Before proceeding further…there is triggering content in this blog post.
I feel like it’s time to show you all a photo that sums up my anxiety. This was not an easy decision, as I’m being remarkably vulnerable. But so often I hear stories of people who suffer from anxiety and get told it’s not a big deal. It’s not an illness. Just get over it.
I deal with a severe case of anxiety. It’s awful. One minute I’m fine, and one light disagreement later I’m a mess. I want to express myself, but then I’m terrified over making someone mad or have ill feelings towards me. Social situations terrify me. If a place is too crowded or too loud, I lose my mind. If someone is recording me, I get paranoid.
Going on a drive can set me off. Going out in public sets me off. I think about worst case scenarios on a regular basis. What if a shooter kills me? What if I’m in a car accident? What if I fall asleep and never wake up?
I also have self-deprecating thoughts. If I call myself a failure and a screw up I beat you to the punchline.
If you think these feelings are irrational, please know:
- I almost died in a car accident in 2005
- My mom died suddenly and unexpectedly in her sleep
- I’ve been through a few interactions where guns were in the wrong hands
- I had a stalker that sexually harassed me often, and reminded me he was watching me
- Was in an abusive relationship for a bit. Not anymore (thank God)
The worst case scenarios have either happened or been close calls. So I feel like they’re always around the next corner. When is the next disaster going to happen in my life?
It affects my health. Specifically, it affects my blood pressure, my heart, and my whole body at times. I’m sore after a panic attack. I get migraines often. I get chest pains more often than not.
How do I deal?
To stay calm, I’ll pick at my fingers and I’ll pick at my toes until they bleed. I don’t even know I’m doing this until I feel the wetness of the blood on my skin. Rarely do I have long fingernails and toenails. I’m always picking or biting. Blemishes on my skin don’t stand a chance. I’ll scratch myself until I bleed.
“Don’t do that, Alex!”
Guess what? I don’t even know I’m doing it. It’s something my body does.
Lately, I’ve been finding myself doing this more often since the election. I tend to vent on social media.
But in general, there are people who know I suffer from anxiety and still want to debate or fight. Until now, I’ve been silent on dealing with the feelings that result from those interactions. Today, I decided to be more forthcoming about what these interactions are doing to me. I had a few say they would back off, and it opened a dialogue on anxiety management. I so appreciate that (Thank you, Robb).
But there are others who are telling me to just deal with it. It’s a fact of life. I get it. For those who don’t understand, it’s fine. It just hurts when I’m spoken to and looked at like a freak.
When it comes to medication, I took anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication, and I hated what they did to me. I was a drone. I slept all day, and I didn’t feel like myself. I still had meltdowns and relapses. In 2012, I quit cold turkey and have been using holistic treatments like oils and aromatherapy every since. I feel like myself, the meltdowns are a bit more frequent, but at least I’m coherent.
Writing and theater are my main escapes. When I write, I feel like I’m taking a break from myself, and focusing on the stories in my mind. I can be a heroine, a villain, or a bystander for a bit. I can explore other worlds and tell the stories of the characters in my mind. If I didn’t have those two things, I don’t know where I would be.
So, if you have a friend with anxiety, do them a favor: Take it easy on them. Celebrate the positives with them. Give them a note of encouragement. You might be the one thing in their day that gives them a break.