in

Anxiety Ruined My Friendships

By no means did I have a bad life growing up. What I lacked in direction and in guidance I made up for with humor. From a young child, Iwas always a bit of a comedian. Even though I wasn’t sure of where my life would take me, I was happy. I guess things began to shift a little when I was just shy of 20 years old. Nearly out of nowhere, I developed a chronic migraine disorder which still remains a bit of a medical mystery. Over time, my happy,bright eyes were replaced by lifeless, dull spheres. The smile that once was permanently fixed was replaced with a stone-face. My laugh was replaced with clutching my head, trying to equalize the pressure that I felt. I was forced out of work for nearly two months, my school work took a hit, and I began to have trouble seeing, hearing, and reading.

Since none of the medications seemed to be working, I decided it was time to make some changes in other areas of my life. I quit the job I’d held for 4 ½ years, and sought work at a local bar in town. Luckily, I began having more days where I felt better, and my humor was well-received by my new co-workers. We became fast friends and things were finally looking up.

The months passed by and although I was happy with my job and my friends, my headaches still remained. By December, I had developed another symptom: anxiety. This was a new one for me, and not a welcome visitorat that. Up until this point, many of my friends would often joke that the only emotion I possessed was happy. I soon was paralyzed by my irrational fears—I would sit at home alone, terrified of a noise I had heard, and would hyperventilate and cry for hours. As soon as I thought I had calmed down, I would start back up again. It would get so bad that I sometimes would take NyQuil to knock myself out so that I didn’t have to experience the full attack.

What was wrong with me? Anxiety isn’t something I’d ever had to deal with; I didn’t know how to.

After about a month of internal struggle, it became impossible for me to disguise this shameful creature that had consumed me, and I began having panic attacks around my friends. It didn’t take long for them to grow frustrated with me because I couldn’t articulate what was wrong. The kicker was, I couldn’t even tell myself what was wrong. I knew that my thoughts and my behavior were irrational, but I couldn’t shake the anxiety I was constantly marinating in. It was as if I were in a deep, dark tunnel and I could see everyone living in the light, but I couldn’t reach it myself.

Eventually, my friends shut me out. They didn’t know how else to help me and I imagine they were drained from having a friend like me. How could I blame them? I didn’t even want to be around me! The thing that hurt the most was that they used my being sick as ammo to hurt me. I tried so hard for so long to have fun even when I was nervous or in pain, and, almost overnight, my friends became strangers. For the first time in a very, very longtime, I felt alone.

It's amazing how the body responds to this kind of emotional upset. My feelings of overwhelming loneliness seemed to correlate with another increase in the frequency and severity of my headaches. I spent many nights in the emergency room for complications from my migraines, from passing out, extremely low blood pressure, and poor heart rate. All of the times I wish that I had a friend to call, nobody could be found. I can recount dozens of times that I dropped everything to help my friends; am I really that terrible of a person that they couldn't do the same for me?

Even though they maybe shouldn't, my friends at work still mean the world to me and I would do anything for each and every one of them. I don’t blame them for walking away, but I am still a little sullen by the way they did it. Maybe someday things will be at a more familiar sense of normalcy, and maybe they’ll forgive me for not having been myself for so very long. Each day is still somewhat of a struggle—living in constant pain will do that to you, but someday, I hope to be the happy, kind-hearted, comedian that I was once locally famous as.