Anxiety comes in many forms. It can manifest itself in many ways; from a general nervousness to intense panic attacks and physical pain.
Generalized anxiety disorder, the lovely beast that I walk with daily, leaves me on edge most of the time. I have a constant feeling of unease from a threat that isn’t there. I don’t like to be crowded or looked at. Coping with people standing too near to me makes me feel sick and out of breath. Often times, I need to remove myself from a situation to regain my composure.
Going new places makes me very uncomfortable. If someone is with me I feel better about it but I can still taste my heartbeat and hear my blood pumping. It may seem silly, but if I don’t know where exactly to park or which door exactly to enter, I can’t go. Sure, I could physically push myself to go but my brain would take over and a panic attack would ensue. It definitely puts a damper on my social life.
Panic attacks, for me, are choking on anxiousness. I can feel it like invisible hands around my throat, pushing my esophagus closed. My vision won’t focus and every sense is heightened and dulled at the same time. I’m aware of how everything feels against my skin but I can’t make my body move as fast as my brain is telling it to. I hear so much sound but none of it makes sense and I can’t make out words. The light is so bright, even on a foggy day, that it presses against me and makes me need to leave.
More people than you can imagine think that being nervous about things sometimes is anxiety. It is, by definition, sure. But anxiety disorder is a whole different level.
I’m not nervous about the test, I’m nervous about what road I have to take to get there, which building it’s in, do I go upstairs? How do I know the elevator is safe? I’m going to plummet to the basement and never get to take my test. How many people will be there? Everyone is looking at me and they know I have no idea what I’m doing. That girl is angry with me because I bet she wanted to sit here. Am I making too much noise? It’s so quiet in here and I need to unzip my bag and I can’t because everyone will turn and look at me. Is there something on my face? Nobody will tell me and they will make fun of me when I’m gone or they will tell me and I can never come back here again because when I see them all I will think about is that time I had a thing on my face and that’s all they will see when they look at me. And that’s only a span of about 20 minutes in my life.
Can you understand why anxiety can be so exhausting? My brain is on overdrive all day, every day. I am constantly analyzing every situation and every move I make. I don’t even fully understand the ‘why’ of it but I really understand how debilitating it can be. Even on a good day when my anxiety is low, it’s still there waiting in the shadows. Having anxiety about the next time you will have bad anxiety is not a fun way to spend your day.
When someone tells you they can’t do something because they have anxiety, understand that they can but the consequences of pushing themselves to do that thing are often too great and not worth the outcome. It can take days to properly recover from a severe panic attack. Medications, mantras, relaxation techniques, therapy, and so many other things are required for different people just to get some peace.
On another day, I will cover some ways that I deal with anxiety. I will also be talking to others who have anxiety as well to put together a list of ways that may be helpful to others. Until then, keep breathing, be understanding, take care of yourself, and have compassion for others who are living with anxiety.