Today’s blog post is a special one. In this new addition to PsiHub, a guest blogger, Mind Wanderer, shares her story of how she battled anxiety and how she coped with the countless hurdles on her way to winning the fight. If you would also like to contribute to PsiHub by sharing your story or an article about mental health, click here. Now, let’s begin “Anxiety and I“!
Close your eyes. Listen to your heartbeat. Repetitive. Stable. Now imagine it racing. Imagine you’re a day away from finals, that big presentation, taking a loan on that car you wanted to buy, or from proposing to your partner. Think about how your body reacts when you think of these things; the tension in your muscles and the sweat on your palms. The nausea or the tingling or the feeling of isolation and self-consciousness. Let it wash over you.
Now imagine feeling like this all the time. That is what it’s like to suffer from anxiety.
My anxiety looks like going into a grocery store and being terrified of asking for what I want because I’m not sure if they’ll have it or if they’ll understand what I mean or being afraid of just talking to another person, my heart has suddenly become Speedy Gonzales and as I search for what I want the shelves suddenly become larger and someone’s noticed me searching and they’re coming to assist so I pretend to have found what I’m looking for and I dart from aisle to aisle hoping to find what I really want until I see it and I reach out and phew! I finally have it. But damn- I have to face the cashier now.
It means constantly thinking about mistakes or awkward situations and beating myself up over them, no matter how old.
Obsessing about my future, replaying conversations over and over in my head, worrying about my role in other people’s lives and whether I am enough- A good enough daughter, sister, friend. It feels like the noise in my head never stops. I have immense trouble falling asleep. It is a battle- something to be armoured for, geared up against- very counterproductive while trying to fall asleep; and when I do- waking up with a stiff neck and lower back- where I seem to carry all my tension.
It means bailing on social situations I was actually excited for because I didn’t want to be a burden or skipping college because my brain is so, so tired from all that mental noise, and can’t take any more of it.
Having anxiety is like living in the first few lines of Eminem’s ‘Lose Yourself’ all the time. It makes me feel helpless. Sometimes I medicate- with yoga or alcohol or food or sex- but it’s always back.
At its best, my anxiety is a pit in my stomach, at its worst, it is acid trying to dissolve my insides or a heavy steel block I am being forced to carry, making my spine stiff and pulling me to the ground, trying to make me a part of it. In any case, it feels like it never leaves me.
However, I have made progress in the past few months.
If I’m going through a panic attack, I concentrate on my breathing. It helps calm me down immediately. I then direct my energies into something else, listening to music or writing down excerpts from books or even chopping vegetables- which I’ve found to be extremely therapeutic. It’s hard, but practice and trying to deal with the cause of my anxiety has helped a lot. If I get annoyed at why I’m worrying so much, I tell myself that it is okay, I’m only trying to help myself. Being aware of the patterns and trying to differentiate what thoughts are me and what thoughts are my anxiety has helped a lot. It helps me think before I make snap decisions.
I’ve also discovered that Stoicism helps- assuming that the worst will happen and if it does, I’ll be okay. Sometimes hope negates any chances of inner peace- it lifts me up, making the inevitable fall worse. Acceptance that I will go through awkwardness and sadness and humiliation and that they are a part of life is a hard pill to swallow, but I’m slowly getting there. I don’t think I feel as crippled by my anxiety anymore.
If you want to help someone who is an anxiety sufferer, I think the first thing to understand is that their anxiety does not define them. We really appreciate you being around and trying to understand what we feel. Talking to your friend or loved one about how they want to be comforted or if they need space is important. Understanding breeds empathy and compassion, and that’s all we really need.
By: Mind Wanderer