Living in New York City with Anxiety.

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A few weeks back I wrote about some health issues since moving to NYC. The symptoms started slowly and then escalated, getting worse as I tried to figure it all out. Extreme dizziness, blurred vision, nausea, tingling in my limbs, feeling faint. The scariest of my symptoms was feeling like my mind was almost out of my body. I would be walking and not feel like anything was real or that I was living. I started having nightmares of a black mass taking over my brain and my thoughts. It wasn't depression: I knew what that felt like. It wasn't my OCD: I knew what that felt like, too. I saw a general doctor, a chiropractor, the optometrist over the course of weeks that turned into months with no getting better. I started to fear perhaps I had a tumor in my brain. My doctor told me to see a neurologist because my symptoms seemed to be related to that realm of medicine.

I went and he did a series of physical  tests on me and then started asking me questions. He told me to answer "yes I have this symptom" or "no I don't have this symptom." When he started listing them all off, I began saying yes to every one. My heart pounded because he was hitting everything on the head. Yes! Exactly! I felt that! When he described the feeling of detachment from the body that's when I really became excited. Finally...someone believed me I had something and I wasn't crazy.

He told me he knew exactly what I had. My palms grew sweaty. This was it. He was going to finally help me get back to my normal life.

"It might surprise you what you have," he told me. "It certainty surprised me, but I am certain that it's what you have."

"You have anxiety."

What the hell was the first thought that came to mind. Not what a relief. Or thank God it's nothing serious. What the hell.

I know what anxiety feels like. I've been dealing with mental illness since I was 12! I've become a master at recognizing when I'm having a panic attack related to my OCD. This illness I had was so tangible...so real unlike the obtrusive thoughts in my head. While my feelings swam around and around in circles, he continued on, oblivious, justifying why he thought it was anxiety.

"But I love New York City. I'm not stressed at my job. I have nothing to be anxious about," I interrupted him. It didn't make sense. I couldn't have anxiety.

"But you do," he insisted to me. "Sometimes it's so subconscious that you don't actively realize the stress your mind and body is under."

I stepped away from the office that day contemplating everything he said. All the symptoms he had pointed out I had did match up exactly to anxiety. Although I was happy with my life in NYC, I thought about what I faced on the daily.

I'm living completely on my own away from home. Supporting myself. Being in charge of my finances. Living in one of the most chaotic cities on Earth. With no family or friend group.

I just finished up 16 years of my life in school and now am a working adult. With no in-between time of realizing this transition and the impact it would have on me.

I work 8 hours a day, five days a week in a very social environment when I am an extreme introvert. I ride a packed train into a packed city every morning and evening when I am an extreme introvert. I am an extreme introvert.

.............

I woke up the next day and felt fine. Good even. For the first time in over a month and a half I didn't wake up so dizzy feeling like I'd just stepped off a fair ride. I didn't feel faint, or nauseous, or my body numb. I felt like me again. I went about my day cautiously, fearing that the mysterious illness would creep its way back over me, but it didn't come. I went through that day feeling great and great the next day. Those days turned to weeks and this is where I find myself now. Feeling like the Lauren I was before I picked up my life and moved to New York City.

It took a doctor telling me "you have anxiety" for me to come to terms with it and realize that sometimes it's not obviously on the surface. He also started me on a small dosage of anti-anxiety medicine (lol on top of my OCD + depression medicine I'm pretty much a walking pharmacy). But I am me after feeling so "not" for so long. Sometimes it's hard to understand what your body is telling you until you stop and take the time to think about what you're putting your body and mind through.

It is possible to live in New York City with anxiety. Even though it is one of the most chaotic, stressful cities on earth, you can find peace in the most surprising places. It's in the quiet of your room surrounded by your plants. It's in the favorite coffee shop you go to Saturdays and Sundays that has the best flat white. And it's in the absolute amazement of looking up at the One Tower in Manhattan...the beauty and greatness of realizing although you are so small, you are in a city that makes you feel so big.

If you have anxiety as well, or really any mental illness (I have three!) don't let them hold you back from where you want to be and what you want to do. The only limits you have are the ones you put for yourself. x

With much love,

Lauren

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7 lovely little notes:

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed your post. I struggle with depression and anxiety myself. It takes a lot of courage to share about mental illness. I'm glad you were able to overcome the anxiety!

Cuz Christine said...

Oh my. Really you have undergone a huge life change. You will learn to recognize that stress as you get older and go through many of them. Recognizing them is 2/3 the battle. Breathing and relaxation helps too, but you know that.

Mary said...

I'm so happy you were able to diagnose the issue and get treatment. You are doing so great, Lauren! You should be so incredibly proud of yourself!

Anonymous said...

I completely agree w/ what Mary wrote above! - that, and you are incredibly brave both in sharing what is going on, AND, in not deciding to go back to Mansfield, but sticking with living out your dream!!!

With love,
Jeannee
Sparkle4Jesus@outlook.com

Silwiniel said...

Great post, I am happy that you are not afraid to write about such things. I have anxiety, too, I was very scared at the beginning. When I had panic attack, I felt like I can't breathe. It has been two years since it began and I feel good now, sometimes I have some bad feelings, but I can work with it. I can live with anxienty and I can be happy. I wish you to feel great and to be able to fight with your fears!

Ashley said...

I could write a million things here about myself, but I just want to say, thank you for this post. Your honesty is so helpful and refreshing, and makes me feel so much more normal. I'm just like, "Ok, Lauren is awesome and living with anxiety and OCD, and I can live with them and be awesome too." It's so helpful when you can find somebody to relate to.

Ella said...

Hi Lauren, I came across your blog through ModCloth- you have amazing syle. I moved to Brooklyn from Maine about a year ago. Brooklyn is so wonderful and magical, but can also make you feel really alone at times. If you're ever in need of another awkward introvert friend, please reach out.

With love and solidarity in Brooklyn,
Ella
https://www.instagram.com/ellalikesflowers/

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