The Physical Toll of Anxiety

This past week has been brutal for me, emotionally and physically.

Emotionally I’ve been sailing on choppy waves. There’s been a reprieve between rocking and rolling, but barely.

What always surprises me, though, is how anxiety can take such a physical toll. Before my trip to see Dad, I couldn’t sleep, I was weepy, and I was constantly grinding my teeth.

Last night, after we got home, I crashed. Because I no longer felt like I had to be on guard, my body just kind of…gave up. I ended up going to bed at 9 p.m. and slept until 9 this morning.

Today, I still feel rundown. I got out of the house to run some errands, but for the most part I was tired, and my body hurt all over. I don’t think I’m coming down with anything. It’s just that I’m not in “fight or flight” mode, like I have been for the past week.

It seems like the more I let myself get worked up over something, the worse I feel afterward.

I hope I can work on reducing anticipatory anxiety so that I can feel energized, rather than exhausted, and be able to enjoy more that life has to offer.

Thanksgiving Anticipation

So technically I’m late and I missed a day, but I’m going to say that my clock is a little fast and it’s still November 20, dang it!

I’m having anticipatory anxiety. Big time. About Thanksgiving.

One reason I’ve already talked about: Dad.

The other is that we’re going to my aunt and uncle’s house, and I haven’t really spoken with them in four years.

When Lee and I decided to get married and were making up the guest list, it was easy to invite all of his family because they’re so close (physically and emotionally). My side of the family is a bit more complicated.

The majority of my family lives on the west coast. My dad and stepmother live in Holland, and because they had come to visit for Thanksgiving four years ago, they weren’t going to be able to come in for the wedding on New Year’s Eve.

But Dad asked me if I would invite his sister and brother-in-law to the wedding to stand in for him.

I didn’t.

I can’t say that it’s Mom’s fault. It’s not. Ultimately it was my decision to say no.

My grandmother, Precious I called her, my dad’s mom, passed away in October 2007. She died with my mom by her side.

Before that, she was in a nursing home in Dallas. She had dementia and couldn’t live on her own anymore. With her son living across the pond, and her daughter moving to another state for a job opportunity, my mom volunteered to have my grandmother moved to a place in Houston.

This is what I know. I know that Mom visited Precious several times a week. I know that she brought my grandmother her favorite foods and fed them to her. That she put moisturizer on my grandmother’s face and hands and lip balm on her lips. I know that, even though they didn’t speak for a long while after my parents divorced, that they both loved each other very much and were happy to be in each other’s lives.

I know my mom tried her hardest to advocate for my grandmother. I know that she gave my dad and aunt updates on Precious’s condition. I know she was frustrated with the nursing home.

I don’t exactly know what happened that caused Dad and my aunt to decide to no longer include my mom in family decisions. But I know Mom was deeply hurt. I don’t know if Dad told her why the decision was made. All I know is that my mom wouldn’t go to the funeral.

And she never wanted to talk to or see my dad or aunt again.

I sent my aunt and uncle an announcement. Maybe I should’ve explained my reasoning for not inviting them, but I felt like I wasn’t doing anything wrong. Yes, they are family. But ultimately, the day was supposed to be about Lee and me, wasn’t it?

I didn’t hear anything about it until my dad contacted me and told me that my aunt was upset. That I should contact her. What got to me was that she didn’t contact me directly. Maybe she felt she couldn’t. Whatever the case may be, it has been a battle between me and Dad for almost four years.

Dad told me a couple of months ago that he and my stepmother were going to be in Austin for Thanksgiving and they would be staying with my aunt and uncle. And that my aunt would be happy if Lee and I came to dinner. Initially he said that he would let her know that I would like to be there, but I told Dad I would call her. We had a nice chat.

I may be having anticipatory anxiety for nothing, but I’m afraid of what I will say if they ask. I’m afraid of the disappointing stares. Of us all acting one way when we’re thinking something else.

I just want to spend time with my family. Is that so much to ask?


I started my new job today, and even though I wasn’t too busy I was still very nervous.

I know that the medication I’m taking is working for depression, but my anxiety is through the roof. I’m trying to train my brain to exist in the present, but I keep getting lost in the future.

I’m tired of feeling this way. I know that my anxiety and frantic thoughts will pass, but it’s taking too long.


I know “can’t” is a four-letter word. I’ve counted the letters.

There are a lot of … that lead me to say “I can’t.” The worst is anticipatory anxiety.

I have been dealing with anticipatory anxiety quite a bit the past few months. I won’t go into the reasons, but this week especially had my brain racing. It could’ve won a marathon.

I was mostly thinking about my high school reunion, which was yesterday. Which I didn’t go to. Which I’m OK with, but there is a part of me that is mad at myself because as much as I want to go and enjoy my life, there is something that is stopping me. I know that something is my thought process, but it is frustrating just the same.

I was having what seemed like nonstop panic attacks the past couple weeks. And then I went to trivia night on Wednesday and the chest pains started. They lasted pretty late into the night. I became even more anxious because what if I had chest pains while I was in Houston? What if I was too nervous to do anything? Would I be able to make it through the night at Lee’s parents’ house? What about the drive home?

On Thursday I felt worse. While I was at work and concentrating on something other than my worries, I was alright. But as soon as I got home, the fear started rising again. I asked Lee that night if he was OK with not going to the reunion. He said he was, but he asked me, “Are YOU ok?” And you know what? I was. I was OK with saying, “I can’t go. I just can’t.”

There are just some things that I can’t do. I’m not saying I will never go to Houston again. Nor am I saying that I won’t attend another high school reunion. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to make it to the next one. All I know is that right now, there are too many things going on in my life that I need to take care of here.

I’m grateful for Facebook because I have been able to get back in touch with my high school friends. So even though I wasn’t there in person, I’m still able to find out what is going on in my friends’ lives.

But for now, I’m going to take care of myself and take it one day at a time. I know that I wrote in my last post that I would go even if I felt like it would kill me, but I came to the conclusion that I need to play it a bit safe right now. Too much anticipation, even unwarranted, is not good for my soul.


We bought a piano. It’s a Yamaha Clavinova in Dark Rosewood and it’s gorgeous. I’ve practiced almost every day. I became obsessed with finding my old piano books and ended up in Nostalgiaworld. High school photos, yearbooks, and old journals.

I even found the first journal entry I wrote about my panic attacks:

I would like to ask myself a question: Am I normal? Actually, I don’t really know if I am or not because, for example: after being sick, whenever I go back to school, I get nervous and I don’t know why. The thing is, I shouldn’t be nervous but I still am.

I believe I was in junior high when I wrote that. I don’t think I ever wrote about it again until college, because the rest of the journal is filled with photos of River Phoenix and Michael J. Fox. Ah, celebrity crushes. But I digress…

I’ve been trying to get out more. I’ve been on my “less sugar” diet for about a month now and I really do feel better. I am even more alert. Lee and I have been doing things together and having a great time.

I’ve always wanted to go to a pub quiz. They’re sponsored by a company called Geeks Who Drink. My sister-in-law wanted to go as well, so I agreed to pick her up and be the designated driver. The quiz didn’t start until 8, but a coworker told me to get to the restaurant early in case a lot of people showed up. So the pick-up time of 7 was agreed upon.

I had been talking about this event since the weekend. I knew other people who went and it sounded like so much fun. I was excited.

I came home from work, ate a bowl of cereal to tide me over until we got to the restaurant, and then realized that I had no sleeping pills left. I went into panic mode.

Panic mode is not pretty. Panic mode is pretty gross, really. Panic mode affects my stomach and intestines. That’s about all the details I will go into.

I had a prescription to fill, but the regular pharmacy I go to was going to close any minute so Lee suggested I go to the CVS that’s open until 10 p.m. Lee said he’d even pick up the pills for me.

You would think that knowing this would make me calm. But now, on top of the panic mode, was the mode of “Oh great I feel like crap and now I’m going to this new event with my sister-in-law and what if I get sick in their bathroom or at the restaurant or I have to pull over on the side of the road maybe I should just ask if we could go back to my house and hang out with Lee and Lee could drive her home…” You get the gist.

At my sister-in-law’s house I took a generic Pepto and dicyclamine for my stomach, and a Clonezapam (anti-anxiety) to calm me down.

But my thoughts were still looping in my head. Even after we got to the restaurant, I thought about sabotaging the whole thing and asking Aimi if she would be OK with leaving.

Once the quiz started, I got into the spirit. I was still on edge, but concentrating on the task of answering the questions helped. I think that is why I love puzzle books so much. They give me something other than my panic to focus on.

We had a blast! Our team of two did really well. We were in second place until the last round, and then we ended up in fifth. Out of 15 teams. Not too shabby for our first quiz night!

You read that right. I’m doing it again. I’m not going to sabotage myself and miss out on something great.

But there’s a part of me that is frustrated and angry. Why do I have to go through all these emotional and physical trials by fire each time I want to or need to do something that is out of my comfort zone?

Lee and I are supposed to go to my 20th high school reunion in Houston next weekend and I’m already nervous. I’m trying the breathing exercises and positive visualization, but so far anticipatory anxiety is winning.

But I’m going, damn it. I want to see my friends and my husband’s family and enjoy myself. Even if I feel like it’s going to kill me.