Comeback Kid

Guest Author: Corey Landsberg

This content contains explicit and sensitive information that may not be suitable for all ages.

I don’t know what caused my anxiety to get so out of control but the first memory I have of it involves the V word.

Or the P word

Or even the B word.

Vomit, Puke, Barf.

Whatever you want to call it-I have a fear of throwing up.

When I was seven-years-old my sister had surgery to save the vision in her eye. She was five at the time. I remember my mom making peanut butter cookies for her while she lay in bed with a patch over her eye and bringing the whole tray to her.

The next thing I remember is when the chunks started flying. Those chunks were the bullets in my life. That was it-ground zero for my anxiety. Every single day of my life since then I have had to dodge those metaphorical bullets.

For those who don’t suffer from anxiety, you are probably thinking “big deal, people puke. Get over it.” But it’s not about the puke. The puke is a metaphor for my anxiety. It’s what started it all.

Outsiders ask what it’s like to look across the octagon at someone ready to knock your teeth in. I don’t know what that’s like, but I’ve fought a similar fight every day of my life. I suffer from anxiety. Equally as dangerous as a heavyweight fighter, capable of putting you in a rear naked choke, capable of knocking the wind out of you-capable of just about anything.

I’ve never been knocked out, but I have been knocked down.

I’ve never been knocked out, but I have been knocked down. I’ve never been choked out but my anxiety has made me feel like I couldn’t breathe. For those who suffer from anxiety or any mental illness they’ll understand. For those who don’t it’s pretty tough to explain but I’ll do my best.

For me, there are 2 types of anxiety. The long term, ‘I have something seriously wrong health wise,’ type which most people probably suffer from at one point or another. And the other one-the type that most people don’t understand. The demons that live deep inside your brain. A virus in a super computer. A microscopic parasite eating at whatever it can feed on. That’s the type that most people don’t understand.

Imagine sitting at a restaurant completely fine one minute and the next, you are looking for any way out. Like there is a poisonous gas leaking into the restaurant and you’ll do anything to get out. You don’t know why you have to leave but you just know you have to. You start sweating from every pore in your body, your heart rate skyrockets to 180 beats per minute. There is absolutely no reason why this should happen but it does.

And now your shirt needs to go in the laundry.

Here’s a true story; I sitting in the room during the ceremony at my cousin’s wedding in the summer of 2012. I started to feel something isn’t right, I’m not sure what but I know I have to get out and just get away from everyone. I look at my girlfriend Liz and my dad and say, “I gotta get out of here.” My girlfriend says, “You can’t leave now, the bride just walked down the aisle.” I just looked at her and said, “I’m going,” and climbed over my 80-year-old uncle to escape the room.

Yes, people saw, and no I didn’t care. At that point the only thing that would make me feel better was locking myself in a bathroom and riding out the storm. I remember my dad not saying anything. Why? Because he’s been through this before. He is one of the only people on this planet who get it. He knew I had to leave. He has suffered from anxiety just like I have.

The score on that day was Anxiety 1, Corey 0.

If I was keeping track of all the times that anxiety has beaten me it would be a pretty lop sided score.

I remember that summer of 2012 being some of the worst months of my life. I remember watching Usain Bolt win the gold medal in the 100m at the London Olympics because I was locked in my room that day, trying to get out of a choke hold that my anxiety had me in.

About a year earlier I had started taking Adderall for my ADD. It worked great. I had never been more focused on my career and I was loving how productive I was. But in or around April or May of that year the medication started to mess with my brain.

I like to think of anxiety like the mind is a very long dinner table with fancy china-cutlery and crystal glasses at every setting. The very expensive stuff you’d find in the living room of your parent’s house. But you don’t really know why they have it because you don’t spend more than 3 hours in that room all year. And usually those few hours are spent making small talk with friends and family that tell you how tall you’ve gotten and ask, “How’s the weather up there?” Couldn’t you think of a better use for that room? Sorry…that was my ADD getting off track.

Yes, back to that room.

Imagine the timeline of your life looking like a very long dinner table, everything good and bad that has ever happened to you represented by a plate setting. All of your memories are there. Keep that table in mind and I’ll try to explain what a panic attack or anxiety attack is like for me. Close your eyes for a second and try to picture this. Wait hold on, you have to open your eyes to continue reading don’t you? Your anxiety is totally under control right now and you feel great. The table took hours to set. Each place setting has more forks than you know what to do with them. (I believe you never need more than 2 forks). Now the chemical imbalance in your brain that is anxiety starts to act up. All of a sudden a car drives through the living room and every single place setting is broken into a million pieces. Broken plates, silverware, and crystal glasses are everywhere. What feels like a lifetime has probably only been 30 seconds taking place in your life. But the damage done will take hours to clean up. You don’t have an explanation for what happened but you know that recovering from it and cleaning up the mess will take a long time.

After the summer of 2012, I went back to my psychiatrist and told her that I couldn’t continue to take the Adderall because of what it was doing to my anxiety. But I told her that I needed to keep taking something to help with my ADD. She agreed that I stop taking it immediately until we could come up with a solution. After telling her I couldn’t possibly go on with my life looking like the dinner table that had been run over by a car she suggested I go on an antidepressant for my anxiety. I explained to her that I didn’t want to because of the side effects that I have seen my dad go through while battling his depression. I also didn’t want to mix ADD medication with antidepressants.

What she came up with next was genius.

She said to me “Corey I know you have told me about a history of addiction in parts of your family so what I’m going to recommend can only be done if you feel like you have the ability to control yourself. I’m going to prescribe you 4 Ativan tablets and you are going to keep them with you everywhere you go no matter where you are. These pills are an anti-anxiety medication and when people feel like they are having a panic attack they put them under their tongue and the anxiety goes away. You are never going to take them but you are going to know that having them with you means you always have something that you can use to fight the anxiety.”

And it worked.

I was finally on the board against anxiety

Every single day since then I have carried these pills in my pocket. They are probably expired by now but I don’t care. I’ve never taken one but any time I feel an anxiety attack, I put my hand in my pocket and hold onto the bottle. If you’ve heard the expression, “hold on for dear life,” that’s what I do with the pills. It has tricked my anxiety. The hunter who lay in the shadows waiting had finally become the hunted. I was finally on the board against anxiety. Anxiety 100-Corey 1.

That number “1” is what every single person suffering from a mental illness should strive for. Look at it like “anxiety has to be on top of its game every day but I only have to be on my game once.”

And in case you are wondering…I haven’t eaten peanut butter cookies since then.

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