We all hear about it. We all experience it to some extent. It’s in our blood – and for some more than others. I happen to be part of the “some.”
I feel like anxiety as a condition is shrugged off because “everyone gets anxious” or because it’s perceived as “overreacting” and I should just get over myself. For this reason, I really don’t like to talk about my anxiety. I don’t like the idea of others perceiving me as trying to call attention to myself or think I’m using it as an excuse or a shield to hide behind – because I can assure you, that’s never the case. However, my anxiety is a part of me, and I believe that pretending that it’s not and bottling it up only gives it more power.
It’s not something I like about myself. I started struggling with my anxiety and panic attacks during my freshman year of college. I remember sitting in history class, my mind flooded with thoughts I couldn’t control. My heart began to race, my blood felt like it was traveling a hundred miles an hour through my veins, my hands and arms went numb, it became hard to swallow – I felt like the entire world was closing in on me. It wasn’t until after class that I hit the breaking point and found myself sobbing out every drop of emotion on a bench outside because it was the only way my body knew how to release all the tension that had built up inside me. Over the last five years, my anxiety and panic has come in waves – there were times I hadn’t struggled for so long I started to believe the battle was over. But in the past year, it has become increasingly worse and I find myself desperately praying for the heaviness to leave.
So if I don’t like talking about my anxiety, then why am I talking about it now? First of all, it’s obvious that anxiety and panic as mental disorders are pretty taboo (or any mental condition, for that matter) – to me, talking about it is the first step to de-stigmatizing it. Those who struggle should feel able to admit they’re struggling without feeling guilty – because the alternative is to leave it bottled up and watch it consume them from the inside-out. Second, I’m sure it’s a challenge to be the loved one of someone who struggles with anxiety and not be able to truly know what’s going on inside their mind. And lastly, I believe it’s important for others who struggle with anxiety to know they’re not alone. I’m coming up on my fifth year of knowingly having anxiety, and I am still discovering articles that help me realize so many of my random tendencies stem from my anxiety and that I’m not such an odd duck after all.
While everyone’s anxiety is different, for me, anxiety is being drowned by the flood of irrational thoughts that fill my mind – with every rational thought I try to tell myself, five more irrational thoughts come rushing in.
Anxiety is a prison where the walls close in around me and I’m scrambling to get out before I’m crushed by the weight of my emotions.
Anxiety is repeatedly second-guessing myself and battling thoughts that say: you’re not enough, you’re too needy, you’re doing everything wrong, you say the stupidest things, you’ll never fit in.
Anxiety is lashing out at others when I’m mad or humiliated with myself.
Anxiety is obsessively apologizing for everything, feeling like the things I say or do inconveniences others and that somehow my constant “I’m sorries” will protect me from rejection or abandonment.
Anxiety is being paralyzed by the idea of interacting with groups of people because of all the times I felt like I didn’t fit in with them before.
Anxiety is pushing people away before they can push me away first.
Anxiety is wearing my heart on my sleeve for everyone to see, even when I desperately want to be able to keep to myself.
Anxiety is becoming easily overstimulated and overwhelmed in public environments and struggling to remember to breathe before it reaches the point of panic.
Anxiety is often times being scared to return to places where I have previously experienced panic.
Anxiety is finding myself lying on the bathroom floor, wondering if my fears have manifested themselves in such a way that I have become too hard to love.
Anxiety is being consumed with the sudden and overwhelming need to be alone and missing out on plans I genuinely want to be a part of.
Anxiety is overanalyzing every detail to the point of exhaustion.
Anxiety is needing constant reassurance – reassurance that I’m doing okay, that I am enough, that I haven’t driven the ones I care for most away… reassurance that I am loved.
Anxiety is feeling like the only way to silence the obsessive, relentless thoughts is to scream.
Anxiety is the overwhelming need to be invisible and feeling embarrassed when people notice you’re not okay.
Anxiety is desperately wanting and trying to climb out of the pit of fear and hurt that I’ve dug but feeling too crippled to move.
Anxiety is knowing that all the things I have mentioned here are supposed to be controllable – yet I feel helpless.
One of the hardest things about my anxiety is struggling with it despite being a Christian. I have an all-powerful God on my side who says to not be anxious about anything. I have a Savior that died on the cross and burdened every single twinge of anxious pain that I have ever felt because He wanted to take it away… yet here I am. But despite my struggle, I continue to have hope that some day I will overcome it and it will no longer control my days, or even weeks.
I’m constantly asking myself where my anxiety stems from. I know my self worth – yet I become consumed with fear of what others perceive about me. I know that the little things that agitate me aren’t worth the energy – yet I can’t keep them from consuming every fiber of my being. I don’t know how begin to understand why everything gets so blown out of proportion that I feel like I have to physically break down until I’ve drained out all my emotion – it’s only then that I feel like I can function properly again. It’s scary for me. Sometimes I see it coming, other times it hits me out of nowhere. Yet in spite of it all, I know I’m strong. I know I’m smart. I know I’m fearfully and wonderfully made. Although it feels like I’m fighting an uphill battle with myself, I know that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me… and I will win. Even if it takes some time.
If you knowingly struggle with anxiety or believe that you could be, let me be the first to say that there is absolutely no shame to reaching out for help – whether it be family, friends, a leader at your church, or counseling. Counseling is an incredible resource if you have access to it. If you don’t, there are other resources and management techniques. Remember: you are capable and you are never alone.