That's What This Is

January 28, 2019
Stacy Herman

When I got to college it seemed as if suddenly everyone around me was anxious. I didn't understand what my new friends meant when they discussed their feelings of anxiety. I was convinced that everyone was simply being dramatic. They were crazy and I must be the only normal one.

I did have some social fears growing up. In school, I never wanted to be noticed by teachers so I sat in the back of the classroom and tried my best not to be called on - even when I knew the answer. I dreaded public speaking and any presentation where all eyes were on me. One year, there was a standardized test that included writing an essay and then reading it aloud. I remember the day of being frozen at the bus stop, crying because I was so nervous. My dad drove by on his way to work and asked me what was wrong. He had to talk me down and ended up taking me to school because I refused to get on the bus. But these all seemed like "normal" fears that most people had in common.

It's gotten worse as I've grown older. At work functions I don't always feel comfortable because I worry about who I'm going to talk to. I'm definitely not the most outgoing unless I'm comfortable in my surroundings and I still dread public speaking. However, I still just think of that as my personality, nothing out of the ordinary. 

But lately I've been experiencing a new type of feeling that finally made me go - OH. THAT'S WHAT THEY WERE TALKING ABOUT. THAT'S WHAT THIS IS.

Suddenly I can confidently say I'm one of the crazy ones too. I've been experiencing debilitating anxiety. And it is not okay.

I have a constant pit in my stomach where I feel like I'm on Steel Force at Dorney Park -- which used to be my favorite place in the world -- except we just keep dropping further down and never get off of the roller coaster. I used to be considered the chill girl, I've even been told that I'm 'Zen'. It's pretty ironic - considering lately I feel this constant sense of impending doom and can't fall asleep at night because of it.

Sometimes I burst into tears uncontrollably and I can't contain my emotions. My hair has started thinning and I'm getting acne where I used to always have 'perfect skin'. I can't eat - I've called out of work before because I just couldn't face the day and dreaded getting out of bed. The worst part is I know it affects my head and causes my migraines to worsen, which is the last thing in the world I would want, but I can't calm down and don't know how to soothe myself.

Of course the anxiety around migraine doesn't help. Being a person living with migraine, I'm constantly worrying and overthinking everything. There is a steady stream of thoughts in my head and the majority of the time it's about my migraines, but sometimes other random thoughts that pop into my head too. For example, 'When will my next attack occur? Will I be able to make it to those plans on Saturday? Did I remember to bring my medication with me? I should take some. Can they tell I'm in pain right now? What do you think (insert any name here) meant by that comment she made to me 3 days ago? Should I say something to her about it? Is Pete Davidson OK? Is SNL new this week? I love SNL. What am I doing on Saturday again? Should I take a Pilates class? I don't know if I'll be able to make it and I hate the late fees. OK I'll just sign up and see how I'm feeling Friday. Their late policy is just the worst. I should really cancel my membership like I threatened to customer service. That girl was such a b*tch. I know she was just doing her job, but they should really accommodate people with medical conditions it’s not fair, how am I supposed to know if I'm going to wake up in excruciating pain and not able to get out of bed? Oh my god, now my head is really killing me. Where the f*ck is my medication?'

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), researchers have found that migraine can precede the onset of anxiety disorders. Studies reveal that anxiety disorders are significantly higher in migraine sufferers than the general public.

I finally was prescribed medication from a doctor after opening up about how I was feeling to my therapist, but it’s addictive and I'm already on so many medications as it is. I'd love the ability to not have to always rely on a pill to solve my problems. I want to learn how to cope on my own.

At every appointment since I can remember doctors have always asked me if I suffer from depression and anxiety. I've always answered no. Lately, I can't fight the feeling that I'm suffocating. That I am drowning in a big empty pool that is my life. Next time I'm at the doctor I'll have a different answer. Because that's what this is.

 


 

Stacy Herman lives and works in Manhattan while managing her chronic migraine condition. She graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with degrees in English Writing, with a concentration in Journalism, and Communications. Stacy has made it her mission to fight the stigma that migraine is "all in our heads". She finds joy anytime she can escape to the beach, spend time with her dog nephew, Teddy, or make it to a pilates reformer class. Check out her blog on Wordpress and follow her on Instagram.
Instagram: @miss_migrainiac