Anxiety can be described as a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear, that can be mild or severe. I’m sure at some point in life everyone will feel this way. I suffer from anxiety and my symptoms tend to take the form of palpitations, heavy breathing, and tightening of the chest.
I over think everything, so once I’m done being anxious about one thing, I start to get anxious about the next. On the outside, I may look fairly calm, but there are a thousand mini-Mitta’s running around screaming in my head.
Very minor things can be overwhelming and set me off.
When the anxiety gets too overwhelming, I either end up having a panic attack, which is both mentally and physically exhausting, or I just switch off completely.
I tend to get super frustrated at myself because what seemingly normal tasks can often be difficult for me. It always feels like I’m overreacting, but I just can’t seem to stop. I look at other people and wish I could react in the same way at them.
For example just knowing that I have to fill out an important form will fill me with dread. It will take me a couple of days to complete the entire thing and my sister usually has to talk me through it. It sounds silly, right? It’s just a form.
Calling people is another thing that inexplicably makes me panic. I have to build myself up just to pick up the phone. At my previous job, if there was an option of emailing someone instead of calling I took it every time. I rarely pick up the phone. I let it go to voicemail instead. At least then I know what they’re calling about and can prepare myself for the conversation. To me calling the doctors, hairdressers or anyone is a great achievement.
One of the biggest issues I have, however, is driving. Driving is empowering but also sometimes the worst thing in the world. If I have to go somewhere new, I will Google-map it and go over the directions multiple times. Getting lost is a daily occurrence. My biggest concern is parking. I fit that stereotype that women can’t park. Don’t even think about asking me to parallel park.
Unless I have someone with me, I will full on freak out and come near tears. I’ve had to turn the car off before because I just could not stop shaking.
I can’t explain my anxiety to people without feeling like a complete idiot. I can’t really say, “Sorry I canceled on you, but the thought of parking on that street kept me up at night.”
I’ve spent a long time hating myself for letting my anxiety get the better of me. It made me feel weak and pathetic. But the thing with mental health is that you can’t escape yourself. You can’t pretend it isn’t there and I tried to pretend that I was making it all up. It just made me worse.
What really helped me was understanding why my body reacts this way. My therapist gave me a worksheet that explains how our body goes into a “fight or flight” response. Apparently, this response is automatic and comes from a part of our brain that does not distinguish genuine threat to life from the fears of everyday life. We either “fight” which can be interpreted in getting angry and frustrated. Or in my case, it is “flight” whereby I tend to shut down.
See, I thought my symptoms were all in my head. That I could make them go away if I stopped believing they were there. But this is simply not true. I get palpitations because my heart is beating faster to pump blood into my muscles so that I can run away easier. My breathing becomes quicker so that I can take in more oxygen to be able to escape and my muscles tense as a way to prepare for action. Learning about why I react like this has helped me realize that it does not make me a complete weirdo to act out.
The thing is I want to be better. I know I can be a lot more than what I am now. So I’m constantly trying to push myself out of my comfort zone and do things that scare me, like writing for The Tempest. It’s been a struggle to find that fine line between pushing myself and giving myself a panic attack. Most of the time, I go too far. My biggest challenge is trying to train my brain to not go into meltdown when something is slightly terrifying.
It’s something that I am still learning to deal with. But I am also learning to realize that it happens; anxiety is normal and real.
I shouldn’t be so hard on myself for becoming anxious, the only thing I can do is work on it, one step at a time.