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A State of Anxiety

March 9th, 2017

A few months ago I had a heart attack.  Well, that’s what the doctors said, based on how I was medically presenting.  A plethora of tests and follow up visits with the cardiologist have edited the story to suggest that I either suffered a rogue virus that attacked the outer membrane of my heart, or it was complications from a medication that I have been taking for 10 years for migraines.  As with many life situations, there are no concrete answers.  All I know is that the bills pour in, I still get migraines, and every time my heart races or I get a twinge of heartburn I immediately take my mind to Def-con 5.  It’s a vicious cycle.

One of the reported by-products of heart attacks in women is depression.  I have been asked by several people, including my editor, if I’m depressed or have been experiencing depression like symptoms.  Haven’t we all?  My medical episode took place a few weeks before the election.  I was still on the mend when my distraught son called me at 3 am to announce the results of the evening of November 8.  I was surprised at how I deep I had to dig into my parenting manual to help my children navigate the range of emotions they were experiencing in the days following that week in November.  Then the holidays arrived – always a challenge even if you love them – and after the first of the year, well, here we are a month plus into what essentially amounts to a Constitutional crisis, regardless of what side of the political fence you call home.

Am I depressed?  Maybe.  Have my migraines increased? Absolutely.  Is my health impacted?  Probably.  I take solace in the gym, so at least defined shoulders and triceps are tempting me to consider a little retail therapy for my Spring wardrobe.  But what I’ve been most aware of isn’t depression… it’s anxiety.  I have the same sensation of holding my breath as I did in the weeks and months after 9/11.  I glued myself to the TV and radio, hoping that if I kept watching and listening intently someone would say something that made sense of the world.  I feel the same way now, except it’s Twitter and the NYT app on my phone that keep me in a state of readiness.  Is this really happening? What exactly IS happening? Are we living in a dystopian reality or is it all a giant mind fuck?  Binge watching House of Cards hasn’t helped the situation. Some nights I go to bed wondering if I was watching Netflix or CNN – it’s hard to tell sometimes.


If asked to describe how I feel, I’d have to say anxious. Anxiety more than depression seems to rule my moods.  I’m worried about our world, I’m worried about my children and their place in a world that I no longer understand.  I worry that my health won’t allow me to do the things I always expected I would do, and then I begin to wonder if those things will even be available to me, regardless of my health. I feel anxious because not only did my health betray me, but my reference point in the world has disappeared.  I wake not knowing who I am because I don’t know where I am, despite seemingly familiar surroundings.

It’s easy to ascribe conditional emotions (is depression an emotion?) to facts and circumstances, such as bad diet, lack of exercise, death in the family, a heart attack, and ultimately treat or heal oneself.  The real challenge for me is to identify and treat the symptom when I’m not sure of the cause, nor capable of affecting the solution.



  • Friday, March 10, 2017 at 3:45 pm
    Jen Lawrence said:

    Oh, Sara, I so hear you and I’m not even American. I know so many people who have been in a terrible state since November. The world seems so polarized right now. My refuge is to stick my head in the sand (much easier as a Canadian – we are a nation of head-in-the-sand people, having chosen as our national animal the beaver who is (albeit incorrectly) known for self-castration when cornered.) I take solace in shallow pleasures: lunch out, the gym, bad tv and skincare products promising eternal youth. Hugs and double hugs: you are in good company.

  • Saturday, March 11, 2017 at 8:07 am
    Shelley said:

    Thanks enjoyed you piece today. I recently suffered a TBI. I was in the hospital for part of the campaigned and then the gave me lots of time to absorb what was happening.. It was a shit show! I seem to be reading non stop about trump. It makes me so anxious . Exasperated by the incident. If I click my heals 3 times will this all just be a bad dream?????
    Thanks again 🙏🏼

  • Monday, May 8, 2017 at 9:22 am
    Monika said:

    Dear Sara, we’re all in a quasi-permanent state of anxiety over the world these days. Julian, who tirelessly worked for Bernie Sander’s campaign (by making hundreds of calls to potential voters) took it on the chin and he seems more philosophical about it now that he’s a bit older. I distinctly remember being numb and depressed after 9/11, now it’s more like a state of disbelief. But if you’re having such anxiety-induced symptoms, I’d suggest talking to a good therapist – I know that in most cases migranes can be helped by therapy. A friend of mine who had a tough childhood experienced debilitating migranes in her 20s and 30s and she seems to have recovered completely after therapy. I’m not sure if this would work in your case, obviously, but it’s worth a try. I’m personally in therapy and on mild-antidepressants, which helps with a whole bunch of seemingly unrelated health issues. I also noticed that the older we get, the harder it becomes for our bodies to handle stress and anxiety, it’s as if we’re stripped of our natural defences and unable to process what comes our way. Or maybe there is a limit of what we can absorb and eventually all of it will surface in one way or another. I really enjoy your blog, btw. Best from all of us here in Warsaw 🙂

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