Eight days ago, my brain broke again.
It was like someone had found a dial for my anxiety and turned it from simmer, it’s default setting, all the way to max — and then kept turning it until the dial broke. Part of me knew that I was in the throes of a major anxiety episode. But, it didn’t matter. My body and brain were in full flight or fight mode.
Everything went to hell. My brain was so scrambled I couldn’t work. I couldn’t sleep at night because my brain thought it would be helpful to review things that had happened ten years ago in excruciating detail.
I felt like a prisoner in my own mind.
Being sleep deprived and knowing I was falling further behind in my work wound me up even more.
Self-Care is Great Until It Doesn’t Work
As far as anxiety goes, most of the time I’m very high functioning. I try to make responsible choices with my diet, exercise, and rest. Just like if I had a physical disorder like diabetes, I know I need to do certain things to stay healthy and to be at my best.
But, the problem with anxiety disorders is that you can do everything right, and then something random can knock you out.
I developed a bad cold more than a week ago. One of the kids had brought it home. Colds don’t stop me from functioning. I don’t get man colds. I can’t. I’m the primary caretaker of our four children.
I get out of bed at 6:00 am, no matter how I feel because kids have to go to school. I took some cold medicine to deal with the symptoms.
Looking back at the past eight days, I realize that the cold medicine triggered my anxiety. But, I was too scattered to realize it early on. I just kept taking the stuff because I still had a cold.
My daily walks, soothing baths, meditating, journaling, reading, and anything else I could think of failed to take the edge of off the anxiety.
I got panic attacks going to run simple errands like heading to the store for milk. I screamed at the top of my lungs inside the car while I was driving alone to try and release some of the negative energy and to regain a foothold of rational thought.
Sleep was the only thing that helped even a little. If not for my children, I just would have laid in bed for three days straight.
But, life doesn’t stop just because I’m having a breakdown.
Dealing with Clients
I tried to stay in communication with my clients. I let them know I was sick and asked for a few deadline extensions. One new client was an asshole when I asked for a 24-hour extension, so I fired them.
Firing a client made me feel better.
After I slept as much as I could, I started to recover. My anxiety dial was no longer stuck on max, but it was still set to high.
I didn’t do any marketing or client outreach. I turned down several opportunities this past week. These will probably come back to haunt me later this month and next month, but I couldn’t even think about taking on more work.
I did almost no new writing. I did post a few things on social media that I had written earlier. Anxiety consumed almost all of my energy.
This was the worst episode I’ve had since February 2017. I keep track of these things.
As my anxiety level slowly fell, I finished a few projects. My clients loved the work. That also helped increase my feeling of well-being.
Where I’m At Now
My anxiety level is still elevated, but it’s trending in the right direction. Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year. This past week I didn’t want to even think about it. Last night our family watched The Year Without a Santa Clause together and ate homemade cookies.
Today, I ‘m back to writing on Medium and doing some other writing for myself. I will keep plugging away at my client work, hoping to catch up quickly.
I’ve also had another wakeup call about my business. As much as I love client work, I need to do more to increase my sources of income that are not dependent on clients.
That’s the responsible thing to do when you’re a freelance writer with a severe anxiety disorder, no matter how high-functioning you are most of the time.
The reality of being a freelancer is that all of the income depends on me, and sometimes I’m unreliable. Having more sources of income gives me some backup and peace of mind when things go to hell next time because that’s the reality of living with an anxiety disorder. There will be a next time. I just don’t know when.