I need to write about this, because I’m going through a lot of changes in my life. With so many changes — whether they are good changes or not — comes the addition of stress, panic, fear, restlessness and sleeplessness, which all amount to anxiety. These are all ‘normal’ life-type things to experience, I know this, but when you have anxiety it’s a different beast.
I don’t know exactly how long I’ve had anxiety, but it’s been a long time. Probably since I was a teenager, I don’t really know for sure. I didn’t fully understand what it was, exactly, until I was somewhere in my early to mid 20’s, when I was diagnosed.
Before I go any further, what I need you to understand, almost more than anything, is that anxiety is not a choice. The same way having depression isn’t a choice, bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia, or any other debilitating mental disorder. It isn’t fun. The sharp pains in the chest that sometimes just won’t go away, the heart palpitations that make you think you’re about to have a heart attack, the problems concentrating under stressful situations, those nights when you sleep, but you don’t sleep well, and you wake up more exhausted the next morning. The list goes on as you can imagine. While there are varying degrees of anxiety, just like with any of the other mental illnesses listed above, any of the aforementioned are not something I wish I, or others suffering, had to deal with.
The anxiety I deal with isn’t nearly as bad as what others I know deal with, but there’s a few things you need to know.
- Anxiety isn’t always associated with something in particular. Sometimes it can be about something specific, but let me tell you, a lot of the time it isn’t about anything When you say to someone with anxiety, “what are you worried about? Stop worrying!” and I reply, “it isn’t about anything specific” and “it isn’t that easy,” it’s super, super important that you trust me on this one. I’m doing my best to not worry so much that sometimes it’s entirely all-consuming and I can’t think about anything else. Often, I feel terrible and stupid when I can’t stop worrying to the point where I don’t even want to tell you what I’m worrying about for fear of being told to ‘stop worrying’ because it’s ‘nothing.’
- I know the things I worry about can be so incredibly outrageous and highly unlikely, but in the moment they are very real fears to me. I know that sometimes what I worry about are things that we know will be okay, but there’s that level of ‘uncertainty’ and the ‘what ifs’ that can be so completely consuming that it’s all I think about. It’s not that don’t believe you when you tell me that things will be okay, it’s that I can’t see past the unknown.
- Taking anti-anxiety medication is not a bad thing, nor are they a sign of weakness. Anxiety is a chemical imbalance in the brain, and sometimes it needs meds to balance them out. We do not have control over these imbalances. Again, we didn’t choose to have this. Trust me, I know that meds are not the only answer to treating anxiety, but they help — just like other things do — to treat this. I’ve been on meds before and to be honest, I’ve thought about them again recently to help deal with the new changes in my life. I haven’t yet for fear of being shamed for doing so. It’s unfortunate that this is even a concern for me, but it is.
I know that my anxiety pales in comparison to so many others out there, but it’s still something I struggle with on a daily basis. I worry about a paper that’s due on November 6th that I haven’t started yet. I feel guilty because I haven’t started yet and I start worrying that I won’t get it done in time It’s not even October yet. I have over a month to get it done, but I worry about it. I worry that my basement suite will catch on fire after I’ve seen on the news that an apartment building burned down somewhere that isn’t here. I worry that when I get a headache that is so unbelievably painful that I’m going to have a brain aneurysm and my cat will watch me die. Sometimes when I go to bed is when it hits me the most and it’s dark and I start worrying about there being snakes in my closet or under my bed and they’ll come and suffocate me while I’m sleeping. Sometimes I worry about nothing at all, but I worry nonetheless, and I wish I didn’t.