Some days are just too much. It’s like everything that could go wrong does go wrong.
Like… you get a flat tire, find out your roof is leaking, then you learn there’s been a major clerical error and you no longer have health insurance, which means you can’t pick up the medication you need without it costing $100 out of pocket, then your dog has a seizure.
I was in my early twenties when someone referred to my life as “Murphy’s Law,” as in, “your life is Murphy’s Law!”. I corrected their grammar because I didn’t agree with the phrasing of their sentence, but I did agree that my life was regularly plagued by “everything that can go wrong, will go wrong–you know, Murphy’s Law at work.”
Now, I say this with the caveat of “I know I am very privileged for these to be my problems,” but you are on my blog, and if you want to judge me for that, you can go now. If you’re new here: I have severe anxiety, depression, and have been battling Crohn’s disease. Leaving my house is generally pretty difficult and I try to keep my day-to-day activities to 1 or 2 stops because I don’t have a lot of energy. But today I had to push myself through one curveball after another.
When I left my house this morning, the plan was: coffee with my friend Lizzie, go to Trader Joe’s, then take my dog Max to the vet in the afternoon. But today had other plans for me.
Today was full of misfortune. All I can do is laugh, take a deep breath, and try to calm down my nerves.
I felt myself unraveling in the frozen section of Trader Joe’s, overwhelmed by all the options and the failed attempt to figure out what food my body needs during a Crohn’s flare. I held back the feeling of tears filling my insides like a water jug, wanting to rise up through my chest and out of my eyelids. I felt like I might burst into flames at any minute, with satan waiting in the wings laughing at my misfortune.
There’s a German word for it. Schadenfreude: pleasure from witnessing another person’s trouble or failure.
The next strike was that I found out that my health insurance through Kaiser hadn’t been reinstated yet due to a “clerical error” and the two medications I need for depression and PTSD (Lexapro and Prazosin) would be around $100. I walked out of the pharmacy embarrassed and angry, given that I’ve spent many hours on the phone with Kaiser in the last month after my insurance was terminated.
I don’t know if the “clerical error” has anything to do with the government shut down (I buy my own insurance through the Washington Healthcare Exchange because I’m self-employed). I don’t want to believe that Kaiser Permanente is so bad at customer service, but it looks like they are (not the doctors—just the clerical side).
I walked out empty handed to my car in a fiery haze, warm with anger flowing through my veins at the frustration behind the healthcare system in the United States, knowing that I either needed to skip a dose of my meds and risk the side effects of withdrawal, or hope that I had back-up meds in my drawer at home.
Lucky for me, my rumination screeched to a halt at the next series of unfortunate events:
A flat tire.
I took a deep breath and texted my husband Gus. Les Schwab was around the corner. I was already exhausted.
I thought, “It’s just a tire. I don’t need to get angry or upset or panic. I just need to get through the next 30 seconds, and then the next 30 seconds after that, and the next 30 seconds after that. Whatever happens, I can handle it. It’s just a tire.”
As I pulled in to Les Schwab, a mechanic walked over to check me in and immediately noticed my flat tire. It’s just a tire. The smell of tires gave me a headache; that sticky rubber smell clinging to the top of my mouth.
Leaving Les Schwab, the thoughts came pouring in about how much it would cost to fix a tire, or to replace an entire set of tires. I only bought my car in July, was it under warranty? Do I need to call my car insurance? Had I finished the claim for the car accident I was in 2017? Why do I procrastinate so much? Why can’t I just handle things like a normal person?
I was spiraling.
Les Schwab called an hour later to report that I had a nail in my tire and that they patched it up. I was good to go… and I braced myself for the price.
Free. The tire patch was free.
Relieved, I drove home, anticipating the shaking pug I’d find when I got there. His entire 21lb body shook as I picked him up and held him for 20 minutes until he squirmed his way out of my arms and onto the floor. He wiggled over to his bed where he hyperventilated. I watched his tongue turn purple until he lost his balance, falling over to one side onto the plush surface of his bed and seizing for about 15 seconds (it felt like an eternity). It’s okay buddy, you’re okay. I rubbed his back and comforted him.
My heart hurts.
This has been happening a few times a week. He’s okay a few seconds later with a distant “out of it” stare. An hour later at the vet, they referred to it as the “postictal phase,” where dogs seem restless, uncoordinated and disoriented after a seizure episode. We’re putting him on antibiotics (he could have an infection from his rotten teeth) and antiseizure medication. He’s 14 and I have never loved another animal like I love him. He’s fine for now… but every moment I know that it could be his last.
I already thought that was the longest 6 hours of my 30s, but I soon found that the small drip from the ceiling in our laundry room had started again. Like the ticking of an unwanted clock, the drops of water fall into a giant bucket we’d placed there a few days prior.
At first, I panicked, knowing that there’s likely a puddle of water in the attic that could be growing mold and killing me with each passing second. But I stopped myself from falling down a path of anxiety; it’s just another thing I don’t have control over.
I know the roof needs to be repaired, but there’s nothing I can do about that situation right now. The insurance estimator needs to come to assess the damage, then a roofer needs to come take a look, and then it can be fixed. A small drip isn’t a giant emergency like my anxiety is telling me it is.
I finally sat down to relax in the early evening when I realized I hadn’t had a panic attack. Sure, I could feel the acid burning through my body and the pain my joints, but I had not panicked. I didn’t start crying or collapse in the frozen section of Trader Joe’s. I handled it.
My husband, who is away on business during this week, sent me a text message saying, “I’m proud of you, you had like 10 different scenarios that you would have been justified to freak out.. and you didn’t.”
I’m proud of me, too.
It shows me that I’m doing a good job managing my mental health. It shows me that I have a hold on my panic disorder using medication and that I am able to use dialectic behavioral tools to manage my anxiety.
Being able to stay calm in stressful situations has always been difficult for me. Historically, I freeze and lose the ability to speak and to think in a calm and rational way. Today, I was calm. I was rational. I didn’t let the stress of the situations I was in destroy me like they may have in the past. I believed in myself. I trusted myself. I stayed calm.
Tonight, I’m being nice to myself and gentle with my body. I’m cheering myself on, and ignoring the little devil in my head telling me that it was all my fault. Because even if it was my fault–and all I can do is move forward and focus on the next 30 seconds.