Fish Tank Head by Brittany & Andy

I took a mental health break this week.

I’ve never done that before, but the weirdest thing happened. Like, my body started to shut down. I was exhausted, my bones hurt, I got confused in the grocery store, my anxiety had taken over.

I felt it rumbling around for a while now underneath the surface. Popping out every so often, only for me to squash it down with medication and deep breathing, but there are only so many nights your husband will let you wake him up at 2am to get you through another panic attack, making him promise to wake you up each hour because you have this irrational fear that if he doesn’t, that just once, you won’t wake up at all. It’s hard to explain to someone who doesn’t live it.

It sounds so dramatic and overly theatrical, and it feels that way sometimes in the light of day. Like right now, as I’m typing it thinking, I was sitting in a cold bathtub with all my clothes on last night thinking I was going to die… I sound like such an idiot…

I think of my mind as a fish tank. Most of the time, it’s clean and bubbly and populated with quirky little fish who wax poetic about Steve Martin movies and misuse air quotes. But, if I get distracted, some over-eager kid comes along and dumps the whole container of food in the tank until all the fish die and the glass turns green and murky and the entire thing stinks.

The over-eager kid in that scenario is me, I’m apparently feeling very John Malkvichy with my analogies this morning.

In short, I had taken on too much, not let enough go, and plum dumped all the food in the tank, leaving my brain murky, smelly, and starving for air. Contrary to what the boys may say, ball juggling has never been my thing. I mean, if I toss them around in the air, I might drop them, so I prefer to just grab them and stuff them down the front of my shirt like the lucky bastard who got the chance to stand in that booth in grade school full of dollar bills being whipped around you in a tornado of air. It looked so fun, but the $14 reward was simply not enough justification for me to have my shirt blown up and my chubby stomach and training bra exposed to a gymnasium of my peers, so I sat stoically gripping my spy glasses for the true prize they were.

But, back to my original point, I had become a ball hoarder, and as I excitedly reached for the shiny new, and much larger balls that have been rolled my way recently like some kind of red eyebrow’ed Gollum, my brain went on strike, simply unable to process any new balls with all this crud and algae lying about.

Andy walked in with dinner at 8pm Sunday evening, I told him I was going to rest my eyes for a moment, and I slept until 9am the next day. I woke up, for maybe an hour or two, only to find myself drawn back to my pillow, napping for hours thanks to the help and understanding of people who just knew. The first two days I had racked up 28 hours of sleep. That number ballooned as the week went on, in fact, I don’t think I have ever slept so much, save for maybe in the womb, which I barely remember except for the fact I was at my lowest fighting weight and had remarkable eyelashes.

Yesterday I woke up, showered for the first time in a week, put on a bra with a wire, and went to lunch in public. I ate and laughed and wasn’t consumed with deadlines or how numb my hands were. I didn’t leave my phone in the car, because honestly, not everything has to be a Nelson Mandela level political statement, but I didn’t instagram a single bit of my meal. Take that, millennials.

I also spent the awake parts of my week re-arranging, re-prioritizing and delegating my balls. I’ve made room to focus on the big ones, asked for help with some of the growing ones, and got rid of the smaller ones I held onto out of pride.

I had to concede that there were certain things that I simply couldn’t do myself. Like my own pap smear. Which is good because I have horrible bedside manner.

I learned that I have to say no to the things I’m not passionate about, because I simply don’t have the time or the mental capacity to carry them. But the trade off is worth it for the things I get to say yes, yes, yesssss to.

It’s 9:30 in the morning and I haven’t been this awake in years. Now, who needs a pap smear?

Epilogue by Andy… Being married to Brittany is hard. It’s not because she tells crappy jokes over and over in different voices until you laugh, or because she tries to get me to leave work early when she clogs the toilet. It’s hard to be married to her because she never listens to me and I don’t know how to help her, and when you love someone as much as I love her, feeling helpless about something I don’t understand is the worst feeling there is. I can’t fix her- and when I say that to her- she laughs, shakes her head and says she “prefers to be broken.” I guess part of me does too, because it’s what makes her, her. Our life here is never not crazy or not frustrating or not exciting. If I had a quarter for every time she said “I have the most brilliant idea…,” I’d have the exact same amount of quarters I’d for each time she’s said “thank you staying with me through that.” Then I get the chance to laugh and shake my head- because she doesn’t understand that it’s the easiest decision I get to make all day.

Facebook Comments



  1. says

    Hang in there, Brittany!! I hear you and am hanging on with you! You seem to be doing awesome prioritizing…so hard to do!! Andy, you are such a wonderful husband!!

  2. Janis says

    I’ve had a great deal of anxiety and stress the past couple of months; maybe it’s going around. Yay for loving, supportive husbands!

  3. Megan A. says

    To Brittany: I hear you. I feel you. Being an over-committer and an anxiety veteran, I so hear you – but I spin plates because balls are gross. Learning to say “no” was the best thing I could have ever done for my health in 2009. I am still not good at it, but at least I know what I need to do when the ecosystem of my brain gets all wonky. It makes for a much easier recovery.
    And to have Andy – all not quite getting what it is that you go through but so amazingly willing to fight through it with you… well, that’s just incredible. And I’m jealous. When is human cloning going to happen?!

    Hang in there, sister. Keep that mental health holiday handy and fight on.

  4. Hilary says

    Totally feeling you right now, sister! It’s all that creativity and originality and unique perspective that needs constant space and attention. Remember that all the greats had some form of mental instability: that’s what kept them from being ordinary. Stay broken, girl! The best are.

  5. LinzJupiter says

    I guess the best thing I can say to this is… You Are Not Alone. So many of us deal with anxiety, and I feel like the losses of the last month (lost job! nuclear-winter-level fallout with friend! guy dating me only to spy on a friend of mine!) has stripped me of a lot of progress I’ve made.

    I went back a little and found your article called Time Apart, and it’s a pretty good (yet much more hilarious than it actually is to live with) depiction of life with OCD. Mine’s gotten a lot better through P90x-intensity Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and while I’m feeling a lot of generalized anxiety right now, at least my gains on the OCD side of things have stayed. Yay to that.

    The funniest part was the oven and the curling iron — but instead of a husband, I’d be calling my ever-tolerant landlords who lived upstairs and spoke mostly Russian. I got quite good in Russian.

    “Alla, pasve ya bichlyuchit dikhovky?”

  6. Melissa says

    OMG. I SO understand where you’re coming from. I kind of wish I didn’t understand, because I know all too well how hard it is, how much it sucks, and how debilitating it can be. But then I’m also glad that I DO understand, because when you’re going through it, there’s nothing more comforting than someone who just gets it.

    I totally get it.

    We could seriously be BFFs. Also, our husband’s could be BFFs, because I’m lucky enough to be married to someone wonderful like Andy. We’re lucky girls.


  7. says

    “…say no to the things I’m not passionate about…”
    That needs to be my new mantra. I get sucked into so many things out of obligation. And pride. I had one of those “lock myself away” weekends not too long ago. Then I hated myself for not getting anything done that weekend. I guess I don’t really have the support group that you have. I have wonderful friends and family, but if it’s going to get done, I have to be the one to do it.
    I woke up at 5am this morning in a panic. I felt like I had forgotten something. Then I convinced myself that I left my purse in the car, and when it wasn’t there, I just knew that it was stolen. It turns out that it was just under the sweater that I wore yesterday. But today is going to be ONE OF THOSE DAYS. So much to do, but too overwhelmed to do it.

  8. Katie says

    Thank you for that honest, real account of living with anxiety. It makes us over-commiters stick together. I too, have a wonderful, supportive husband who puts up with my crazy when it gets to be too much. Keep up the good work and….it’s ok to say no….and, it’s ok to take a break. :)

  9. Amy says

    I’m sitting here with puffy tired eyes because I’ve been crying off and on today due to all my balls. It’s so wonderful how you put words out there that make people feel not alone, thank you for that.

  10. says

    OMG! Your husband is simply the sweetest. When I have a panic attack (9 times of 10 in a car) my husband decides he will remove his hands from the wheel just to scare me more. Seriously, I’m debating trying to get Valium for every single time we have to drive across the city.

    The fear is a constant companion, but when it overwhelms me I simply have no clue what to do and my husband seems to just make it worse. He simply doesn’t understand and thinks it’s irrational.

    • DeltaJuliet says

      Oh, I hear you Rie. I have been “blessed” with the same kind of husband….who always makes my bad feelings worse because he thinks he’s being funny.

      Booo. I want an “Andy”!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>