What It's like Dealing with Anxiety

6:00:00 PM

I recently learned that National Stress Awareness Day is on April 16th! That's exactly one week from today! So, I thought I would use this Spoonie Saturday to talk about what it's like dealing with anxiety.

There's no right way to write this. Everyone experiences anxiety in a different way. Everyone's body reacts in a different way. Everyone copes in a different way.

That is something that some people just don't realize. They think that because they overcame their anxiety that everyone else can too, but that's usually not the case.

If I could get rid of my anxiety, I would do it in a heartbeat. I talk a lot about this in my monthly verse of encouragement posts. I truly don't like being a worrywart, I just am.

The most that I can do is share my story and hope that I've helped you better understand what it's like to deal with anxiety.

I honestly can't remember when I first noticed my anxiety. It has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I was diagnosed with PTSD at the age of three and I grew up way too early. I was always told that I am mature for my age, but those people don't even know the half of it. I didn't have much of a childhood and I never went through a rebellious stage either. I was too busy worrying. It could have been about school, finances, boys, or even the weather. My anxiety follows me everywhere.

Here are some things that you might not know about anxiety:

Anxiety can take over our entire day.
It's true! Anxiety has a way of controlling our actions. If I know that talking on the phone causes me anxiety, I'm going to avoid any and all phone calls. That might mean always having my husband order our take out, or if he's not home, I might even choose not to eat. Fear controls our actions.

Sometimes you are lucky enough to have both anxiety and depression.
I won the lotto! I have more than one anxiety disorder as well as depression. I remember reading once that more than one-half of those diagnosed with depression also have an anxiety disorder. I have seen so many amazing memes that sum up what it's like to live with both and my favorite one is below.

Photo Credit: BuzzFeed

Anxiety can cause physical pain.
Sadly, it's true. I get a lot of physical symptoms that come along with my anxiety. Usually it starts out as chest pain. One time it was so bad that I actually had to go to the ER. They did all of their test and scans and sent me home. The only medical note in my discharge papers included, "try not to stress as much." Other times my symptoms are worse. I start getting really cold, I'm talking goose bumps under four blankets with the heat on high, cold. Then I get really pale. That's pretty hard to do because I'm already so pale, but my husband can tell when something's wrong. Lastly, I get an upset stomach. The physical symptoms that come with anxiety are not fun, and these aren't even all of them!

We can be anxious about the smallest of things. 
It may not seem like a big deal to you, but it is to us. We are genuinely stressed about whatever that thing may be. A few weeks ago, I was eating some cookies and went to grab another one, but stopped cold. There were three rows of cookies, alternating between two colors. I had been eating them in a certain order as to not mess them up and of course please my OCD. Well, my husband ate one messing up my entire tray. It wasn't until I figured out how to reorganize them back into the original pattern that I was able to calm down. Thinking about it now seems so silly, but I was genuinely having a panic attack over something as small as a tray of cookies!

We rarely see our anxiety coming.
We know it's always lurking around and can show up at any time, but it usually doesn't follow a schedule. After dealing with anxiety for so long, I have figured out the main things that trigger my attacks. However, there are times that those things don't bother me; and there are times that stuff I've never had a problem with, does.

We can be anxious and have no clue as to why. 
Sometimes I'll just be going about my usual day and the symptoms start coming on. I'll get cold, pale, and my stomach will start churning. I guess there's just things that we subconsciously worry about even when we're not intentionally thinking about them.

There are times that we will just have to walk away and be by ourselves.
It rarely has to do with anyone in particular and we don't want anyone to take it personally. It's just easier for us to deal with our anxiety and our symptoms alone sometimes. It can be hard to attempt to calm down when others are asking a bunch of questions. We know you're just trying to help, but that isn't always the kind of help that we need.

There are times where we might isolate ourselves, but that doesn't necessarily mean we want to be alone.
As I mentioned earlier, fear has control over our actions. There are times that we can't stop thinking about stressful topics and we forget to reach out to those we love in our lives. More often than not, you might just have to contact us first. It's not that we don't want to talk to you, it's just that we've got a million other things running through our minds. I touched a little bit about this in my post 25 Helpful Things to Say to A Spoonie. Sometimes we just need you to invite yourself over to watch movies and eat ice-cream :)

Even when things are wonderful, we are expecting something bad to happen.
I do this a lot, but I've also learned that bad things typically do happen to me. Anytime that I get good news, I usually keep it to myself until it's safe to tell people. I recently closed on a house and we didn't tell but a handful of people that we were even considering buying a home. I'm always afraid that I'm going to jinx the good things that are happening.

Anxiety doesn't have a particular look. 
Just like depression, anxiety is an invisible illness. That means you aren't going to see it. Just because my symptoms might be noticeable doesn't mean everyone else's are too. A majority of the time people won't know I'm anxious unless I tell them. My husband and my closest friends are the only one's that can actually notice my symptoms.

We constantly overthink everything.
I'm bad about this one, I just can't help it. I think about every possible what if and worry about them all. I know that they can't all happen, but one of them will. I try to be prepared for everything, but it's just not possible. Sometime's I remind myself of of Griffin from Men in Black 3. If you don't remember who he is, he is the character that can see and live in all possible futures and realities. He is pictured below.

Photo Credit: Heroes Wikia

We can't turn our brains off. 
Sometime's I just lay in bed until my husband wakes up for work because I've spent all night worrying about various things. Sometime's it's future tasks that I'm stressed about and sometimes it's past conversations or situations. I'll think about how it should have been different and then end up playing out a whole scenario in my head that will never happen. On the off chance that I am able to go to sleep, all of the crazy thoughts usually lead to bad dreams.

Everyone wants help in different ways. 
I mentioned this earlier, but I think it's the most important point in today's post. I personally don't like hearing, "calm down," "stop worrying so much," and/or "just breathe." Sayings like that make me feel like this is something I can control, when it isn't. Personally I would rather someone help me deal with the task or situation that I am stressed about. This might be backwards for some other people with anxiety. It's possible that some don't like either of these options and want some other form of help. The best thing you can do is ask, "how can I help you?"

I hope this post has helped you understand a little bit more about what it's like to deal with anxiety; and I hope that you will make a point to be more aware on National Stress Awareness Day!

Is there anything that I missed that you'd like to see in this post? Let me know what it is in the comments! 

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  1. What an interesting post! You are so right about everyone experiencing it differntly... I tend to like people, well my good friends/family to say things like,"relax, breathe,etc"...but, I also know not everyone does. I also like that you have learned what helps you the best! Great read! Will share!

    1. Thank you Vicky! I think it's important to remember that each of us experience our illnesses, both mental and physical, differently. It's also important to know what does and doesn't work for us. If we don't know how to help ourselves, we can't expect others to know either. It's similar to the saying "we must love ourself, before we can love anyone else." I appreciate the kind words and the share :)