Why anxiety has destroyed so much of my life

Last year I was still calling myself the Retro Witch. I had a catchphrase that went along the lines of I lived, “where chaos resides” or something to that effect. I was pretty fixated on chaos. Of course this was before I discovered I was bipolar, I knew my brain was often quite cluttered.

Today I sat here looking at this empty writing prompt with around three or so topics brewing in my mind. The chaos or clutter of my mind was too much for me to get anything organized so I decided to write about what it is like having so much clutter, or background noise as it feels like, inside my brain.

I hear people all the time say they just want to get some “peace and quiet” but I never understood that. When I am alone with my thoughts, whenever it is too quiet is when my brain gets cluttered. That is when my doubts and fears come to the forefront of my brain.

In addition to bipolar disorder, PTSD and borderline personality disorder, all of which I have written about extensively, I also suffer from general and social anxiety disorder, severe. I have been diagnosed by multiple mental health professionals as such.

Anxiety is difficult to explain. With BP I know I have racing thoughts. With BPD I understand I have difficulty regulating my emotions. With anxiety everything feels intense. Couple this with the other disorders and I am a person with a lot of difficulty fitting a coherent thought inside my brain. More often than not my thoughts are like a flash of jumbled images all pounding their way into my frontal lobe simultaneously demanding attention.

Today I watched a video on 12 things people with anxiety do. I quickly discovered I do all 12 things. I want to talk about some of the issues that my anxiety causes me.

First is the emotional distress. Most people are aware that anxiety means distress. This is the picture people tend to have when you tell them you have anxiety. They figure it means you stress out easily. Which is true I certainly do stress easy. However the part that I don’t discuss is how intense these feelings can be. With anxiety I have intense fear of rejection. I am often so terrified of being rejected I won’t even bother putting myself in a situation where I could be told no. You can imagine how stressful applying for jobs can be for me. I am putting myself in  situation where I expect to be told no repeatedly. It is emotionally draining on me.

Deeper than the fear of rejection is the feeling of abandonment and inadequacy. These combine into a singular mesh of intense fears that are often overpowering.

Here is an example. If I send someone a text message I sit and count the seconds until they reply. I get so anxious waiting for a response I will shoot off a dozen texts to multiple friends in the hopes that any one would reply right away. The longer it takes to get a reply, the deeper the pain is. It’s a very real pain. It feels like a mixture of rejection coupled with abandonment, inadequacy and shame. At first I feel the anxiety in my gut. Why aren’t they replying? I must not be good enough. Oh no I am bothering them. I feel bad for being a pest. I quickly apologize for sending a text then I wait even more anxiously for their reply which either never comes because I figure I offended them or they reply with it’s okay I was busy, working, etc., to which I feel guilt and shame for disturbing my friend because I feel unworthy of their time and attention in the first place. All of these cycle through me in a matter of seconds. By the time someone does reply, even if it was mere seconds, it causes a sense of relief to wash over me. I feel less tense and suddenly worthy of my friends time.

The same thing happens whenever I call someone on the phone only it is magnified by the fear of rejection the longer the phone rings unanswered. I try not to take it personally but whenever I call someone if they don’t pick up right away I assume I am bothering them and then guilt plus shame sink in. If they do answer their phone I promptly apologize for bothering them which usually nets me a stern reprimand which further causes more anxiety as I feel I let them down.

Even when a friend does everything right. They answer my text immediately with affirming messages, agree to call me quickly and then proceed to all me right away, I still feel anxious those brief moments between initial text to answering the call. Once I get a friend on the phone I dip into guilt. I feel like I was a bother to them. I promptly apologize again to which I get another stern it’s okay stop apologizing and then we converse as needed. Before the conversation ends I will have my internal clock inside tell me if the conversation went long enough to satisfy my emotional needs. In the event that takes place I will end the call satisfied my friend is still someone I can count on and that our interactions enriched their life as much as it does mine.

But if any step of the way doesn’t go as planned the anxiety takes over. I feel a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Sometimes I would rather avoid the pain of the entire process than risk actually receiving the reward of a positive social interaction so I can often go days without saying anything. Sometimes I can’t muster more than hi.

Let me break down how important hi is for me.

I have written about how difficult it is for me to make connections with people. I have a limited space for friends in my brain. Once I have filled my friend slots I cannot accept any more without pushing someone else away or neglecting someone. This is because the anxiety once again kicks in. I feel like I am not capable of keeping tabs on too many people. It becomes an obligation to reach out, to say hi and check in on my friends. As time goes on I have to determine which friends I can count on to answer my initial hi with some sort of response. Sometimes I am too emotionally drained to go through the process of interacting. I don’t want to send a text to initiate a conversation as the prospect of said conversation sounds exhausting. Again remember the above process. Sometimes I want to avoid that process entirely but still let my friends know I am thinking of them. This is when I send a single word text, hi. In those instances not only do I not expect a response back, most of the time if I get a response I will feel threatened. This is difficult to explain. You see if I am feeling lonely I will reach out to all my friends and request a phone call or voice chat. Once I have exhausted the previously mentioned cycle of reaching out, rejection etc, I land in a place where I just want to say hi so they know I was thinking of them but I don’t want to start a conversation. Sometimes I will say hi with the expectations they will be glad I said so but it doesn’t go any further.

Then there is the hi, how are you doing? If I go beyond a simple hi which is like a tag we’re still friends code, into the how are you doing, now I am expecting a reply. Again anxiety will kick in the instant I hit send. The longer it takes to get a reply the deeper that anxiety cuts me. However if I send how are you doing I am expecting a response. In this instance I have determined we’ve not interacted enough lately and I desire, crave or feel the need to connect. Sometimes, most of the time really, I am satisfied with a good and you? Sometimes if I get too many responses right away that too will cause me even more anxiety. So when I say hi I don’t expect a response. If I ask how you are doing I kinda do hope for something but not much. This leads me to my next trap, are you free?

Sometimes I am incapable of initiating a conversation. I will say Hi and leave it at that. This is my way of showing my friends I still care. But sometimes I will desire conversation so strongly that the longer I go silent the more intense the pain of rejection feels. This is the most difficult emotion to manage because this is where I become annoying to most. I will be so desperate for a call I will message as many friends as I can with the hopes just one will reply back in the affirmative. I won’t typically care which friend it is as long as I have someone’s voice to sooth me on the other end. This is when the anxiety can take its toll. Some times life get’s in the way. People get busy, sick or have to work. Sometimes I mentally understand they can’t call me right now but emotionally I feel betrayed by their lack of urgency. Sometimes in my desperation multiple friends will respond and I find myself juggling too many conversations. This leads to more anxiety where I feel not only I panicked my friends for nothing but also that I am now taking on too many social interactions thus draining my supply of spoons faster than I otherwise would.

Then there is the urgent I need someone to talk to right away. It is rare I will send this message. It comes after an intense emotional trauma or distressing event has already put me into panic mode. Sometimes this is when I suffered loss recently, am facing a new hardship or overpowering negative emotions bog me down. Sometimes the pain these emotions cause me will be so intense that I shut down. In those instances I don’t want my friend to call me just to tell me it’ll be okay. These are the most difficult messages to decipher for my friends because I can often feel such intense raw emotional distress over the tiniest things that when I text urgent in that moment it felt like the most important thing in the world but once we talk it out I feel like a doofus for having been distraught over something so trivial.

This brings me to my final state of anxiety. I feel hopeless and just need to talk. IN this instance the actual conversation itself is irrelevant I just need to hear your voice, any voice will do. When I am in this state I have already gone through all of the steps of anxiety causes above. I have broken down and cried multiple times. This is when I feel such intense pain from my anxiety that I am willing to risk ending the friendship to nag my friend or guilt them into giving me attention right now immediately. This is the worst state of mind for me to be in because it could be a very real distressing situation with pressing need for assistance to a perceived crisis that only exists in my mind. If it is the latter I can become quite irrational in my pleas for help. This is the state of mind where I lose the most friends. They become so mentally exhausted by my intensity they cut me off for their own benefit. This returns me to a state of feeling rejected, betrayed and inadequate all over again. I will mourn the friendship, feel intense emotional distress for a few days then as suddenly as it all began erase that person from my memory and move on. This is callous but it is how I survive. My heart is fragile. If I get to the point where I have lost a friend and I know there is no mending the relationship without further trauma I walk away. I let that friendship end.

I hate it when this happens. I see it happening when it starts. I watch myself unfold right before my very eyes yet am incapable of doing anything to stop it from happening.

Remember when I said when facing rejection I have intense emotions, those will often devolve into intense anger my friend didn’t bother to care enough about my pain to respond in a timely manner. Again this is irrational but it takes over. If I get to this point I am likely to end the friendship over a single instance of betrayal, even if it is entirely fabricated in my mind.

This is what I suffer with. When I wake up every day I find myself in an immediate state of anxiety. I remain there until I finally get tired enough to go to sleep then I feel it throughout the sleep cycle which usually manifests as intense nightmares. This is my life.

The long path to discovering my ace side

It’s almost time for Pride month to begin. Like every year since coming out I am going to be doing a lot of reflecting on my own queer identity throughout the month. While I am doing that I have to keep one thing in mind, I am in a loving, committed queer relationship with a woman I am absolutely over the moon for. I have to make sure she is a part of my musings this year. 

That’s kind of the whole point of being queer in the first place isn’t it? Finding that special someone to love no matter what. For me I started going down the path of letting myself accept I was gay by slowly opening the door to being bisexual. I figured I was like the girl in Chasing Amy, and incredibly problematic LGBT movie from the 90s that was seen as totally woke in its day. The lesbian in the movie tells a story how she opened the door to women because she didn’t want to miss out on meeting the right person. I thought that was what I wanted to find anyone to love me so I opened the door to queer love. 

But as I grew in my understanding of sexuality and gender identity I came to realize I was living a lot of lies, layered upon layers of lies. I had to examine myself more deeply before I was able to peel back the layers. It was during this time of self discovery I learned sexuality is not a choice, but it can be fluid, much like gender identity. It took me a while to lock it down. Even today I am still discovering new things about myself. 

What does this have to do with my girlfriend? Well once I realized I was trans I had to determine if I was gay or bi. Eventually I came to the conclusion I was an asexual biromantic transgender queer woman. That’s the most I could narrow it down. I figure that describes me pretty much to the t. However it was my girlfriend who helped me see some of this. You see she is also ace and hearing her story helped me discover how ace I was myself. 

Last year I wrote an uncomfortable article confessing deeply intimate details of my sex life. I did this because I was caught up in the kink at pride argument which led me down a path of exploring sexual orientation more closely. Over the course of the next year I took a deep look back at my life and realize how incredibly uncomfortable the whole idea of sex made me. 

Here is a confession that builds upon last years peek behind the curtain into my soul. I am a virgin by choice. The whole thought of getting naked and rolling around in bed with another person grosses me out. I tried to justify this over the years with my ultra conservative religious right upbringing being the basis for my staunch anti sex stance. However I came to realize even after I left the throes of Christianity behind to explore paganism I continued to have feelings that would be considered sex averse. I already knew I was touch averse so I figured it was just a part of that. 

Getting to know myself through the lens of a romantic partner has helped me find who I truly am inside. It took me a while to admit I was ace. Even at first I said I was probably bisexual or biromantic but I wasn’t ready to plant my flag in the ace community quite yet. It wasn’t until a full year on HRT made irreversible changes to my ability to perform sexually when I realize I was actually quite relieved to no longer have the burden of that unwanted desire on my back. I chalked it up to hormones. I figured this was the case as once I changed hormones and things stopped working as before I sighed a deep sigh of relief. I was glad to finally be free from the pressures of sex.

I don’t mean to sound like everyone has to follow the same path as I did to be ace. You certainly don’t. It also came to my attention being ace is a spectrum. Some are further along than others and that is quite okay too. I determined I am quite adverse to the idea of sex as well as all discussion of the topic. I have always found it an uncomfortable topic to discuss. I am also disgusted by seeing other people engage in the activity. I am not drawn to pornography at all, it really grosses me out. Again I thought it was my religious upbringing that made me despise it but now I see I am not against others enjoying themselves in whichever consenting manner they mutually agree upon. I just don’t want any part of it be it the discussion or anything further. While my girlfriends views are her own and I dare not speak for her, I can honestly say being in a loving relationship with a queer woman that does not contain the pressures of a sexual component has been quite fulfilling and very rewarding for myself. I love being asexual as much as I enjoy being transgender. It is just a part of who I am.

Ode to G1 Megatron

There has never been a toy that has messed with my psyche more than the original Generation One Transformers Decepticon Leader Megatron. The toy is a mixture of plastic and metal that transforms from a robot into a very realistic looking handgun. It is a specific handgun, a Walther P-38 as it says on the side of the gun. 

I don’t want to write about the controversies surrounding the toy. Instead I want to talk about what this particular sculpture means to me. 

It starts with the Transformers cartoon. When I was a kid I was obsessed with the Robots in Disguise that were More Than Meets The Eye. I had comic books. I had story books. I had Find Your Fate Books. I had Toys. I had rubber stamps. I had note books and binders with pictures of them on it. I had playing cards and trading cards and everything else. When I say I was into Transformers I mean I was really into Transformers. I still am to this day in fact. 

I remember it was the cartoon versions that I was most drawn to. I watched that series faithfully. I used to flip through the channels late at night praying I would come across episodes of that cartoon. I would rent VHS tapes of episodes from the video store just to get my fix. I loved that series. One aspect that stood out to me was Megatron, the Leader of the Decepticons. He was the chief bad guy. The central figure that drove the plot of each and every single episode. He was the mastermind of the evil forces of the show. He was also a staple of my life.

We moved around a lot as kids. I was quite often finding myself in a new house, in a new school with new friends on a regular basis. There was little in my life that remained constant except Megatron was always on TV leading the Decepticon forces in some scheme or another. Truth be told I always rooted for the bad guys. I do in wrestling and horror movies too. I don’t know why. 

Megatron is a cold, calculating military leader obsessed with obtaining ultimate power. He is not only obsessed with military and political power but also electricity. He goes out of his way to horde all energy sources for his army while denying all others access to those same sources. He is also pretty ruthless in the series. 

That being said the fact he was such a regular staple of my life is why he remains a large influence in me to this day. It was 1994 when I got my first Megatron toy. It wasn’t the classic gun this article is about, rather it was Hero Megatron from the Generation Two toyline. That version turned into a tank. Now this was before I had easy access to the internet, long before I discovered alt.toys.transformers.classic.moderated where I could discuss all things Transformers related. I had no clue as to why they changed him from a kick ass gun to a lame ass tank. Looking at it as an adult a military leader that turns into a tank makes more sense than turning into a hand gun that has to be wielded by your least loyal follower. Talk about a serious flaw in cartoon logic! 

Once I was an adult I went on to ebay and bought myself an original G1 Megatron. I was a little surprised by it. I don’t know if it was a combination of fuzzy childhood memories mixing sources together but I always pictured the toy looking much different than it really did. For some reason I thought it was a white and black plastic rifle not a silver and black metallic realistic looking toy gun modeled after an actual gun! I was equally disappointed and intrigued by this new development. 

Putting the emotional conundrum of destroying my misremembered childhood memories, I quickly became enamored by this toy. I learned everything I could about the history of the toy. I researched variants and reissues available in countries outside of the U.S. I even started collecting other versions of the character simply because he continues to fascinate me to this day. Still, I keep coming back to the original. 

There came a time in my life when I needed money more than I needed toys. I ended up selling my entire Transformers collection to a single reseller for a fair price. It took me an entire decade before I would start buying toys again. It didn’t take long before I dropped the absurd amount of money necessary to bring this toy home. I won’t say how much I spent on it as that is not important. I can say I could have easily bought an entire months worth of groceries for that amount of money and then some. 

Today I sit here admiring the toy I never owned as a child. Even though mine is in well played with condition I still cherish it like a treasure. I don’t have a whole lot in my life at the moment. However one thing I do have is an original, authentic, functional Generation One Transformers More Than Meets The Eye Decepticon Leader Megatron Walther P-38 U.N.C.L.E. Special. The holy grail of toys as far as I am concerned. At the very least a valuable treasure to me.