I can feel it in my head first. Everything gets a little light. Then I feel it in my heart. I can feel the heat rise up in my chest as my blood pressure rises. The signs are written on my skin as the blotches of a heat rash start to surface. My fingers start to clamp in toward my palms and holding things gets a little awkward. That’s what my anxiety feels like most days.
Some days it shows up as nausea. Occasionally, it’s a restless night of sleep. Other times, it’s a complete system shutdown and I can’t stay awake. — my mom calls it “possum-ing” — when my mind can’t handle everything, my body plays dead.
My anxiety can bring out the absolute worst traits in me. It makes me withdrawn. It makes me controlling. It makes me overcorrect most situations. It makes me take on too much and then blame everyone else for it. And many times, it drives the people that I love crazy.
There are times when the rational part of my brain is screaming “JUST LET IT GO — walk away. Breathe and let the moment pass.” — and the anxious side of my brain will do exactly what I don’t want it to. I won’t let it go. I won’t walk away. I won’t breathe — I’ll actually breathe less. And I won’t let the moment pass. I will beat the conversation until far past its death. I will turn a five minute problem into a five hour problem. And chances are that I won’t feel better afterwards. And then I will replay every possible scenario in my head of how it could have or should have went differently — the credits roll and we play the show again the next morning.
I didn’t really know what it was for a long time. I didn’t know why my hands got really cold and I got light headed when a stressful moment hit. I didn’t know why I just shut down sometimes. I didn’t know why I overthought every single moment. And I am my mother’s daughter, I thought the worry, the over-planning, the control-freakiness in me was good for the public. “All of these ‘annoying traits’ will save you all one day” — at least that is what I told myself — until one day the world felt much heavier and I looked in the mirror a little closer.
I’m not medicated — except for the emergency baby aspirin that my mom has me keep on my desk in case of a stroke at 28 years old. I don’t go to therapy — although it wouldn’t hurt (for anyone to). But I can put a name on the face. And it is a slow process — but I’m learning to breathe slower. I’m learning to force myself to let go of things. I’m working on removing pieces of my life that make it worse. I’m intentional about how I react when a wave hits and I try to direct all of the raw energy toward something productive — usually work — and not something destructive — like fixing other people. << I mean how egotistical is that notion?? — sorry, separate thought.
And I know as I walk through the world that everyone is dealing with something. Everyone has a dark cloud in their life that they think is bigger than everyone else’s dark cloud. And if it is to them, then it is. It counts. As I deal with anxiety — someone else deals with depression — or crippling grief — or just an inner battle of not being good enough or where they thought they should be. So whatever you live with — I hope you live with it well. I hope if it doesn’t go away completely, it becomes manageable. And I hope you have the best life you can, whatever that may mean to you.
Get out of bed. Go out into the world. Live a day at a time (which is so hard for me, personally — when I could plan out everyday for the rest of my life instead.) And if it ruins a day or a month or a job or a relationship — that is okay too. More will come. And you can try to do better on those days. I will too.
And if you need to – go get help — without ever thinking for a second about anyone else’s perception of it. Ever.