There hidden within the scope of our personal universe, we can find our physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual entirety and it is all of this ‘stuff’ that in the end makes us uniquely who we are.
Anxiety and its shadow, depression, is a clown disguised as a ‘monster’ that takes great pleasure in persistently riding a person like they’re a bareback jackass.
Kick, buck and toss that fool into space every single time you see it coming your way.
This double-sided Joker, Anxiety and Depression has been constantly working at living within me for some time now. More often than not I manage to keep it secretly tucked away, closeted, out of sight, and undiscovered by people with whom I come into constant contact. But as I’ve aged, much like an old home, my body and mind is no longer as attractive, durable, flexible, protective or sturdy as it once was. Those cracks in my walled surface once thought finally settled have grown larger and are now deep enough to be counted as extra storage space. There within these recesses you will find the compartments that house emotional baggage, physical limitations, and personal vulnerabilities.
Those items hidden from plain sight include chronic insecurity, bipolar disorder, moderate obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), and as if there’s room for anything more, arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and mild diverticulitis.
My natural inclination is to try to hide these things away from others for the sake of appearing invincible. However, nearly five years ago I reached the point where without my permission these troubling conditions ceased to remain invisible. The fear that emerged as a result of their falling into view caused me to produce buckets of uncontrollable sweat with the slightest increase in angst or excitability.
If you have never experienced having a meltdown I tell you it can be terrifying and it makes you feel as though you have lost all control over your person.
Of all the places to experience a feeling of public nakedness for me it had to emerge at work, fully observable to my peers and my boss.
It was embarrassing and made me look and feel like an incompetent fool. After that, I never knew when I might again become de-clothed , socially disconnected, and grossly out of touch in the day-to-day context in which I was working.
In case you're wondering what it's like to have Obstructive Sleep Apnea, in my case it includes snoring loud enough at night to wake yourself up and experiencing sleepiness during the day.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea Symptoms
A person who has obstructive sleep apnea often is not aware of the apnea episodes during the night. Often, family members witness the periods of apnea. For me, it was my wife that alerted me to the fact that I would stop breathing in my sleep.
A person with obstructive sleep apnea usually begins snoring heavily soon after falling asleep. Often the snoring gets louder. The snoring is then interrupted by a long silent period during which there is no breathing. This is usually followed by a loud snort and gasp, as the person attempts to breathe. This pattern repeats throughout the night. This is something that can kill you. A couple of years ago, a very good high school friend of mine stopped breathing in his sleep and never woke up.
Many people wake up unrefreshed in the morning and feel sleepy or drowsy throughout the day. This is known as excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS). I was experiencing the following common symptoms on a daily basis just a few years ago.
People with sleep apnea may:
- Act grumpy, impatient, or irritable
- Be forgetful
- Fall asleep while working, reading, or watching TV
- Feel sleepy while driving, or even fall asleep while driving
- Have hard to treat headaches
Problems that may occur with this condition:
- Depression that becomes worse
- Hyperactive behavior, especially in children
- Leg swelling (if severe)
The biggest problems for me were irritability, being forgetful, and falling asleep while working for brief periods that occur so quickly that I didn’t even know that they had taken place.
As I am sure you can understand, this puts a limit on the kind of work that a person with this condition can do without presenting a risk to self and others.
On a few occasions, I made more than one hundred thousand dollars a year during prolonged periods of peak performance. Today, I am paid an hourly wage. This has resulted in a major change in both my lifestyle and at times my sense of worth.
One day in my last job when my problems were mounting I took advantage of the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and began seeing a psychologist. I recall the psychologist telling me at the end of my sixth and last session that “You Have Everything You Need.”
Well you know what? I decided to believe that. I belief that God has blessed me with a beautiful mind. What I intend to do with it is exactly what my Grandpa told me to do at 12 years old when faced with a problem and that is to “figure out for yourself a way to make the very best of the situation.”
Let’s be clear, I didn’t choose this situation for myself nor would I wish it on someone else. It is, what it is. I can’t out run it anymore than I can run away from it. Instead, I am running to it in anticipation that it has a deeper meaning and purpose for my life than I could ever have thought possible.
When you get tripped up, knocked down off your horse or lose your A-game edge it is still your choice whether you intend to fight with everything that you've got to get back up and continue to move forward by making a further contribution to your life and to that of others.
May you take comfort too upon realizing and internalizing for yourself that you have everything you need.