August 25th 2017
Learning to live with a part of me that can be rather insufferable at times.
So I know I have written some terribly personal posts in the past that have been put up on my social media for the world to see, but I am particularly nervous about this one; simply because my anxiety has always been an incredibly private thing that I never really describe in detail to strangers or acquaintances. However, I hope this post helps people who may experience similar feelings feel less alone.
I have lived with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) my whole life. My anxiety is a part of me and many times, it is a part of me that I wish would take a vacation. I would never wish away my anxiety because it is part of who I am…however, at times, it makes living a bit more exhausting for me than it would if I were a person living without anxiety.
I’m actually surprised as to how often people without anxiety ask me to explain it. I am aware that anxiety differs from person to person (which is what I explain to people first) but this is how I explain mine:
I have a finite amount of energy when I start my day….for arguments sake, let’s say this is like one of those RPG games and I start with 15 energy points. So I wake up in the morning which goes one of two ways, (a) I wake up comfortably and at ease about the day ahead~[-0] or (b) I wake up feeling tense and anxious about the day ahead~[-2]. This means on mornings I’m feeling tense and anxious, I’m already starting at an 13. If my morning isn’t busy then I get to go to yoga~[-0/+1] If it is a good day at yoga then I can usually gain some energy back to complete my day. However, if I have to miss yoga against my will then~[-1]. So let’s say I’m still in a rush, I’ve already missed yoga, I’m super tense, and I’m already at 12. My choices are eat breakfast and have to rush more or skip breakfast and bring on anxiety from being too hungry so either way its another~[-1] So at this point it could be 9am and I could already be out about 1/3 of my energy for the day.
Now we move onto the work day. My commute regardless of the day or situation puts me at~[-1] because driving in rush hour heightens my anxiety substantially no matter how my actual drive goes. Now once I get to work my day goes a number of different ways. On an easy day where tasks flow effortlessly and I’m busy from start to finish, I may only lose~[-1/-2]. Anxiety is a constant part of my life so even when things are moving close to 100% smoothly, I still feel anxious. If a work day goes poorly and I feel overwhelmed, lonely, stressed, confused, bombarded, etc. then~[-3/-4]. So continuing on my worst case scenario day, I’m down to 6 now…that’s almost 2/3 of my energy lost by 5pm when my actual day starts. If I have to get home for a particular obligation where there is time pressure, the commute home is~[-2] instead of~[-1]. I’m up to 4. Now I have to choose what to do with my remaining energy. If I hit a 0 then that’s it, the point of panic attack and emotional breakdown.
Panic attacks are among the worst feelings in the world. I feel as though i am sweating on the inside, my body itches, my heart races, i feel cold and hot all at once, i can’t breathe, and I’ve even gotten physically sick before due to sheer panic. I do whatever I can to try to avoid it. So on particularly bad days, I could end up shutting myself in and pushing people away out of fear of triggering worse anxiety for myself.
So I’m mentioning this because I want people to think about it. On social media, on TV, in movies, we are led to believe anxiety is always caused by something, anxiety is this romanticized thing, anxiety is a word you just toss around. Anxiety is not just my stressful day at work, my anxiety is not just skipping breakfast, my anxiety is there at my highest or my lowest point. You can be an anxious person without having anxiety. I just want people to think about it. I want people to think about it because I’m tired of hearing “that science class gives me so much anxiety.”, “being late to work gives me so much anxiety.”, etc. Anxiety isn’t just feeling stressed for part of your day that is a common stressor to most people, it is a feeling that can be felt even when there is no cause. Some people have particular triggers, but overall, anxiety does not equal nervous, stressed, overwhelmed, etc., it is its own thing. Anxiety is not romantic. Anxiety does not make you appear cute, or fragile, or anything desirable. Anxiety is not beautiful, so let’s stop trying to color it as such.
Anxiety is difficult, but I have found that the more you work at improving it, the more easily you can deal with it. Taking up hobbies, finding good coping mechanisms, talking to a doctor or specialist, taking medication, meditating, reading reputable sources, are all great ways to making small changes to improve your situation, even slightly.
My anxiety is a part of me and it is not a curse.