So after recently being made aware by my female-health doctor that I am showing symptoms for severe anxiety, I’ve been trying to really watch myself and monitor it a bit more closely. I know I’ve always had anxiety, most likely from being bullied during my childhood, and being antisocial the rest of my life. After reading through the various blogs of Womansday.com, I came across a post which really struck me as familiar.
I decided to add my response to it. I once took psychology in college, and it is known that one of the best ways to release tension and worry is through speaking out and possibly reaching out to people with similar problems.
1. How annoying it is when people tell you to “stop worrying about it.”
It’s immensely hard to just let go of something and move on with your life when you are pushed into an anxious state. Your hormonal imbalance and internal chemicals can’t simply turn off, unless of course they are countered by other hormones such as dopamine. Typically, the only way to ‘stop worrying about it’ is for the issue to either be solved, or for some kind of justice to suddenly happen. If something isn’t right, I typically cannot just stand idle, or try to forget about it. It can be anything from little bother to extremes. I personally worry too much about being a good host. As I have not had many people over at my house before, I am desperately trying to make sure my guests are well-fed, well-watered, and comfortable. As soon as I feel like one of those categories are not being satisfied, I go into a horrific panic. It is to the extent where I may have to excuse myself from the room and hold my face for a minute or two to try and calm down. One instance that happened recently was that I had an emergency call to go to work, but I had a friend with me. They reassured me t’ill the point they were blue in the face that they would be absolutely fine on their own for three hours at the mall… Yet I felt a heartbreaking grief that I was abandoning someone to boredom. Throughout my entire shift at work, I was feeling short of breath and stressed out. The clock felt as though it was going backwards from how slow it was. “Stop worrying about it” was what my friend constantly exclaimed, but I worried because it didn’t feel right -to me-.
2. “Maybe” is the worst word in the English dictionary.
When I’ve suggested something, and someone says ‘maybe’, I immediately worry that I have either upset them, or suggested a boring idea. I can only wish that I took back my words, or that I could just throw my phone/computer away and hide in the darkness for a bit until it all blows over. Rejection was something I knew quite well outside of my family life, so I expect it most of the time when I suggest things. ‘Maybe’ feels like one of those words where the person wants to say no, but in a softer way… or at least a way to get out of saying the truth for now. It leads to overthinking what the person might mean by using it, or what they feel about whatever you’ve said to receive such an answer. The first feeling I get when I hear ‘maybe’ is probably shame, or apologetic. The suspense of wanting to know ‘yes’ or ‘no’ is unbearable at times.
3. How loosely people use the word ‘panic attack’.
I’m actually not too bothered with how people loosely use the word. I am mature enough to understand that a lot of random words are used as adjectives these days. It’s hard to tell who actually means it, and who is just exaggerating. I do know, however, that having a panic attack is not something you want to exactly tell people about afterwords… other than perhaps your mum or dad, or someone close to you that you’re seeking comfort from after the experience. Over the years, I have learned how to tap into my happy-place, which has significantly decreased the amount of attacks I have actually had. Typically, keeping myself busy, or doing artwork/writing has really helped in driving my mind off of the path to really breaking down. I’ve trained my mind to latch onto things and keep moving forward, but sometimes it isn’t moderately easy. For people who don’t exactly know what a panic attack feels like, I’d more or less describe it like a cold fire in your chest. You feel sweaty and bothered, yet your back is very, very cool. No matter how you position yourself, the discomfort is inside. No matter what you tell yourself, nothing is going to be okay. At that moment in time, you fully believe that there are no solutions to problems, and there is no way of getting out of this. Ill-things are happening, and you are desperate for order to be restored; you’ll do or say anything. For that moment in time, you are entirely vulnerable… and if you are in public, you feel totally humiliated. Young, ignorant youths would like to believe this is an ‘edgy’ or ‘dramatic’ way to gain interest, but for anyone who has ever suffered a public episode, most find that people become very uncomfortable and awkward around you. I’ve once panicked at the beginning of a semester in a high-school class, and nobody knew how to talk to me for the rest of the term. Joining in on a group discussion either led to evident silence, or people treating me like a china doll.
4. Waking up in the middle of the night and not falling back asleep because your brain is a spinning wheel of anxiety.
Most nights, I have to keep my tv playing boring cooking shows to help my brain get numb enough to stay asleep. If I could focus on something other than wordly or personal problems, I might just be able to have a full night’s rest.
“I’m not doing so well in my math class.”
“I won’t be able to get my AA if I don’t get better in math.”
“What if I never get better in math?”
“What if I never get my AA?”
“What if I waste all my parent’s money?”
“Will I make them proud eventually?”
“Will I be able to pay them back for everything they have bought for me?”
“What if I can’t pay them back?”
“What if I can’t get my dream job?”
“What if I am too scatterbrained to be a journalist?”
“What if I never make it far?”
“Look at all this money I am wasting?”
“How am I ever going to move out of the house?”
“Will my brother ever move out of the house?”
“Will my parents always waste their money on us?”
“What if my parents can’t have a comfortable retirement?”
“What if it’s my fault?”
“What if I got in an accident tomorrow that costs a lot of money?”
“What if it’s raining and my car skids over the road.”
“I’m a bad driver.”
“What if I hurt people while I drive.”
“What if I can never live with myself because I hurt someone?”
And then from that point onward, I would begin to draw up multiple, horrific scenarios where I hurt people, and my hormones would make me suffer for it. This is just a brief, summed up chain of questions that could keep me up all night, and cause my panicking to switch into full-throttle. It’s a case of trying to predict every possible outcome. Surprises are not someone with anxiety’s friend. We like to know what is going to happen, so we can be prepared, and feel safe. When I was younger, I used to be in such a turmoil of questioning, that I’d eventually end up pre-living the grief of losing a loved one. I would have to go into the room of whatever family member suffered in my thoughts, and either reassure myself that they were still here and alive, or socialize with them to make sure they were happy. Only then, would I truly be happy.
5. You get anxiety about the tiniest of things.
I don’t see it as ‘triggering’ as the ‘cool-kids-on-the-internet’ see it these days. It’s more like; I’ve overthought it, it’s my responsibility to get back to a comfortable state. I feel silly when tiny things have pushed my anxiety into overdrive. Getting interrupted when I’m trying to talk is probably the most common one for me. I feel as though my words were too boring, and I immediately feel humiliated and ashamed of whatever I was just speaking about. Whether it is a story, or just a piece of information, I feel very worried when I am cut off. Another one is going to the bathroom when I have company over. While I am doing my business, the only thing I can think in my head is; “I am a revolting human being, and I am going to lose all of my new friends if I do this natural thing that everyone does.” It’s a very silly situation that I acknowledge fully when I am not stressed out about it, but it has a heavy effect. To give it a flip-side, I feel weirdly relieved when friends go to the bathroom themselves; it’s almost as if I am reassured that other people go there too, and we are all on the same page now. (Judgement is expected…)
6. You can’t stand being late or early.
There’s nothing more satisfying than being told “You’ve arrived precisely on time!” or being congratulated for existing as impeccably punctual… but there is nothing more dissatisfying than feeling as though you’re letting people down by not turning up at the right time, or feeling like you’ve become a burden of awkwardness by arriving too early. Perhaps it wouldn’t be too much of an issue if charisma was on one’s side, but of course, one was born with the parley talents of a floundering turnip. Hiding in the car might have been a good idea, and this is typically something I resort to. In my mind, there is a very specific time that you have to arrive, in order to be considered a decent human being. That is precisely five minutes after the designated time. After arriving, I feel as though I appear solid to the schedule, yet not ridiculously loose or eager. Perhaps if I arrive with a smoothie drink in hand, it’ll make me look like this wasn’t my only plan for the day. There are a million thoughts which go into the process of making yourself presentable to others, without the worry or anxiety of wandering what they might think about you when you’re not there.
7. If you ever have to cancel plans, you’re afraid everyone will hate you.
The only thing I’ve ever had that comes close to it, is having to turn down a request to cover for people’s shifts at work. Even though my coworkers know it is my day off, and not my necessary responsibility to suddenly drop everything I am doing to cover for someone, I can’t help but feel like the devil for telling people I can’t cover for them. I feel unreliable, lazy, mean, selfish, all the cruel adjectives in the book. I would never cancel because I just want a lazy day, of course, but usually I’d only ever say no if I was being a host. The pain of worry and feeling sorry kicks in. It’ll get so bad that I feel as though I should check in with work, or see if I can do favours for people later on, all until a sense of justice finally arrives to save the day. There has been a time when I had guests sleeping at my house, in my very own room, and I have gotten completely dressed for work at 7am, just in case the regret is too harsh for me to not go to work. I would then of course have to ask my guests if they would be alright with going to the mall or something, while I work– and then the viscous cycle continues of worrying about -them- now. I won’t feel comfortable and less-anxious, unless I know that everyone else is 100% sated.
8. When your anxiety is in full-throttle, and you just shut down.
In moments like these, I need my parents to take care of me. There is nobody else in the world that I want more than my parents when I have entered such a state of hopelessness, that I have almost reverted back to a childlike state that just desperately needs mum or dad. I don’t want to be alone when I feel like all hope is lost, I just want my most loved ones to surround me and help me forget all the problems out there in a world I am only just discovering right now for myself. I remember a time when I was about twelve years old, when I had such a severe breakdown, that I managed to convince myself I was some kind of alien. I didn’t understand how everyone else could be so calm, when I was having all of these questions that simply had no answers at that current moment in time. I remember my parents spent most of the day cuddling and watching tv with me. It became a lot harder to express my anxiety as I got older, but now and then I would still come down and reconnect with my parents to have that sense of sanity and reassurance again. My only advice for this… try not to be alone when you are shutting down, I’ve only found it makes it harder to recover.
9. You have anxious ticks you don’t even notice.
I clench my jaw badly. I clench it so much that my gums tingle, and my molars ache. After bouts of extreme discomfort, I can almost convince myself that if I un-clench my jaw, some of my teeth might fall out. I never grind, I just apply a lot of pressure. I used to get very worried about the health of my teeth, and eventually had to switch to a more sensitive tooth-paste because of it. When I had my wisdom-teeth removed, that certainly didn’t help out at all. With a mouth almost literally clenched shut for a month, getting anxious was very painful indeed, and resulted in the healing process taking much longer than it should have.
10. When too many people are trying to communicate with you at once, your brain feels like it’s about to explode.
This is one I simply do not relate to. I’m sure if I was that popular, it might effect me, but I’m still quite a closed door. I only chat with people I have grown to trust, which only adds up to a small handful. Even now that I am an adult, I still only have under five people I will actually make an effort to talk to due to my motivational capacity. If I am speaking to someone I have not yet learned to trust, or do not desire to get to know, I start to feel as though my energy is being sucked away. I have to look for a way to escape because I feel I am not prepared to deal with the person just yet. Their intentions seem malicious for now until proven otherwise. Comfort only comes with believing the words people say, and knowing their general motives, in my beliefs. I plan to change this over time, however. Eventually I will be able to learn how to handle various other people without stressing myself out too much.
11. On the flip-side, when no one’s texting you back, it’s definitely because they all hate you.
When I am trying to communicate with others, and nobody wants to respond… or simply cannot respond, then I start to feel extreme emotions of self-doubt and lack of appreciation for myself. In those moments, I will recluse myself to the arts until I can feel a bit more pride in my independent self. I acknowledge that I have abandonment issues; even having to say goodbye to someone after a good day of fun makes me feel extreme self-loathing. What if I could have made the day better? What if I did just one thing differently? Do they want to see me again? Were they honest to me? These may sound like psycho, obsessive thoughts, but it’s more or less the belief that nobody wants you, and nobody is going to care if you don’t exist anymore. As someone with anxiety, I want to believe people when they say they had a great time, but I simply don’t. It’s part of the reason why I kept myself locked in my room for so long, even after the bullying. The only way to not face rejection, abandonment, or judgement… is to simply not get involved in the first place. You can’t hate someone that didn’t exist, and you can’t hate something that didn’t happen.
12. That sporadic anxiety crying.
This is so real, and it is not a ‘cry’ for attention.
“Stop being a baby.”
“You’re an adult…”
“It’s not that big of a deal.”
“This is pathetic, come on.”
“It’s not worth crying over.”
These are things I have been told when the crying just happens. My mind is not sad, my mind is not thinking sad things, heck… my mind is just chilling out there… But the situation is heated, tense, or even just a bit uncomfortable-…. “RELEASE THE FLOOD GATES!” Yells a voice in my head. “But why!?” Replies my tear ducts. “BECAUSE I SAID SO!” Retorts the voice, “There’s literally no reason! You’re just going to make us look silly!” The tear ducts complain. “EVERYTHING IS DEFINITELY NOT OKAY-” “-But everything seems fine-” “NOPE.. NOT OKAY..” Then suddenly, tears! The situation did not call for tears at all… But now that you are crying, all you can do is pray it stops, or that nobody sees you. You feel silly and childish, and all you want is to be able to talk properly, but the anxiety has you held captive. To make matters worse, I personally get a large lump forming in my throat, which stops me from even being able to talk! It’s as if my body doesn’t want me to be in any kind of heated discussion whatsoever, and I’m supposed to either retreat or accept defeat simply because of the messy state I degrade into. This is one of the hardest things to try and explain to people.
“I’m not sad! I don’t want to cry!” You can only think that the person next to you doesn’t believe a single word you’re saying.
I remember a time when I had sporadic anxiety crying while sleeping over at a friend’s house when I was a child, and their father had to awkwardly try to calm me down while I was trying to convey that I just wanted to go home. Of course the lump in my throat made it much too hard, and I had to write down what I wanted on a piece of paper. That memory still makes me toss and turn at night from awkwardness.
13.Those terrible anxiety stomachaches.
It’s more or less like the anxiety one gets from waiting in line to a terrifying roller-coaster… only you’re just going about your normal day. Going to the loo or throwing up does not help this, but you feel like you’ve got five boxes of butterflies inside of you just rearing to burst out. Your intestines are churning and turning, writhing and squirming. I admit, while I write this post right now, I’m currently suffering from one myself. At first, you think it might just be a void that needs to be filled with food- but then you realize that even the thought of food makes you feel sicker. Something isn’t right, maybe you know what it is… maybe you don’t. Sometimes one feels bouts of anxiety from other bouts of anxiety one had a week prior to now, and you simply can’t remember what the other one was about, but now your body feels like it needs to continue the suffering. To accompany the stomachache, some people feel as though their heads get a tad heavier. Resting my forehead on my computer desk was something I couldn’t always avoid when the pain started to trickle in. It feels almost like my body just wants to curl up into fetal position.
14. You freak out if there’s no order in your life.
From worrying about family, to relationships, to work, to my career… If something isn’t going accordingly to plan, or if something feels a bit too wobbly for their own good… All of the above only amplifies. I cannot nourish my body healthily if something isn’t settled. I refuse to sleep when an argument is afoot. I will not experience joy if my grades are failing. And I will not feel peace if my family doesn’t. Justice is my first virtue, and I stay true to that. If I can fix things, or allow someone else to fix things for me, it is only then that my body can relax and function as it should. I know I am very easily irritable and emotionally-flimsy when I know something isn’t right… and that’s what keeps me making the right decisions, in my eyes. Perhaps the paranoia, overthinking, and stress that comes with anxiety causes me to suffer, but it also prepares me to make better judgement on people, as well as choosing better options for myself and the people around me. Through my desperation to feel no pain through this… chemical imbalance… I am motivated and prepared to go to any great lengths to restore order.
I hope I’ve made sense in what I’ve written, and that some people can relate. Perhaps I’ve managed to speak words that others wanted to say- but didn’t know how to write them down? Either way, this is the reality of anxiety. It’s not ‘crazy people stuff’, or ‘attention-seeker material’, it’s internal agony from the lack of proper communication between one’s brain and certain chemicals in the body. After eight years of suffering from it, it took one female-health doctor calculating a few random symptoms I was showing to guess what pain I was experiencing on the inside. I conditioned myself to believe it was just normal, and I was over-sensitive, but I had no idea the effects it was actually having on my body. Don’t stay quiet about it, tell people.