Anxiety Turned the Fourth of July into My Nightmare

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thofJuly

One woman’s struggle with anxiety on the 4th of July. Anxiety is a real, debilitating disorder, and should not be taken lightly. If you struggle with anxiety, please consider joining our online support group, Anxiety and Depression Help.

Written by: Stephanie Trzyna
Originally Published in The Mighty

Fireworks enchant me. The brilliant colors of light that blast in the night sky, not knowing exactly which direction they will burst, what beautiful hues will show, and exactly how loud they will be. They’ve always mesmerized me. A beautiful manmade project dancing with physics coming together cohesively to create these sky artwork masterpieces.

Then I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Somehow these once beautiful displays now immobilize me. Sitting at a friend’s annual fireworks party, I felt myself tense up with each pop. My breaths grew short and shallow and I honestly became frozen, unable to speak. On the outside, I looked like any other spectator; inside I was crying. I couldn’t believe how my body was reacting to this. I became panicked and quickly covered any sign of it up. I only told my husband later that evening when we got home.

And this was a planned fireworks display. That was only July 2.

The next day, panic started the moment I heard the first loud bang around 8 p.m. Every noise startled my body. I was worried I wouldn’t sleep, that my “courteous” neighbors would go the whole night firing off these things. I repeatedly told myself, “Stephanie, don’t worry, tomorrow is a holiday, you can sleep then if you want.” A motto repeated in my brain like a broken record. Before midnight, one firework’s boom shook my whole house, causing me to jump, exclaim “What the heck?” and ultimately have an anxiety attack. Man, this was only July 3.

Sleep did not come easy that night.

I woke up irritable. It wasn’t shocking. It took me awhile to fall asleep due to the earthquake-producing fireworks and my hot room. I incessantly apologized for my mean behavior; I was being snarky and sarcastic. We spent the whole day introducing our daughter to “Star Wars Episode VI” and “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” via cinema. The holiday seemed relaxing enough. I was just anticipating the start of the fireworks. As my husband and I were downstairs watching “Murder In The First” off the DVR…

“Boom! Pop! Whizz!”

With every sound, my digits tensed. I dug into the arm of my loveseat with my whole body. Soon enough I was wound in a huge knot, locked in the fetal position.

“Boom!”

I let out a yelp and shook, my breathing rapid. With each burst, a tear fell from my eyes, my breaths grew more intense and I became rigid and scared. I am not sure when exactly my anxiety took complete control of my body last night, but about an hour in, my 9-year-old daughter came down the stairs to the basement to join us. She couldn’t fall asleep because the fireworks were loud.

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