Currently I am sitting on my couch alone eating a yogurt watching CNN (btw, a great reminder that the world is a giant mess) on a Thursday with the blinds closed in the dark even though it is 6pm and the sun is still shining. Normally I need to get my daily dosage of Vitamin C but today is not one of them.
There is something that many people don’t know about me.
I have anxiety. Sometimes massive anxiety.
It can be triggered or appear suddenly for no reason at all. It is exhausting and definitely annoying for the people who tell me “get over it” or “you’re overreacting.” I am an over-thinker. It is not something I can control and it is hardly an everyday or even monthly occurrence. Because most of my inner social circle knows me as outspoken, passionate, happy, and gregarious, I cannot blame them for not taking this side of me seriously. Most people think I am joking when we are texting and they say something triggering and I say, “that just gave me anxiety.”
I used to believe I was the only one who dealt with this irrational but suddenly paralyzing feeling until I started to open up to a few friends about it and I found that it is actually a common thing for many people. Some even admitted to smoking marijuana or taking pharmaceuticals because their anxiety is so crippling. I am grateful to have close friends that open up about their struggles because no one talks about these things. No one wants to talk about depression, anxiety, mental illness, or anything else that is bothersome because those who do suffer silently don’t want to admit their truths due to stigmas and the others never want to hear about it because they simply don’t deal with these issues. Thousands of people will talk about their problems anonymously online on a Reddit forum to strangers but not to their own loved ones. I don’t blame them — we live in a bizarre, cruel, judgmental world that doesn’t generally accept ‘flawed’ humans, even though everyone is flawed. No one on earth, not even Beyonce, is exempt from some kind of human ailment. It makes no sense why these issues are hidden if so many have them, but that’s life.
I want to talk about it.
Personally, my anxiety tends to stem from dealing with a lot of death of loved ones in my early 20s and severe emotional abuse that happened from two specific people throughout my life. Death opened my eyes far too wide about how delicate our morality is and quickly solved my existential question about what a human’s purpose is on earth (not to be a downer, but I truly believe there is none besides to possibly reproduce and make other humans temporarily feel good.) Suddenly I became aware that things don’t change year to year but rather nano second to nano second. A shift in perspective awakened an adventurous, open-minded, free-thinking, impulsive, outspoken, and a risk taking side of me. After years of walking on eggshells, the emotional abuse and brainwash shredded my shield of innocence and belief that everyone is good and that just because someone says they love you doesn’t mean it’s true. It created a downward tail-spin of self-doubt, confusion, low-self esteem, fear and anger, and left a trail of mild anxiety in it’s wake. Not good but manageable.
What most people don’t seem to understand about anxiety sufferers is that an anxiety attack doesn’t mean I am sad and I hardly ever cry. It is not the same thing as depression. I just have to be alone in peace and if I reach out it means I need affirmation that the world truly isn’t ending. Anxiety can be crippling for some. Sometimes it comes served up in a glass of PTSD, which contrary to common belief, doesn’t just affect the military personnel. There have been times when it felt as if my life was in such chaos that I couldn’t leave my apartment for a few days.
My superhero alter ego during anxious times.
And it can strike at any time and for many different reasons…my biggest triggers are death, deceit, unintentionally hurting someone, failure, abandonment, intimacy, thinking about my future and the unknown, thinking about my mother dying and also disappointing her, confrontation, comparing myself to others, dealing with people who have short fuses and anger issues, strange men approaching me in public, yelling, vulnerability, etc. I remember being on the verge of a panic attack last December when I was in a very crowded Penn Station in NYC for the first time. It was at a time our country was on high alert and I imagined someone literally setting a bomb in the middle of the train station because it was the perfect place with so many people rushing around for the holidays. Irrational and dramatic, but it still crossed my mind. I over analyze a lot. That’s anxiety for you.
Everyone deals with their anxiety differently. I will feel my heart beating rapidly and like I am suffocating, my mind is imagining the worst possible scenario or outcome, I create a long list of possible ‘what if’s.’ I wish I could just chill the hell out like my best friend always tells me to when I text him during an attack. However, I can’t. It is physically impossible unless I cut off the world, lay in my bed, talk about it with a close friend, listen to music, exercise, clean, write it all out in a journal, and/or in severe times sometimes smoke. If not, I will sit there replaying the tense scenario in my head over and over again or worry that something worse will happen. It isn’t productive and wastes so much valuable time. I recognize most of the time these are irrational thoughts as soon as I acknowledge these feelings and within an hour or two I am fine. However, I know many people who have it much worse where they have to be medicated to function. My heart goes out to you and anyone else bothered with an issue that cannot been seen with the naked eye.
If you know someone who suffers from anxiety, the worst possible thing you can do is to tell them to relax or chill. By doing this you perpetuate the problem by making the person feel ashamed that they are feeling this way, making their feelings feel unjustified, and they may want to seclude themselves even further. Instead you have two jobs: listen and support. If you find yourself suffering from anxiety, there is help for you and you are not alone whether that be googling ideas that can help you relax, therapy, or medication. This is fairly common and most of us that seem to look like we have it together just make it look that way. This is much more common than it is talked about. I literally just had anxiety thinking about posting this publicly, so I repeat, you are not alone. 🙂