The Thing About Anxiety Is…

This is something I wanted to share during Mental Health Week, but I never got around to finishing it, but its still relevant, so I’m sharing it now!

I came across this article via social media and I think everyone should read it.

The Thing About Anxiety Is…Huffington Post, by Tayana Simons

Here some notes about how I feel the points apply to me. I’ll include some quotes, but I recommend reading the full article yourself, first.

1) It’s more than just worrying

Everyone worries about things from time to time, it’s a natural part of being human and letting your brain figure out the next move. Anxiety is different, it’s irrational, and it’s constant.

In my case, it becomes obsessive, fixating thoughts about any particular situation. It can be a potential situation that may or may not happen, and I will imagine how the conversation is going to go, whether its bad or good. Or it can be something that has already happened, and I’ll be stuck fixating on some stupid thing I said (which may not actually be stupid, but I felt like it was stupid) or I’ll obsess about something someone else said or did. It’ll get to the point where I am super stressed out and/or terrified by what may or may not happen. It can literally be anything.

2) It takes over your life

This is basically what makes it a disorder vs. simple, every day problems.

3) It stops you from thinking clearly

Whether it is a task at work, a film, or a conversation, you are usually only giving it a fraction of your attention. This can be especially difficult when at work or studying, as the fear of failure can almost paralyse you into not being able to do anything at all.

Holy shit that is so extremely true!! When I feel overwhelmed (which is my most common feeling when I, personally, am feeling anxious) I become less productive. I can’t stop thinking about how many things I have to get done, and that becomes the only thing I can do, is think. I can’t just take it one thing at a time, I feel like I have to get it all done right now.

4) It can strike at any time

We don’t want to admit a weakness. We don’t want to talk to anyone about it because we don’t feel we really have anything to feel worried about. This dismissal makes the illness grow stronger.

I struggled with this for a very, very long time! This is a huge reason that I didn’t seek help sooner. I thought my problems weren’t big enough to get help, and quite frankly, they were embarrassing most of the time. And I have had my worries and feeling shut down by people on several occasions and that makes me want to stay silent even more.

5) It’s not logical

I think this one speaks for itself. I am generally a very logical person, in how I process information and situations, but that seems to be often contradicted by the emotions that come from my anxiety and depression. It makes no rational sense to me, which means it probably makes even less sense to other people.

6) It steals your sleep

Being sleep deprived just adds to being unable to concentrate, to feeling inadequate in your job or personal relationships, and thus adds to your anxiety. Not being able to escape the feeling even when it is time to sleep is enough to send you to breaking point.

Holy shit does it ever! My sleep deprivation usually comes from the obsessive thoughts I talked about with point number 1. Before I started taking medication, it would often take me hours to fall asleep. If I woke up in the middle of the night, for whatever reason, I would struggle to fall asleep again. Since being diagnosed and starting medication, this has gotten better, although my sleep isn’t perfect, I am falling asleep much faster these days, about 85% of the time. So that’s good. My sleep quality isn’t great, but I believe that may be due to some other factors.

7) It is truly frightening

The impact of a state of constant fear on your brain and your body should never be underestimated. With your body in a constant ‘flight’ mode you expend so much adrenaline that your body is often left exhausted and running on empty.

Although, I haven’t really experienced a full on panic attack, I do get what I refer to as “anxiety attacks” which happens when I just get too overwhelmed and just can’t deal with things and I need to cry and not talk to anyone for a while. When I’m around other people, I’m generally able to control this, to an extent, but when I’m alone, I can’t, because its very difficult. A full blown anxiety attack (my kind) usually consists of uncontrollable, heavy breathing/gasping, and sobbing. From an outsider’s perspective, it probably just looks like I’m crying uncontrollably, but inside there are thoughts racing through my head, and my body just wants to give out. I basically have to curl up on a corner or under the covers in my bed and just let it all out. There’s nothing else I can do but just let it happen. I don’t know if that is actually an panic attack or not. Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t. I don’t know. That’s why I call it an anxiety attack.

8) It changes you

Anxiety can change the way you behave, interact, think and feel.

This speaks for itself. I think that I have had this for most of my life, but when I was a kid, before it began to develop, I was always very happy. And even when I wasn’t experiencing anxiety in the moment, I was very happy. As I got older, I gradually became less and less happy about life in general. My depression was “triggered” when I was a teenager after moving over 3000km away from the place I grew up and where all my friends were and I don’t think that I am the same person I was before that. But that can all, also be chalked up to growing up and getting older too.

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