I have been in a constant state of anxiety for several days now. My heart and thoughts are racing, I’m grinding my teeth, my sleep has been broken, I’m irritable and I can’t stop catastrophizing every situation I think about. The most worrisome part of my anxiety is that my hallucinations are working overtime. Not only am I hearing my ‘people’ (voices) again; I am also dealing with moderate visual hallucinations. All I want to do is escape and find a quiet place where the world can’t touch me and I can curl up in a ball and be left alone. I don’t want to deal with anything right now and I don’t want to face any of my fears.
The voices I experience have been with me as far back as I can remember. The best way I can describe them is that one is a male and one is a female and they sit at the base of my brain just waiting to make life difficult for me. They don’t have faces or anything like that; the way I see them is as silhouetted heads something like this…
They are always there facing one another but I never see their lips move when they talk however I can always tell whether it’s the male or female communicating with me. My voices never tell me to harm myself or others or do things that I normally wouldn’t do; they just like to have an input into my thought pattern when I’m stressed, anxious or overwhelmed. We do have two-way conversations but no one would ever know this just to look at me. The dialogue only goes on inside my head and my lips only actually move from time to time. It sounds funny but that’s how our relationship is. No, I am not psychotic nor do I suffer from any sort of schizophrenia. I just experience these voices because of my bipolar disorder and my anxiety.
My visual hallucinations are not as significant as my voices. Basically I see things move and run across the floor or dart across my field of vision. I see things with my peripheral vision that aren’t there but I still turn to look as though they are as a knee-jerk reaction. I have trouble with my visions, too, when I’m stressed and overwhelmed or when I’m overstimulated like I tend to be in the grocery store or large department stores. All the colors and images and different sounds and smells make it a chore for me and it becomes nearly impossible for me to concentrate in this type of environment.
I can start feeling anxious out of the blue, however I have learned over the course of my mental illnesses to identify certain situations that may make me anxious. I don’t like to be around a large group of people whether I know them or not. It’s not so much the people but the barrage of images and movements that make me anxious when I’m around a lot of people. I can also be anxious in a small group of people if I don’t know the people in the group. Unlike a large group, I can get to a point where I’m relatively OK in a small group once I get to know the other people though I still experience some anxiety. New situations or how I perceive a new situation might go are two more times when I will experience a lot of anxiety. I have to use a lot of self-talk when I’m going into a new situation so that I can get to a point where I can still function. This is a fairly common situation for me seeing as new experiences are a part of daily life but because of this I’m often preoccupied and inside my own head. I get anxious when I have to make a phone call I’ve never made before, opening new mail, driving to a destination I’ve never been to, watching the news on television and even praying. I know right; yes, praying can cause me a great deal of anxiety.
It would seem that it would be easy to combat my anxiety if I know when I might be anxious or I can identify it when it comes but it’s not that easy. Having anxiety and being aware of it doesn’t make it that easy to deal with. Life would be so sweet if I could just identify the anxiety, label the source of it and then take the necessary steps to make it go away. NOT! It doesn’t work anything like that. For some years I was on Xanax to help combat my anxiety however that was the worst thing that a not medicated, bipolar alcoholic/addict with borderline personality disorder could possibly do. When I made the serious decision to get sober and deal with my mental illness I had to make the decision to go at my anxiety from a different direction. Now I use both CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) tools to combat my bouts of anxiety.
The tools that I have been taught are not foolproof however they do help me to get a better hold on my anxiety when it comes. I still shy away from many people and situations because of my anxiety but, at least now, I know that I can get passed it when I’m ready to. I say ready because no matter how hard I may try to combat anxiety in any of its many forms, unless I’m ready to face whatever situation is giving me anxiety that anxiety will still be there. Anxiety keeps me from experiencing many things in life that I’m positive are probably pretty amazing and I want to be a part of any number of them however my battle with anxiety will be ongoing and on my terms. I just have to be patient with myself and that’s the best I can do.