A to Z Challenge day 1 = A is for Anxiety #atozchallenge

I sound like Sue Grafton, one of my favorite authors. If she can write 26 books, I should be able to write 26 posts, for heavens sake !

I'm participating in the Blogging A to Z Challenge this month. My theme is fibromyalgia symptoms. And here comes the disclaimer:  I'm not a medical professional -- not even close. I'll be sharing my own experiences with fibromyalgia, chronic pain and chronic fatigue. Please consult a professional if you have a chronic illness, or suspect you do. My blog is purely my own opinion and experience. It is not intended to serve as medical advice. Now, let's get started. 

Anxiety. I have had anxiety and panic attacks almost as long as I've been alive. I'm having anxiety right now about signing up for this blog challenge!  About 24 hours ago, I was trying to figure out how I could maybe get out of this!  No kidding. Well, one way would be to simply not do it -- duh!  I also have anxiety about April Fool's Day. I'm going to be looking over my shoulder at work all day wondering where the joke is going to come from & will I be clever enough to spot it before I make a gaff - or, uh, a FOOL of myself ??!

My anxieties when I was a kid were focused on school phobia and agoraphobia. My parents were "older" than everyone else's, my dad had heart disease, and my mom was very sick with Addison's Disease. I thought they were going to die at any moment. I wanted to stay home and watch General Hospital with my mother, and was terrified to leave the house. I had school phobia so bad, I skipped most of second grade and eighth grade, afraid to leave the house in the first instance, and afraid of bullies at school in the latter. As you can see, there were gaps in my major anxiety events. Minor anxiety was, and is, always nibbling around the edges. 

When I was in my late teens and early 20s, I was in an abusive relationship.  Back then, in the 1970s, there was no name for what happened to me. Today, it is called teenage dating violence. This, I believe, is the root of my anxiety and panic attacks that continue today (as well as my chronic pain).

Later in my 20s, I began a 12-step recovery program due to the use and abuse of street drugs and alcohol. I had major panic and anxiety disorder during the early part of my sobriety. One notable attack occurred when I was visiting friends in Los Angeles. I was newly sober, and we went out on the town. They thought it would be cool to take me up to the 22nd floor observation deck of Hyatt Regency Hotel. When my friend pushed the elevator button for floor number 22, I dove out of the elevator before the doors closed. They went up, up, up.... I went to the lobby and sat and waited for them to return. Only problem was, the hotel had several lobbies and I picked the wrong one. My friends searched for me for hours.  

In my 30s and 40s, I was more or less in a constant state of low-grade anxiety, with few full blown attacks.  A freeze-up at an Alice Cooper concert comes to mind. I was convinced that the balcony where we were seated was going to collapse, and, "we're all going to die". Walking my two dogs was no small feat while in a constant state of anxiety.  Let's see, which human would I encounter during my dog walk who would bully me this time?  It was as if I were wearing a sign "I know I must have done SOMETHING wrong. I can't figure out what it could be, I've got my hands full with these two dogs, but it must be something, because boy, you sure look angry.  Have at it.  I don't defend myself against bullies."  There was the surfer girl at the beach, who I (and spectators -- yes, spectators!) thought was going to punch my lights out (she didn't).  There was the neighbor who "sent me home" and told me to wait for the police to show up (they didn't). During my first trip to Paris, France, an excursion to the Eiffel Tower had me hiding in the corner of the tower's elevator, with my eyes shut, as we ascended to the top level.  Plainly, I have a problem with elevators... but the Eiffel Tower elevator is unique because it is angled at 54 degrees for the beginning of its ascent (the legs), and then it levels out as you approach the top.  Not fun for an elevator-phobic neurotic!  

I am proud (and a little sad) to report that, years later, during Christmas week of Y2K, I actually ate dinner at Windows On The World, on the 107th floor of the World Trade  Center, and stayed in the Marriott WTC, for a whole weekend. Two years later the WTC would be gone forever.  More recently, I went to my birthplace of Chicago for my step-daughter's graduation, and ate dinner at the Signature Room on the 95th floor of John Hancock Tower, twice.  But 60 days ago, I dashed out the doors of a badly-malfunctioning and seriously overburdened elevator in Puerto Rico, and chose to hoof it down 16 floors rather than get stuck.  Old habits ...

As in my childhood, for a while the attacks were intermittent, with long stretches where no major episodes occur. (I'm super fortunate to be in a long-term relationship -- some might call it a marriage -- with a very supportive guy! )

Now, in my 50s, I'm having full-on anxiety and panic attacks again. I think it's because of menopause. Those hormones.  Always the hormones.  I always told my friends,  if I turn into one of those weird menopausal ladies who flips out, please, shoot me.  Instead, my friends just look at me strangely, and allow me to flip out like one of those lunatic meno ladies I swore I'd never be. The last 5 years have been nothing but stress: business problems, raising two puppies, one dog dying, another getting way too old and sick, the deaths of two family members and two very close friends within two years time.

Oh, and there was also The Renovation. Do me a favor, remind me never to do a renovation again. Ever.  

What's your experience with anxiety? Is anxiety one of your fibro symptoms?


  1. Hi! Wow, it sounds as though this has been, and continues to be, a daily struggle. I have some anxiety often but it is extremely mild compared to what you have described. Although I too dislike elevators. Ugh! Blessings on your April and as you deal with the anxiety!

    1. It is, but I've gone long periods of time with no "attacks". I've even left a cart full of groceries in the store, mid-panic-attack. Some of the stories are pretty funny, in hindsight. When you put it all together and realize how many times I've freaked out in an elevator!! LOL! But the elevator in Puerto Rico recently really WAS broken and people were packing into it like sardines. It was stupid and dangerous. The option of 16 flights of stairs was far more appealing :) Thanks for reading!

  2. Way to go...good for you...you made it through this post and those which followed. And, more importantly, you have so much wonderful, encouraging things to say to those who read your words. Thank you.


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