Anxiety….what does anxiety mean to me? What does it mean to you? Just like Spinal Cord Injuries, no two cases of anxiety are the same for any one person. That’s the entirely tricky part about not only diagnosing but curing the cause of anxiety. Are you depressed, just having a bad day, slightly nervous over a particular situation? When do we put an issue we’re having on the shelf titled Anxiety? These are some of the questions I know that passed through my mind as I was trying to figure out what was happening to me.
I think once we realize we’re having anxiety, the precursors have set in fairly deep and we feel stuck with a very cyclical 360 degree pattern that leads us back to the same causes for us feeling the way we feel, anxious. Trying to cope with the fact of realizing life will now consist of living with clinical anxiety at this point becomes a fairly large project to deal with, which takes a step on that cycle and leads to more anxiety. I found some incredible things that helped me that I’d love to share with you. I’ll give you a glimpse of my anxiety. I think it will help you to not feel alone in case you are reading this with anxiety currently residing in your life.
This is what it was like for me
I was always pretty active. Roller hockey games twice a month. Riding my motorcycle every weekend in and around town, through every 2 road scenic canyon I could find. Indoor rock climbing at the local climbing gym. Solo skydives (100+ jumps) at The Parachute Center in Lodi, CA., and would always try to find people to jump with. I trained in Muay Thai and kickboxing and loved to practice with my friends, all getting together with mouth pieces and 14 oz. gloves to spar.
On August 10th, 2008, any aspirations to continue perusing those hobbies was brought to a halt. I was hit by a driver who crossed a solid double yellow lane on that day on a two way road. 30mph to a dead stop. The paramedic told my brother I should be dead. My brother still recalls very sternly to this day the way the paramedic looked and presented as he said those words, which read that I should very much not be alive today.
I was left paralyzed from the waste down and told I would never walk again. I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and told by a specialist that the level of sensitivity was in the top 3 percentile of how bad it can get, and the worst that hospital had ever experienced. They couldn’t understand initially what was happening, as even air passing over my skin would make me cry uncontrollably. Any shake of the bed, movement of any blankets. I spent the first year living with SCI putting pillows to the left and to the right of my body to hold the blankets off of my legs because every time I would move, the fabric moving across my skin would be unbearable. I would cry. I would cry so, so bad.
I ended up moving out of my apartment and moving back in with my parents. Unfortunately, they lived in a two story house. This kept me feeling really stuck and spawned the initial onset of my anxiety, though at the time, I didn’t understand that was part of it. If I wanted to move or get about of bed, it was guaranteed pain. If I wanted to go up or down stairs, I had to call for somebody and wait for my wheel chair to be brought up or down, just making my anxiety worse. Just knowing once I got up or down, I’d be there for a good while with no control of whether or not I could have freedom of movement while also behind confined to a wheel chair dealing with severe pain.
Soon, this all compounded. I was injured in the Summer, so by 8pm each night when the sun would go down, I’d go into full panic. Heart beat at 130 beats per minute, crying, feeling like I was going to die. When my heart would beat that fast, I mean, what else was I to think? And every, single, night, I felt like this would be the night I would die. Around 6am when the sun would come up, the anxiety would taper off and I’d be so exhausted I’d completely pass out. This went on for a very, long, time. I was entirely traumatized and completely lost.
That was the root of my anxiety. That’s where it began. You know, with injuries like mine, like yours, if you’re reading this and have a traumatic injury…they are the worst thing ever imaginable. I, you, we both wouldn’t wish it on our worst enemies. But what it has taught me, 11 years later, is that…I’m still alive. I still have some issues I’m working through, but, I am very much alive and okay. It made me understand pain and suffering amounts to spiritual currency. What ever spirituality amounts to for you is yours to have, but the basic principle it should resemble is purpose. A life’s purpose. I now know that the most basic human instinct is to love and to be loved. We’re all very much, human. No matter what face we put on during our days, at the end of each day we all share the very same sentiments for life. We want to be loved, a part of something, a part of a group of friends and family. To be accepted. I’ve gone through every bad thing that I could have imagined for my life and I’ve found a way through it. The old adage of what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger, is very much true. So I promise you, if you’re reading this now and dealing with something, having anxiety… you will be okay. You will. You are loved. You are supported.