Coping with Anxiety
I am a overthinking, lovable, resilient, worthy badass.
From the outside, I am a confident, happy, out going person, which I totally am. I have also been tackling the crippling effects of anxiety for most of my life.
Not since recent years did I even realize that I was suffering from this thing called anxiety.
I am a weird combination of a pretty shy, yet always happy-go-lucky kinda person.
As a child I was full of energy, but always a little different to everyone else. I remember one of my first wave of anxieties; reading out loud in class. Bear in mind that I had moved to a totally new country (devastated) not even realizing that this new country meant a totally new language and being dyslectic didn't help the situation.
So there I am, never really feeling like I fit in anyway, trying to pronounce words that felt like they were attacking me from the pages. All eyes were on me, judging and laughing, I never felt so alone, well maybe this wasn't the first time I had felt this alone but oh my goodness I just wanted the floor to swallow me up.
And of course this was only the start of it.
My anxiety would eventually, get all dolled up, jump into the car and head on out full speed to paint the town red. Whenever she felt like it. At anytime.
My differences to the other kids were magnified, highlighted and ridiculed. It began small; mocking how I spoke, laughing at my interests and my appearance. This led to me lying about the craziest things and trying to protect who I was.
By the time I went to college, my peers no longer bullied me, I was the one sabotaging myself. I used alcohol to numb that internal voice, the negativity, the anxiety – however fleeting the silence.
I put all my focus on fixing the outside, and others.
For years I muffled it, I think my relationships got the heaviest hits. My professional side drowned it to the point where it almost felt like I had it under control and even though I had silenced it for God knows how long, after being worked to my max, stressed out and overwhelmed with a great deal of bull, just like that as if a switch had flipped in my mind from calm to off-the-charts petrified, it finally lead to awful back to back panic attacks.
For me, a panic attack felt like: I wanted to run away, as far as possible, but there’s no safe harbor waiting for you because the threat is in you. You are convinced you are about to die and there’s nothing that can be done to stop it. You have lost control of everything. Life is sliding off into a void and there is no coming back. This is how it ends. You will either die right now or be in this moment of abject panic forever. There are no other options. No end in sight.
There is this particular instance, I distinctly remember pacing around the office after hours, having put a lot of work into this project where some people assign to it hadn't even started their share of it. This pissed me off, how others where treated so significantly different (I still can't accept this kind of behavior). Being in this anxiety spiral, there is always a level of guilt and powerlessness that often is even worse than the anxiety itself. My vision blurred, and my heart rate picked up, which in turn, made me think I was having a heart attack, which only added to the anxiety.
I sat on the floor with my legs pulled up to my chest, shaking and rocking, whispering unintelligibly in an attempt to self-soothe. I lost all sense of time. I could have been there for minutes or hours. It’s anyone’s guess. I just know I sincerely thought someone would inevitably find me dead in that office.
All that muffling and ignoring it had overclouded my ability to keep it in check and I couldn't take it anymore, it literally took over as it does and I had no control.
Despite this experience and countless other moments in my life to the contrary, I never thought of myself as someone with “anxiety.”
Not fully understanding what had happened and realizing that I had had panic attacks even as a kid, sometimes even from the smallest things; certain people, situations and places could cause them.
However, that moment sparked a realization in me: I wasn’t just anxious. I had anxiety. And it had gotten out of hand.
By limiting, removing and eliminating specific things (even in some cases things I didn't realize that were causing it) it magically started to minimize feelings of anxiety and panic attacks all together. In hindsight it was most likely my anxiety manifesting in physical pain that caused my panic attacks.
My anxiety is not as severe as it once was, but it’s still there. The secret now is that I have removed myself from people and things that can easily cause it.
Instead of being ashamed of wanting or needing something and hiding in my shell, I say it out loud. I intentionally avoid situations that I know could cause anxiety and recognize that when I don't feel comfortable or that I need something I don't run away and try to silence it but I gently face it.
I am so happy, I have learned how to voice my anxiety before it hits. Through practice and communication I have learned to reduce and manage my stress levels, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and take action if I start experiencing symptoms.
If you think that you might suffer from anxiety but you haven’t recognized your triggers yet, I truly deeply encourage you to find what does, only then will you be able to control your situation.
Therapy, medicine and meditation can help. Anyone who is suffering from anxiety, depression, low self-worth or suicidal thoughts, please reach out and tell someone how you are feeling. Asking for help is not a weakness, but such an unbelievable act of courage.