This post is a heavy one. I enlisted the help of 6 other women to help spread awareness about something as real as any chronic illness but which often times gets downplayed- anxiety. All the statistics in the world can’t describe the paralyzing effect of anxiety and many are walking around without any knowledge that they or someone close to them suffers from this. If this post helps even one person, it will have done its job. Italicized are my thoughts during and after an anxiety attack.
(Each woman was asked to write one paragraph. Some wrote more. Some experienced anxiety at the thought of writing about it. I’m grateful each pushed through to share.)
1….Ok, here it comes..try to fight it
I’ve always been known as the worry wart. I remember distinctly someone calling me that in the ninth grade. I think, over the years, it accumulated until around my second year in university when shit hit the fan. About a few months after my second relationship ended, I had met someone new. I had previously “shut off” and when I met this person my anxiety came up full force. I have what is known as relationship anxiety (but it isn’t limited to that). I worry about everything: from my actual feelings to if I’m making a mistake to what will happen in the future. You see, this worrying happens every day from the minute I wake up until I go to sleep. My anxiety is hard, scary as fuck and, as someone close to me made me realize, “my crutch”. It’s what I’ve known for a long time and it’s hard to break out of. It’s intense. Actually, it’s way too intense. I have gotten to the point where I worry so much that I undergo derealization (sometimes for weeks on end). However, without my anxiety I wouldn’t have learned how deeply I’m able to feel and how highly sensitive I am. Without it, I wouldn’t have known how deeply I love and how deeply I care. Some days, it’s my closest friend and others, my worst enemy … and I’m still not sure if that’s a good or bad thing.- Davia A. Her Twitter
2…. It’s no use…What do you mean? Try to fight it
My anxiety ranges from mild to almost crippling. Mild being a restless mind and little tics and crippling being unable to breathe, speak or see. Yikes! When I was a teenager I had a traumatic experience and that’s when it showed itself to me. Since then I generally tend to avoid situations that make me scared or overly uncomfortable. As you would guess, this includes certain aspects of relationships. My anxiety makes me overthink. It also sometimes puts up a mental block and, dare I say, hinders me from taking certain risks or uttering certain statements for fear of offending people. It feeds my fear or failure and gives me hints of self-doubt. As such, sometimes I shy away from opportunities that are seemingly perfect for me. #AnxietyIsAThing- Tracey M.
3…. I. can’t. breathe
My anxiety never saw it fit to give me the beauty of choice to decide whether I wanted her to be a part of my life or not. Instead, she slowly permeated my existence and punctuated every significant, minute, beautiful and horrendous moment of my life, leaving me writhing on the floor of my thoughts; powerless, defeated, weak and vulnerable. She enscorcelled me. She lead me to believe that I am incapable, that I’m not good enough, that there’s always something that could go wrong and for every second of my life I have been unable to confidently do anything. With every instance that she makes her presence known, I’m washed with fever, the feeling of a thousand needles prickling my skin, erratic heartbeats and an asthma attack on the horizon.
It’s because of her formidable presence in my life why I almost didn’t apply to university because I never thought I was bright enough or that I’d be able to handle the pressure. It’s because of her why the thought of allowing someone to love me freely and openly is absolutely terrifying because one day he’ll see how broken and insecure I am and decide that I’m no longer worth his time and love. I could write an entire book on the countless opportunities that I’ve foregone because of the persistent dread. I could also tell you about the anxiety that I felt about writing this paragraph. I could tell you about the countless times my expressions of anxiety have been dismissed and simplified as “fear” by those who are unwilling to understand that anxiety is a constant, every day dread and that I worry about things that haven’t even happened yet, that anxiety attacks are like watching your life collapse before your eyes, unable to pick the pieces up, unable to fit the pieces together, unaware of where the pieces should even go. My anxiety is already deciding that I’m broken and dysfunctional and incurable.- Kristina N.
4…. No, seriously…No air is getting in… My body won’t listen to me! *panics*
Well to start this all off, let me just say: Anxiety hurts. Lol.
And I’ve been “hurting” as long as I can remember. It’s something I’ve always tried to ignore but I still will come across as miserable and worrisome to close friends/coworkers. I can’t hide how I panic about the simplest of things. Even the mundanities of daily life are riddled with the shrapnel of the attack. From tying a shoelace to interacting with customers.. It’s hell! Breathing exercises and pep talks that I give myself, do help but there’s still that anxious cloud that floats over my head wherever I go lol.
When my friends ask what does it feel like to be in a “constant state of panic” or “flight or fight”, I tell ’em that it’s like..being a goldfish and swimming around in your little water bag and then BAM! somebody stabs the bag! Over and over! and you can’t do shit about it but watch your “life” drain out. Dramatic? Barely.- Christina L.
5…. It feels like I’m drowning…*succumbs* So this is how it ends
In my 3rd year of University, I forgot how to breathe.
I sat down on my bathroom floor and spent minutes—maybe hours—trying to relearn something that has been an automatic instinct for the last 20 years of my life. That moment has stuck with me for the past year, not because it’s a memory I cannot let go—instead, it’s a memory I keep reliving.
I’m plagued with days where, without warning, I suddenly can’t breathe. I’m drowning on the inside and all the walls are closing in on me. I’m never sure what’s happening to me but I’m ALWAYS sure that I’m the only person in the entire world who has felt, is feeling and will feel like this.
I’ve tried tirelessly to understand what anxiety really is in an effort to validate why the actual fuck this is MY reality.
Anxiety for me is A LOT of things.
It’s feeling like I want to scream, but also feeling like I’ll never be able to speak again.
It’s feeling like I’m about to spontaneously combust, but also feeling like I’m being compressed into nothingness.
It’s feeling like I’m overflowing with potential, but I will never make it.
It’s knowing exactly why I feel the way I do, but having no clue why I feel the way I do.
It is feeling like I don’t have enough space in the world, yet like there’s too much space inside my mind.
It’s feeling like I’m just being fucking dramatic, but knowing I’m not.
It’s feeling like I’m going legitimately going to die.
How do I cope when my heart starts pounding, my vision blurs with tears, my brain forgets the relevance of breathing and my thoughts are nothing but chaotic?
I stay on the bathroom floor (this might just be my dramatic flare), I let the tears flow, I relearn how to breathe, I tell my pounding heart to calm the fuck down then take comfort in the fact that no one has ever died of an anxiety attack AND I REFUSE TO BE THE FIRST.- Tiffany M. HerTwitter
6….. I don’t have the strength. I’m so drained. When will this stop?
I don’t remember how old I was, I couldn’t have been more than ten, but I can still recall the feeling. I was alone in the waiting room as my brother saw the doctor when everything around me started to feel slightly surreal. I was suddenly overwhelmed with a feeling of terror as I felt the walls closing in on me. This sense of foreboding flooded my body as the tears streamed down my face. I was shaking and inconsolable and alone. It didn’t take long for the receptionist to spot me and for my parents to come and calm me down but I won’t forget that feeling. It may have lasted seconds or a few minutes, I’m not sure, but it was the start of something that has grown to affect every aspect of my life. That was my very first panic attack and it wouldn’t be my last.
I’ve struggled with anxiety for most of my life but it wasn’t until I was at university that I was finally able to put a face to my demons and name them “an anxiety disorder”. Anxiety is something that everyone deals with at some point so for some it’s easy to dismiss. Things like exams, speeches, and problems at work can make most people anxious but it’s not the same as an anxiety disorder. Certain things that seem very minor can make me seriously uneasy, and leave me twitchy and fearful. Silly things like phones ringing and unchecked notifications can trigger intimidating levels of unease.
So what is it really like to deal with anxiety? It’s accepting that you’ve missed opportunities because instead of pressing send on that application you started shaking, collapsed on your bed, and cried. It’s also knowing a missed opportunity isn’t a death sentence. It’s wanting to network and meet new people but being so scared that you can never seem to dress right that you’re too awkward to speak to anyone at all. It’s also about knowing that there’s a next time. Anxiety may ebb and flow but it never leaves you. You’re always on edge about something (something which is logically no big deal). It’s feeling so overwhelmed by fear that it paralyses you from making decisions. It’s shaking hands, tingling feet, racing hearts, shortness of breath, and feeling like you’re drowning. It’s crying because all of this feels like too much to bear.
My greatest fear is that my anxiety will never allow me to “live up to my potential”. The fear of the new and uncertain feel like tightening hands around my neck, and not in the good way. It’s as though I’m drowning in fear and it affects every single decision that I make. My anxiety wants to be the final judge in everything. A lot of my anxiety is intertwined with feelings of inadequacy. It tells me that I will fail when my past tells me that I can conquer. Every day I fight with it for a life that makes me happy. To make decisions based on what will bring me joy now and in the long term. I’m grateful for every night of restful sleep because I know the months of restlessness are draining. I’m most thankful for friends who understand and are there to talk me down when I’m working myself up. This is the point where I break down and with more genuine emotion than I can typically bear to express, say how much my friends helped me. Having supportive friends who understand what you’re going through makes an extraordinary difference.
I have an anxiety disorder and it affects every part of my life. I have an anxiety disorder but it’s not stronger than I am.- Shantay F. Her Twitter
7….. This won’t stop. But neither will I. This isn’t how it ends but how it continues.
I chose to have seven stories because seven is a great number and it’s the number of seconds of each deep breath I try to take when having an anxiety attack.
Imagine that butterflies in your stomach feeling only instead of butterflies, it’s giant moths who are angry and confused and stuck and desperate to get out. Imagine telling your body to act and it doesn’t. Imagine knowing that it’s all in your mind and feeling you should be able to rein it in but not being able to take back the wheel from your own brain. Imagine saying to yourself “I’m gonna die” while knowing that you won’t and not being able to…move.
I worry. I overthink. I dwell on awkward or tense moments and replay them in my head like a masochist. These lead to AND are extended by anxiety. I get anxiety when great things happen to me. I start to wonder if somehow they’ll be taken away because someone feels I’m not deserving. If I really care about something or need to accomplish a goal and in order to attain it, I need to get the approval of others by way of any type of evaluation, I fold into myself. Exams make my usually quick and clever brain go blank, interviews take away my ability to form words, public speaking- don’t even get me started! And I fight through it, I do but the toll it takes on me after is ridiculous. My sleep cycle is always messed up because I go from insomnia due to my mind not turning off to hibernation-like sleep. Just guess which is before and which is after an attack.
I’ve learnt how to control my attacks better now than in earlier years. By this I mean, I can more often tell when I’m about to have an attack or when I feel like I’m close to being triggered. Sometimes the solution for me is to not put effort into things. It’s helped me develop a reputation as lazy in some areas of my life. I share with the people close to me who I feel I can trust and who I feel need to know how to operate when I’m having an attack. Others panicking or freaking out while you panic is like poking the anxiety bear. I also don’t feel shame about it. It’s a part of me and a part that thrives on negative thoughts so I try not to feed it any more.
Prayer can help, meditation or yoga can help, sex, touch or affection can help and sometimes space is what’s needed. Medication can help. Many things can help but none are simple and/or permanent fixes. Everyone deals with their attacks differently. We find calm or stay afloat by different means. Most times we just ride the wave…though it feels like the wave is riding us. Try to learn yourself or the person you wish to help who suffers from it.
Anxiety is not a self esteem issue though it often manifests itself in self doubt. I know I’m awesome and wonderful and capable. I just deal with some of life’s issues differently. And that’s okay.
Anxiety is powerful but as the stories here show us, we are just as, if not more, powerful than it is. It’s normal to feel weak from fighting the constant anxiety battle but with every attack that you get through, you prove that you are in fact, mad strong. You’re still standing! This is what I try to remind myself about because it’s true and but it’s also a hard truth to believe.- Nastassian B
I want to thank each of my co-bloggers on this post. Your stories were beautifully told and necessary. You all deserve cookies. I’ll eat them on your behalf. 🙂
Until next post, lovelies!
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