From the Editor: My brain is a prison

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Thereís a competition on Survivor where two people from each tribe have to hold a net and everyone else tosses coconuts in the nets. When enough coconuts build up, it becomes impossible to hold the net anymore. The last person holding their net wins the challenge for their tribe.

Lately, there have been too many coconuts in my net. Surely weíve all felt that way every now and then. You donít have to experience anxiety or depression to know how it feels to continually hit the same wall, but it sure doesnít help when those two things are in the mix.

Itís safe to say Iím familiar with both. Iíve had anxiety since I was a child, often staying up most of the night staring at the ceiling and wondering when the next horrible thing would happen to me. Over the years, anxiety has become a part of me. Itís like that acne scar on my forehead or the bump on the back of my neck Ö always there, and always slightly unpleasant. I like to think Iíve learned to deal with it. Donít we all? Nobody wants to be the mental case who sobs in their car when they check the mail and realize their harem pants havenít come in yet even though they ordered them a month ago. We donít want to seem unstable, so we donít talk about all the gross things happening in our brains.

Well, Iím here to talk about it. Itís personal and uncomfortable and the thought of somebody reading this makes my skin crawl, but nobody ever got better by ignoring their problems. No matter how loud you turn up the radio, your car will still make that scary grinding sound. You canít drown out anxiety with a distraction. Itís there. Itís real. The only way to conquer it is to face up to it, to tell the world about how it feels to be imprisoned by your brain.

Thatís exactly what itís like. Every now and then, Iíll be at a city meeting and suddenly get hit by a wave of panic. It comes out of nowhere, and I feel so embarrassed that I just want to escape. I want to go some place where nobody knows me or my horrible neurosis. In moments like that, I convince myself that nobody actually likes me. I tell myself Iím a disappointment and a loser. I hyper-analyze everything Iíve said in the last few days and wonder why anybody wants to be around me at all. If it sounds miserable, thatís because it is. Itís the most misery Iíve ever felt. Itís the kind of misery that stays with you all the time, even on really good days. Even on your best day.

Anxiety never goes away for me, so I guess Iím lucky depression only creeps on occasion. Depression is purely situational for me, which means I feel pretty down any time something moderately stressful happens. With Gideon working toward his masterís degree and both of us working full time, weíve been going through an especially stressful time over the past few months. Graduate school is hard. Working toward a goal is hard. We donít see each other much at all. Itíll be worth it in the end, but weíre really sweating it right now.

Last week, a friend asked me if sheís been missing my columns in the paper. I confessed that I havenít been in the right headspace to write anything meaningful lately, and I talked about all the crazy things my brain does when I just want to be calm. She said she had been going through the same thing. She meant it. Having that kind of understanding helped me more than I can say.

Itís tough to talk about mental problems. Itís tough to admit that Iím not always able to think straight. I donít want anybody to think Iím not capable or strong, so I pretend to be those things while crawling out of my skin. I donít feel this way all the time, of course. I have really good days and really good weeks, and if itís fall, really good months. These past few days and weeks and months just havenít been all that good.

In the meantime, Iím trying to stay positive. I spend a lot of time daydreaming about the future when Gideon is inspiring young people and Iím adopting four more cats. I take the good with the bad.

What else can you do?

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Samantha Jones is associate editor for Carroll County Newspapers. Her email address is†