PC: Jeanine Leblanc
My Three Toxic Best Friends
I don’t like PCOS. I don’t like that I tire out easily and that during some of my really bad flare ups I can’t make it around both the neighborhood and the school. That I have to wear a patch on my skin that leaves behind a sticky residue when it is gone. That I am stuck with the patch because I am some of the unlucky few who gets nauseous with all of the oral birth controls. That it caused me to lose some of my hair before we realized what was wrong with me. That I may never be able to have kids, and part of me is relieved at this and part of me is devastated. That I think the PCOS is leading to endometrioses and I am furious about that because it seems out of everything in this world my body is the one things I have the least amount of control over.
I don’t like bipolar disorder. I don’t like that my mood fluctuates from happy to sad faster than it takes me to decide on an outfit to wear and, I only wear 4 different outfits for each season. That I can want to cry and curl up in a ball for no reason at all. That I want to eat the whole entire bag of chocolates and never get up again even though I have plenty to get done. That it worries my mother as she sits and says “maybe I need to go to Valley” and I respond no because I don’t want to go to a mental hospital. That my bipolar gets worse at the end of semesters and has caused me to have to withdraw from school which causes me to feel like I am stupid and worthless.
I don’t like my anxiety. That I am afraid of things that are never going to happen, like me single -handedly causing the world to end. That I am afraid to drive my car because I might somehow cause harm to someone else. I could care less if I’m hurt or not my life isn’t important. That when I was at UGA I stopped eating because I was afraid the food would somehow go down the wrong pipe and I would die. That in the pictures of that time I’m so skinny I don’t even recognize myself. That it causes me to lose sleep and stare at the wall for hours on end as I toss and turn praying to whatever God is out there that I could have some peace. That I never enjoy anything because there is always something to be afraid of or something that I worry I should be doing.
I hate that nobody knew what was wrong for the longest time so they did test after test and pricked me with needle after needle, butterfly and quick gauge and you never know how much those butterfly needles can hurt until a nurse digs into your arm searching for a vein. That I had doctor after doctor tell me that I just needed to exercise more and that my own dad is a doctor and he failed to diagnosis me. That I suffered for years and was not diagnosed until I was 22. That there is no cure for any of my conditions. That I have to take pills and explain to people that I’m not crazy, but yes, I go to therapy. That I somehow have several conditions.
I don’t like being sick.
About The Author - Caroline Hood
Caroline Hood is studying English: Creative Writing at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and hopes to go on to obtain her MFA. She lives with PCOS, anxiety, and Bipolar Disorder. She enjoys writing about these topics to help raise awareness and reduce the stigma associated with them. She hopes that her writings can help her readers feel that they are not alone.
Anxiety is my long-time 'friend'. The stigma of simply being 'uptight' or 'sensitive' or 'overreacting' at first smothering the idea of getting a diagnosis or even thinking about why I feel a certain way about seemingly everyday tasks. I never thought I'd get to a point where I was afraid to leave the house or walk down the street. I was like a frog in boiling water unaware of the steaming bubbles growing above me. I kept the secret sewn to my chest since I didn't want to give the kids at school another reason to ignore me, or even worse, feel sorry for me.
I was eighteen when my first panic boiled over. I was a tiny fish in the ocean of university, alone for the first time. I'd forced myself to attend the meet and greet down the street from my dorm. I didn't mind the dark lights of the bar/nightclub as I could hide beneath the curtains of darkness between the spotlights. I forced myself to collect a list of forgettable faces and misplaced names as per the getting to know you 'game' that the student reps. had given us on the way in.
After a few hours, I'd managed to socially exhaust myself and decided to return to my dorm. Once I stepped out into the street, I was surrounded by darkness and unfamiliar faces. I gazed up at the towering buildings masked in black, any landmark or store sign distorted without the daytime sun. My chest clenched and my mind began to shatter into tiny shards of glass that swirled in my head as if my skull was a vacuum cleaner bag. Beneath the gaze of the streetlight, I felt exposed as if I was the perfect target for every crime, as if I was waiting for an inevitable trouble.
Once I accepted the fact that I didn't know how to get back to the dorms, I picked up my phone and called campus security. I had been told by every student rep. that if I was feeling unsafe, I could call security after hours and they'd help me get back to the dormitory. Apparently, the man who answered my call didn't get that message. He barked at me throughout the entire call, saying that I was wasting his time. With a cutting guilt and intense humiliation, I apologised and hung up, just as I began to lose control.
It was as if I was watching myself on a security monitor. I was completely out of my body as I felt the fear take over, my mind blank of any ideas as I stood alone in the dark, tears prickling my eyes as I considered (in my frazzled mind) hiding in the nearby shrubbery to wait until morning came.
To my utter relief, someone I'd met earlier during orientation found me and was kind enough to help me back to the dorm. Yet, even inside my locked bedroom, I still felt as if I was outside alone in the dark. It stuck with me like a sickness, my stomach wedged in my throat and my mind still in tatters as I tried to piece together the last thirty minutes.
What hit me harder was that I thought that I'd gained control over Anxiety. After so many therapy sessions, I thought I could control it like a misbehaving puppy. Yet, all the stars had aligned to create my perfect worst-case scenario. I was outside, alone, at night with no one I properly knew to help me. Bonus points came in the form of the bitter security guard and the fact that I was already on edge due to my additional social anxiety.
However, the whole point of going to university for me, other than getting an education, was to break free from the retrains that Anxiety had placed on me. My Anxiety is like a toxic friend that lives in your head and it takes time and some practice to get them to take their hands off the reins.
by Claire L. Smith
Are you struggling with anxiety? Are you willing to share your story with us? Send us an email! We'd love to hear it.
Claire L. Smith is an Australian writer and filmmaker. Her creative work has been featured in Death and The Maiden, Horror Scribes, Luna Luna Magazine, Mookychick, Anti-Heroin Chic and Moonchild Magazine. A full list of her work can be found on her website.