A little history on me? I did not always suffer from anxiety. I used to be a very strong carefree person. But things change, situations arise and a mind can only take so much.
I realized I had a problem when I went to school one day (college) about 10 years ago. I went in for a test that morning. Now most people would think, oh that is enough cause for a freak out, but what you need to understand is that I am a highly intelligent person (I admit that now that I suffer with anxiety that I do not always believe this any more, some days I think I am quite stupid and ignorant). Tests NEVER scared me and I ALWAYS aced them. Anyway with that said, I remember that day like a blurry dream, I walked into the classroom like a Zombie. I sat in my seat. I think I zoned out and after some time I stood up and left without looking at or touching my test. I ended up at my doctors office, unsure of how I even got there.
What was going on in my life at this time to make me snap? HA! Here are “some”…
I was a single mom going to school full time. With (5-6) hours of homework EVERY night.
My course offered multiple “hell weeks”. This is a week where all of the instructors plan many assignments and major tests all due. It would not be uncommon to have 7 tests and 12 assignments due within 3 days.
I had a douche bag boyfriend on crack and cheating on me. (Yes I dumped him when I found out … But I dumped him BEFORE he paid back the $200 he borrowed from me to fix his car and get gas)
I was fighting with social assistance to help me with daycare costs and prescriptions for my asthmatic daughter (I fought for months, because, you know, I wasn’t a crackwhore, spreading my legs for every “John” that walked by. I was a single mom trying to better my life and “welfare” only helps abusers).
I was discovering that one of my sisters, who I thought was one of my best friends, was a narcissistic, controlling, cunt using my misfortunes to make herself look better and trying to control my life. She would do nothing for me unless it benefited her.
I had another sister (the crackhead one) accuse me of helping our mother steal her son, because I allowed them to stay with me instead of a homeless shelter.
I had my aggravating mother and troubled nephew staying with me.
I was “helping” a friend get back on his feet. This friend had no job for 6-8 months and I supported him … on my less than a grand a month. When he did get money, which was rare, from a side/under the table job, he’d give me $20 and then go out partying with the rest.
I had 5 people living in a TINY 2 bedroom house.
I had a “best friend” who’s boyfriend tried to sleep with me on multiple occasions and she chose him and ended our friendship.
I had another “friend” steal $500 from me. My rent money for the month.
My daughters father was causing a LOT of trouble at this time. Harassing me, threatening me, lying to and about me, lying to and about MY daughter, and so-on (he actually does this a lot, but during this period in my life, it was more often and worse).
I could go on and on with the shit that was going on through this era of my life … but I think you get the point.
Anxiety is so very hard to explain and describe because it affects different people in countless ways. There are varying levels and types of anxiety, and to be honest, mine is more toward the high end and a mixture of the types. I despise it when people use the term anxiety to describe a situation … and they have NO idea what they are talking about. Just because you are feeling anxious about a presentation you need to give or a job interview, does not mean you “have Anxiety”. This is “normal anxiety”. Suffering with the Illness of Anxiety means the Anxiety controls your life. It takes over your entire world. It overwhelms you in a way you cannot always control. If you don’t ACTUALLY suffer from Anxiety, please don’t say you do, in any way shape or form. Anxiety is serious. Anxiety is a disease. Anxiety is not something you want to have
Some of my personal symptoms include, but not limited to (in no particular order):
Feeling Jumpy, shaky, agitated, nervous.
Anticipating the worst
Irritable and cranky (more so than normal)
Feeling like my mind’s gone blank, detached or unreal
Stomach upset, Nausea, Stomach pain
Dizziness and headaches
Shortness of breath/, Difficulty breathing, Hyperventilate.
Can’t eat (not hungry) or stress eat (devour copious amounts of food…usually junk food)
Surges of overwhelming panic
Feel like I am losing control or going crazy
Fatigue, Feeling like I am going to pass out
Feelings of dread
Feeling sad and/or angry or depressed
Random fear of death of myself or a loved one
Hiding (mentally, emotionally or even physically)
There are 7 major anxiety categories (you can click the words for the Wikipedia description of each) and if I had to rate myself for each of the categories from 0 to 10 (with 0 being no symptoms ever and 10 being many symptoms all the time), This is how I would rate myself.
Phobias: 3 (maybe 4)
Post traumatic Stress: 0 (could be 1)
You don’t normally see my anxiety but it is ALWAYS there. I keep it inside, I keep it hidden. Every now and again it is conveyed via physical illness, a visible panic/anxiety attack or simply acts of anti-socialism where I will stay home and hide. I could write a novel on the different feelings, stresses and situations that are associated with my anxiety, but I won’t go into too much depth (today).
On a daily basis I want to vomit. I want to cry. I want to stay in bed. I want to give up.
My mind never stops. I think about the past, present and future.I think about what is, what could be and what should be. I think about happy things, sad things, good things and bad things.
I jump to wild conclusions, which are typically foolish and/or worst possible outcome. This outcome sometimes results in me thinking someone is dead, dying or going to die.
I over analyze. I take a situation and analyze it until there is nothing left. I think, I worry, I fear, I assume, I panic and then I hide it all.
You do not answer/respond to a text? My thought process progresses as … You must be busy. Why are you ignoring me? You hate me. Your phone must be dead. What if your phone is dead and your in the middle of nowhere and you have been hurt? Where are you? Oh my god, Your injured! What if you have been kidnapped and the kidnapper smashed your phone? Oh my god, You have been kidnapped! What if you are dying and no one is around? Oh my god, Your dead! OMG!! PANIC ATTACK!! You call. I act as if nothing happened and I could care less that it took you 7 minutes to reply to me. (keep in mind that this is a sum up. in actuality, I would have thought up complete detailed scenarios of how you were injured, kidnapped or dead) and then I think …
I feel like I am going crazy. Am I a complete lunatic? Am I having some kind of psychotic breakdown? Is there something wrong with me? What is wrong with me? Why am I feeling like this? Why can’t I function? Why would anyone want to be with or around a crazy person? Everyone will hate me, My daughter will hate me. I need to hide it. I need to be normal….
These attacks, episodes, breakdowns, fits, spells or whatever you want to call them happen all the time. There is rarely a moment when I am completely calm. They can be set off by anything, from an accident, to a missed call, to a slip in routine, to a missed turn, to a drop of a dime on the floor. They can also be set off by nothing, nothing at all. Walking through a bookstore, which is one of the most calming places for me to be, looking at books and BAM! Outrageous panic attack for seemingly no reason at all. Why? Why? Why? A panic/anxiety attack for no reason causes more problems and anxiety. Sometimes the “no reason” breakdowns are the worst ones of all.
I worry and worry and worry … usually over nothing. I worry about my daughter. I worry about family. I worry about friends. I worry about strangers. I worry about my job. I worry about customers. I worry about that e-mail I just sent. I worry about what I just said. I worry about what I might say. I worry that I might hurt you. I worry I am not good enough. I worry there is something wrong. I worry about crossing the damn street. And on and on and on
I fear everything. I fear change. I fear that someone will see my “panic attack”. I fear I am doing things wrong. I fear crowds. I fear I am a bad parent. I fear the unknown. I fear the worst. I fear rejection. I fear arguments. I fear I am being judged on everything I do. I fear I am not smart enough. I fear change. I fear my emotions. I fear I am not strong enough. The fears keep going.
Change is bad for me. Any amount of change in routine causes anxiety and panic. No matter how much I tell myself that it is fine, It is for the best, My attacks continue. I may eventually get past the change by establishing a new routine, but it takes persistence and I have to fight. The slightest change can make it hard for me to even get out of bed.
Speaking of bed …I do not sleep properly. Sleep eludes me regularly. It takes a long time to get to sleep, and then I will manage to wake up a multitude of times throughout the night, sometimes it is a momentary wake up and other times it will again take a long time to get to sleep. I think and think and think. Sometimes pain keeps me awake and sometimes it is emotional distress.
I feel sick to my stomach. Always. It seems to never go away. That feeling of frequent knots in my stomach. That feeling of permanent nausea. That feeling of spasmodically cramps and pain. The stomach issues are there eternally .
I cannot communicate, because the anxiety takes over. So I keep everything in. I bottle it all up which of course makes it all worse. I plan to communicate, end up with 20 different scenario conversations in my head and then just say “fuck it” and keep it in. Do not confuse talking with communicating. I can talk up a storm. But I can not have a deep and/or emotional conversation. I go into panic mode and either just clam up, start talking stupid or get angry. I get angry because the feelings of anxiety become overwhelming and will likely result in a waterfall of tears.
I feel anger and hate. I hate my life, I hate people, I hate going out, I hate doing things, I hate planning things, I hate driving, I hate eating, I hate not eating, I hate my family, I hate myself, I hate just about everything (as a side note, the only thing/person I NEVER hate is my daughter, she is often the only thing that can actually calm me down … luckily for me, as I know that some people with high level anxiety react negatively with their children, I am very thankful I am not at that level).
I pretend. I pretend that I don’t care. I pretend I am ok. I pretend everything is fine. I pretend I don’t feel pain. I pretend I am emotionless. I pretend I am happy.
The reality is, every day is a struggle. Everything I do is difficult. Everyday I must force positive thoughts into my head. Everyday I must convince myself that I am overreacting. Everyday I must control myself. Everyday I must talk myself down. Everyday I must breathe. Everyday I must practice being calm. Everyday I must hide.
DO NOT tell me to calm down or relax.
DO NOT tell me “just don’t worry about it”
DO NOT tell me “Stop thinking about it”
DO NOT tell me that I am over-reacting
DO NOT tell me to “get over it”
Anyone of these things will put my anxiety into overdrive.
How do I cope on a daily basis? Really … Avoidance.
I do this by changing my thoughts. Change the subject. Concentrate on something else. Sometimes it takes multiple tries, Sometimes it works right away and sometimes not at all.
I keep busy. If I am consistently busy, I do not have time to think about “stuff”. I don’t have time to worry. I don’t have time to dwell. If I am busy, I am in control.
I cook. I love to cut, chop, measure and cook. Cooking keeps me concentrating on making dinner and off worrisome topics….but if it burns at all or doesn’t turn out … thankfully, more often than not, it works.
Writing helps too. I like to write. I do not always have time, but I do enjoy it and find it calming. I have also started taking up the colouring craze from time to time. Reading is sometimes difficult, but works most of the time, I find when I am reading (which I love to do) I will drift off to worry world. I usually use some breathing techniques to snap back.
I also use a couple of mindfulness techniques. Sometimes all together. Sometimes just one of them.
Find/look at an object, focus on it and think about it. I will ask myself questions about it and notice everything about it. What is it’s colour, size, shape, weight? Is it hard, soft, fuzzy, smooth? how is it made? Things like that.
Use my senses. Close my eyes and hear: locate 5 different sounds and focus in on each one for approx 10 seconds. Look and see: Find 5 objects and focus on them for approx 10 seconds. Describe what they look like. Feel it: touch 5 items and describe how they feel. Focus on this for approx 10 seconds. Do the same with taste and smell if possible.
I breathe deeply and I concentrate on my breathing. Breathe in for a 10 count. Hold for a 10 count. Breathe out for a 10 count. Notice the oxygen going in. Feel the lungs expand. etc
Laugh. I make light of a situation. I use humour or sarcasm to hide my true feelings. (This is a hard one and does not always work. There are some occasions that I can just laugh things off, but more often then not the above techniques work better)
Do these techniques always work? Nope. But they get me through temporarily most of the time. Maybe you need physical distractions such as exercise, or perhaps walking, maybe listening to (or playing) your favourite song or having a movie distract you. There is the possibility that talking about it will help you, a shoulder to cry on or a simple hug. Maybe a new hobby? Gardening, guitar playing, sports? Find what works for you and stick with it.
So on the outside I am (usually) “cool as a cucumber” but inside I am a disastrous emotional wreck.