For awhile in 2017, I thought I had a brain tumor.
I express this because that’s how lost I actually was. My behavior was so far out of the realm of “normal” that I thought it was possible that some sort of mass was pushing on some sort of nerve that was causing me to lose who I was akin to someone suffering from a degenerative brain disease.
The thing that stands out most about this thought is this: A brain tumor was PREFERRED to the idea that this was “just” anxiety or depression or bipolar disorder. I swear to you that if a doctor had said, “We found a tumor pushing on your temporal lobe that is causing all of this,” I would have simply felt relief. Not a terminal brain tumor, mind you. Just a benign one that was interrupting my ability to have coherent thought that maybe a surgeon could remove and make everything okay again.
So here was the schedule following “The Very Worst Day” from an anxiety standpoint: Sleep until sleep was no longer possible. Get up. Occupy self with whatever I could find. Avoid as much human interaction as possible. Stare off into space. And then, at 6:30 p.m., like clockwork, disappear into the void of a panic attack.
I have no actual reasoning behind the 6:30 p.m. meltdown. I can give you nothing but theories, the least/best of which is that at 6:30 p.m. on The Very Worst Day, The Millennial cut off all contact with me. That seems simplistic and downright stupid. But it’s similar to how I had the most difficulty on Thursdays which correlates with The Very Worst Day and Fight Night (we’ll get there). Maybe the body/mind holds that information? Or maybe it’s just a weird anomaly? I do not know. Anxiety makes us believe all sorts of irrational things and look for connections that do not exist, i.e. brain tumor.
The emptiness of depression was offset by the fullness of anxiety to create a world that ricocheted from zero emotion to uncontrolled electrocution of every nerve I have. I remember I sat on the couch and the TV blurred into a mess of input that sent me into a tailspin, unable to watch a simple movie or Inkmaster or a baseball game. I took 0.5 mg of Ativan at 6:30 p.m. and at 7:30 p.m., I usually began to cry for no apparent reason other than I hated everything that existed.
There was one night I stood in the hallway outside the bathroom, disintegrating into a person who couldn’t stop crying and who loathed reality to such a degree that I went to bed at 7:45 p.m. and didn’t get out of bed until 11 a.m. the next morning. Sleep was the only reprieve from feeling anxious.
I regressed to the degree of a child. My wife, who tried to understand what was happening even though I could not find any words to explain it, took to reading to me at night in the hopes of calming my mind. Bedtime Stories for Rebel Girls became our go to. She would pick a “rebel girl” and read to me about her while I laid in bed with my eyes closed trying, desperately, to calm myself. I would take the other 0.5 mg of Ativan and wait for it to kick in and by 9 p.m., I would fall asleep from the exhaustion of feeling irreversibly… fucked up.
I stammered or I refused to speak. I said amazing things like, “I wish I had never _____” and filled in that blank with any variety of subjects dating back to when I was 10 years old. I blamed only myself for my predicament. I fielded text messages from people threatening me for hurting others which only fed the anxiety machine and made everything seem surreal.
Two days after The Very Worst Day, I met up with two friends whose wedding I would be performing in August to discuss what they were looking for and then, four hours later, I performed the wedding of two other friends out in the middle of nowhere. In between, I looked at my wife and said, “I don’t know if I can do this,” and she assured me that yes, I could. So I took Ativan. And I took Benadryl because lesbians always get married in the middle of a field at the height of allergy season. And I took my antibiotic because I still had the plague. And I drank a glass of wine when I got there because someone offered me a glass of wine.
And I was funny and caring. These were two of my absolute closest friends who cared naught that I would tell a story about the time I mistook llamas for cows during a ceremony where bovines walked around behind me and I had a microphone while trying to vamp until they were ready to get married. I told a joke about marriage without a hint of irony as to what had occurred in mine. An entire network of people I knew showed up and we laughed together until my anxiety overwhelmed me and I asked to go home. We drove the 25 minutes back to our house while the familiar panic settled in and I knew there was nothing I could do to stop it.
“You did well,” my wife assured me, putting me to bed, knowing that the next day I would not have any energy to deal with anything. She knew the entire time that I was not okay and simply wanted to keep me alive until I was okay again.
I would reward this kindness by leaving her. But that comes in a bit.
The day I want to focus on was the one immediately after The Very Worst Day where we met up with Jess and Kara (who would absolutely become the greatest allies we could ever ask for without EVER imposing their own thoughts on us) at the farmhouse where they would get married the next day. The four of us sat and chatted and ate pizza and played this game where you try to swing a ring onto a hook. I felt loved and important, that the night before their wedding, these two would choose to spend it with us… that they trusted me with their day in spite of everything they knew about my situation at that point.
And I had no anxiety for a few hours. It was, literally, the only time in 17 days from May 25 to June 11 that I would experience that void, that calm, that hopefulness. I didn’t consider how much I had hurt everyone or how much I didn’t know what the “right” decision actually was. The four of us sat in that farmhouse and I could just make the world SMALL for a few hours, which is what I preach to clients when they feel overwhelmed by anxiety.
Shrink the world. Make it manageable. You cannot look at it all at once.
Yeah, the anxiety and depression showed up at the same time. And I will be perfectly honest: The depression was easier to handle.