We arrived on Friday evening. We stopped at a hole in the wall Vietnamese restaurant for dinner. The place and people looked like they were part of a movie set from the 1970s. I expected a secret back room for illicit activity. The food was okay though. Nothing to brag about.
The Showboat was a reasonably nice hotel. Like everything else in Atlantic City, it could use some TLC. The remnants of the failed casino were still evident. The ambiance of a Mardi Gras theme had NOLA colors fit for lifting spirits while paying homage to musical legends. Their main restaurant never opened even though the schedule said it would. That left the former Johnny Rockets now Bricker’s Burgers greasy spoon mini diner which was completely ill equipped to deal with an audience our size. I packed an entire loaf of faux peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and vegan cookies. Thank gods I did. Traveling while on any kind of food restriction even something as simple as “no meat or fish” is absurdly difficult on the east coast. I hear California is nice!
Food concerns were one more thing for my mind to dump into the blender of irrational thoughts. You’ll have to eat french fries for three days! If you don’t eat, you’ll be cranky and miserable to people! Yeah, thanks for that reminder, Brain.
Thankfully, Friday night we didn’t go out to socialize. Saturday was the start of the convention. My yoga class was at 2:30 in a serene ballroom on the second floor. It was surprisingly perfect for a hotel that wasn’t a spa resort. The colors of the Showboat’s second floor are deep spice colors: dark red wine, gold, brown, and orange. It gave off a soothing Moroccan vibe even though the walls were lettered with all the blues and pop bands who once performed at the defunct House of the Blues. The chandeliers cast an ambient warm light over the two sections of the room with carpeting. The center area was what would normally be used as a dance floor. Then I found a secret chamber on the side of the dais that looked like something from a D&D campaign; I’m sure it was a waiting wing from some old green room that no one uses anymore.
I thought scoping out the Heart & Soul ballroom would calm my anxiety. The room was great and I was on the schedule. I had been posting about the class since it was approved. I tried not to be too annoying on my two Instagram feeds, two Twitter feeds, and two Facebook feeds. It’s seriously ridiculous that it takes so much to promote one class. Whenever I talked to someone in person at the con, I made sure to mention the class and where it was. I was wearing cute galaxy print leggings and a pink t-shirt with gold lettering, “I don’t sweat. I sparkle.” I had a big white board with the information for the class set up at the Legion of Super Villains table in the cosplay area where I spent some time manning the booth.
My insides were vibrating. It’s the shaking that used to be externally visible but now stays cooped up inside me like my organs and bones are in a NutriBullet. I loved the yoga class. I think I did well and the people who showed seemed to enjoy it. When it was over, my anxiety didn’t just go away though. That’s not how it works.
That night, way too late at night for me anymore, dinner turned into an event unto itself. I was hoping for dinner with a couple of people and then back in the room before 9PM because my party days are long since over. I’m tired all the time. If I stayed out until 1AM, I’d need a full two days to recover. Instead of a quiet dinner, it was a party of 20. I was not in a good place mentally to handle a party of 20. Not only was I exhausted, but every bit of conversation was filled with inside jokes that I didn’t get. My plan was whenever the hell I was done with dinner I’d leave; the service was slow just like the burger joint. I had a cocktail hoping to ease my anxiety but I’m fairly sure it was watermelon puree and water without the tequila. My eyes had been swelling up with tears all day and it took so much strength to hold myself together.
Eventually, back in the hotel room, I tried to watch TV but that wasn’t helping. I tried to put on my app of relaxation sounds; didn’t work either. I finally got the WiFi to work (it hadn’t since check-in) around 10PM or so and downloaded Netflix. I turned on Parks and Rec, put in the ear buds, and tried to tune out the new set of noisy neighbors in the adjoining room (adjoining rooms suck moose balls). I took one sedative and a Benadryl which I had found to be the optimal combination to get any sleep at all. It didn’t work. At 3AM, I dosed up again and finally knocked myself out. I was in bed incredibly late, 10AM.
Thankfully, my partner offered to take me home and skip day two of the con. This doesn’t mean the anxiety stops! No, sirree. Then I feel guilt. Guilt for missing out on the show when the organizers were nice enough to put me on the schedule. Guilt for my boyfriend leaving his friends a day early. Guilt for not making my penciled in time with a friend.
As soon as we got home, Gus got a lot of outside time hiking. The weather hadn’t been great all weekend so he didn’t have any walks while I was gone. He was so happy to climb across trees and rocks again. I began feeling my brand of normal return too as I came back to my hermit life.