When You Live in a Constant State of Anxiety

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The constant fear of something that may not even exist. The pain that goes through your stomach when thinking about the smallest things that may not even happen. It becomes harder and harder to breathe and there’s nothing to stop it. You’re living in a constant state of anxiety.

You go to bed worrying about what kind of day you will have the next. You tell yourself everything will be fine, but you know it’s not the truth. You pray for a good day, with only a few anxious thoughts. Yet, most of the time it’s a bad day, with racing thoughts and attacks taking up your time. You wake up knowing what day it will be right away. You feel like you’re paralyzed. You lay there waiting for the attack to come on. You know it’s coming. Yet, sometimes there’s no way to stop it. No matter what, you’re living in a constant state of anxiety.

You wonder why you’re not like the other people who get up and live their life with no fear. You want to be like them. You pray to be like them, but no matter what you do, you’re not them. You wonder what it’s like to be able to wake up every day with no fear in your mind. You want to go to school. You want to go do things everyone else can do. You just can’t get yourself to do it.

You try, every day you try, but no matter what, you’re not normal like everyone else. Normal people get up and go to school every day. They live life to the fullest, without fear, without attacks. They are normal, but you’re living in a constant state of anxiety.

People wonder why you’re like this. They think it’s just an excuse for not wanting to do something. They don’t know how real it is and how serious your problems in life are. You try to explain it, but you just are told everyone has issues and you just have to suck it up. You can’t suck it up. Anxiety isn’t something that can be sucked up.

You try to push through. You try to get yourself to do something, but just because you try, doesn’t mean you can. People don’t get it. They think you can do everything they can do, but you’re living in a constant state of anxiety.

You don’t know when they’re coming. You could be fine one second, and the next, you’re not. Your chest gets tight. Your stomach is in knots. You’re shaking. You’re crying, and everyone is just staring at you.

An anxiety attack is scary. You can’t stop it. There is nothing you can do other then wait it out. People think you’re just freaking out about nothing. They don’t get you’re living in a constant state of anxiety .

You try to explain to your teachers that it’s hard for you. They don’t understand, nor do they care to listen. You want them to understand. It would make your life so much easier, but they don’t get it. They expect you to answer questions in front of your class, to read papers out loud and to show up to school every day. You can’t do that. You don’t know how to explain it to them. You want to tell them how it makes you feel when doing those things, but you can’t put it into words. So they end up thinking it’s just an excuse, but really you’re living in a constant state of anxiety .

Your friends ask why you’re not in school all the time. They wonder why you break down at random times and why every little thing makes you anxious. You don’t know what to tell them. You don’t want to embarrass yourself. You want them to understand, but it’s not that easy. So you end up telling them you were sick. You aren’t sick though. You’re living in a constant state of anxiety.

Every day is the same thing. You go to bed worrying. You wake up worrying. It doesn’t matter what it’s about, you’re always worried. You don’t know how to explain it to people. So you make excuses, and you end up being judged for it. Everyone wonders why you’re like this. There’s nothing you can say other than, you’re living in a constant state of anxiety.

Just because you’re living in a constant state of anxiety, doesn’t mean you’re alone. You have people by your side and people who care about you. You are loved and appreciated. You can get through this, one day at a time.

Image via Thinkstock.

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We All Have the Power to Fight Our 'Inner Voldemorts'

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When I was little, I had an intense phobia of being kidnapped. Every evening, I had a routine I had to complete before I would feel safe enough to get in bed. Then, once I was under the covers, I could not and would not even consider getting up before morning. I’d lay awake, convinced I heard sounds of an intruder, quivering in fear.

Eventually, I grew out of it, and now I often find myself joking, playing it off as immature paranoia. However, I can still remember the fear I felt every single night that I could not overcome until the sun came up.

These days, I often experience anxiety in waves. I have a “worst case scenario” state of mind when it comes to new experiences. I tend to get overwhelmed in certain social situations. However, I’ve been working hard over the last few years to overcome the fear that bubbles inside me. Recently, I found inspiration in perhaps the most unlikely of places, the mouth of Albus Dumbledore.

Now, if you’ve read any of the “Harry Potter” books you’ll know Dumbledore had a knack for inspirational quotes. He liked to drop them on Harry and walk away, like the wizard equivalent of dropping the mic. In doing so, he often left the reader speechless and Harry confused and longing for a straightforward answer.

If you’ve never delved into the “Harry Potter” world, in books nor movies, then let me give you a minor background before I continue. Harry Potter is a wizard whose parents were killed by another, evil, wizard named Voldemort. Before he was born, it was foretold that Harry would become Voldemort’s greatest threat.

Just after Harry’s 1st birthday, Voldemort hunted him down to prevent the prophecy from coming true. Voldemort killed Harry’s parents. However, Harry survived and it blew everyone’s mind, including Voldemort’s. Oh and Dumbledore is the head honcho at Hogwarts, a school for young wizards and witches. He’s the only other person Voldemort has ever feared, and he’s a low-key badass who has a pet Phoenix.

OK, now that we’re all caught up, back to Dumbledore’s mind-blowing rhetoric. In the second to last book of the series, “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince,” there is a moment when Dumbledore is explaining to Harry how the prophecy affected Voldemort, how his fear of defeat got in the way of his quest for victory. He explains that Voldemort himself created the enemy who was now equipped to defeat him. After hearing the prophecy, he had taken matters into his own hands, assuming he could vanquish its foretellings by killing Harry before he had the chance to grow up. In doing so, he unknowingly set the prophecy into motion.

In our everyday lives, an assumption or a rumor can present itself as a prophecy of sorts. We hear of something that might happen or we take a guess based on the circumstance, and we send ourselves into a frenzy of panic and anxiety. This works for any emotion that controls our actions: anxiety, fear, addiction, sadness or low self-esteem. They all act as our own personal Voldemort living inside our heads. They react quickly and rashly, neglecting to pause and let other opinions be heard. They look at the smaller picture, the one stop solution. They act to prevent bad, while also deflecting the possibility of good.

Luckily, we all have the power to be our own Harry Potter. Granted we don’t have the whole wizard thing going for us, but Harry learned magic wasn’t the biggest weapon he had against Voldemort. Love, selflessness, bravery, trust, joy — these are all qualities Voldemort could never possess. These are all qualities our own Voldemorts shy away from when times get hard.

In the “Harry Potter” series, Voldemort is the most feared wizard of them all. The things he can do, the way he uses people to get what he wants, the horror he inflicts upon entire cities at the mention of his name. Anxiety, fear and addiction all have the power to do the same to each of us if we give into their grasp. While our attempts to grapple with our own Voldemorts might be feeble at times, it’s the resistance that counts. No tyrant lasts long when the resistance starts.

I encourage you to fight, in whatever way best suits you. If it’s simply taking a moment to breathe or seeking a doctor, then take the steps necessary to start your own fight against the dark wizard inside your head. You never know what you’ll find within yourself when you take the time to start digging.

Image via Harry Potter Facebook page.

This post originally appeared on Kimberlee K.

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Notes for the Therapist Who Did Not Make Me Feel Understood

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As I sat before her, my mind was swirling with thoughts. Overwhelmingly, I needed help. My brain was screaming through the fog of my depression that I desperately needed her to connect with me. I needed her to understand the different chasms my anxiety and depression had opened before me.

“You understand that if you devoted all the time you do to worrying to something else, you could get so much done.”

I felt sucker-punched. Here I was in therapy, having dragged myself here through sheer will, and I was being told not to worry so much, to just let things go. Other hurtful comments followed. I shut down. She probably thought she was being encouraging, but for someone in the midst of a mental storm, those little offhand comments make it worse.

We’ve probably heard them a million times from random people in our lives. The last place we need them repeated is in the (hopefully) safe space of therapy. I picked up the pieces myself afterward, but here is what I wish she had said instead.

1. “Don’t worry so much.”

If I could stop worrying, then I wouldn’t be in therapy needing help. Instead of saying I should worry less, I wish she’d actually imagined what I was feeling. I wish she would have said, “I can imagine that being overwhelmed by those panicky thoughts must be draining every day.” This would have helped me feel understood far better.

2. “You’re wasting time worrying about things you can’t control.”

True. Of course it’s wasting time, but I cannot change the way my brain processes daily life. Giving me one more thing to feel I’m failing at is not going to help my currently shaky mental state. Instead, I have another hook for my anxiety and hopelessness, “My therapists said I’m wasting time. Oh my word, I’m failing therapy. Yet another thing I haven’t achieved this week.” If my therapist had said instead, “Losing time to panic attacks and worrying thoughts must make you feel even less in control, and that makes you feel powerless,” then I would have given her a smile and nodded.

3. “Are you doing anything to help yourself feel happier or calmer?”

Yes, I’m here in therapy right now, having left the house for the first time in days to get understanding. This took all my energy and a dollop of courage too because I don’t know you, and I would appreciate you acknowledging that. I do many other things to survive on a day-to-day basis, probably more than you know. At this point, it’s clear you probably don’t struggle with anxiety or depression because you don’t understand.

If my new therapist had said any one of these things or the sea of other options, then I could have felt understood. I could have known that dragging myself to therapy was worth it. That I had succeeded. Instead, I walked out smiling at her like the polite person I am, internally seething. I left feeling like I was on my own. It’s hard enough to get help when you have one or more mental illnesses. The last thing needed is a therapist who contributes to the harmful dialogue around anxiety and depression.

What I needed and want from a therapist is not advice but support. I wish all incompetent therapists could spend a day in the mind of their clients to know exactly how unhelpful ignorant statements can be. We probably have answers in our own heads, or we don’t and we need someone to sit with us while we deal with that. When we don’t receive this, we end up feeling more alone and more isolated than we do already.

So I want to end this as a love letter to the people out  there who endure days with mental illness and incompetent mental health professionals. I salute all of you for having the courage to go in the first place and to continue on your journey regardless of bad therapy, as well as those who get through another day without choosing to go to therapy. Going is a choice and there is no right or wrong choice here. There is right and wrong therapy, however.

Image via Thinkstock.

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Cupcakes and Humor: The Ingredients in the Recipe of Marriage to Someone With Anxiety

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My husband deals with so much disappointment due to my illness, but he would never say that or even show it. I know and can see it is true though. When we first met, I would drive from Seattle to Los Angeles by myself to visit him. I haven’t driven a car in the last eight months. My husband and friends drive, or I take the bus or walk whenever I have to go out.

Cupcakes and humor.

When we first started dating, I would fly (even overseas) by myself. Now, when we travel we have to plan the trip around certain times of day (less anxiety), and we have to pack and prepare in ways to try to make the trip as pleasant and as smooth as possible. I almost always am overcome by anxiety at some point in every trip (usually at the airport and on the airplane).

Cupcakes and humor.

I was once so independent compared to how I am now. I was once so social and active. Now, we spend a lot of energy to make sure my life is as stress-free as possible to keep symptoms at a minimum. I stay at home and have minimal stress or interactions during the day. I even limit what I post on social media to avoid confrontation with others (stress).

Cupcakes and humor.

I know my husband would enjoy socializing more, but I will rarely agree to go with him. (Isolating socially is a real symptom of schizophrenia and one that has increased in me every year.) There is so much my husband enjoys that he has given up to help provide me with the kind of environment I need to give me the most symptom-free existence.

Cupcakes and humor.

For all the sacrifices my husband makes, I try to be a supportive partner when I can. Once a month, my husband asks me to make cupcakes because he has taken it upon himself to celebrate the birthdays of everyone in his office. My husband reminds me on the last Monday of every month, “If you feel up to it tomorrow, then can you please make cupcakes?” It wouldn’t matter if I were struggling with my worst symptoms. I would try not to let him down by having the kitchen counter free of the little cakes that help him lift the morale of his coworkers. It is so little to ask of me. In the past six years, I have never once let him down.

Cupcakes and humor.

When I am comfortable, I make up random songs and sing them constantly. I am a terrible dancer, but I love to shake a little booty with absolutely no sense of rhythm while walking from one room to the other in the house. I love to tell a lively story about anything and everything. To make this simple, I love to see my husband break into a belly laugh or at least a big smile, and no one can do that to him the way I can. So yes, it is the simple ingredients that hold even strained marriages together. May I suggest cupcakes and humor?

Image via Thinkstock.

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Kate Allan Designs Comics to Help Motivate People With Anxiety and Depression

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Kate Allan, 27, likes to draw places that don’t exist – fictitious landscapes filled with colorful creatures – worlds where her anxiety and depression can’t reach.

Girl hugging creature mimicking anxiety

For Allan, drawing provides a way of coping with her mental illnesses. The Washington-based illustrator creates brightly colored images featuring motivational quotes that contrast the negative thoughts that come with anxiety and depression. “When I was struggling through a particularly bad depressive episode, drawing cute animals saying nice things like ‘you will survive this’ and ‘speed doesn’t matter, forward is forward’ helped me cope,” she said.

Turtle with "your speed doesn't matter, forward is forward"

To create new quotes, Allan looks within and writes down the words she needs to hear to get through the day. “I feel like I always having difficulty managing something, and so the text nearly always comes from what I need to tell myself that day to get through,” Allan told The Mighty. “I’ve been really anxious lately, so nearly all my captions have been about anxiety.”

Not all of her comics focus on anxiety, other captions preach self-love or provide encouragement through periods of depression like Allan’s favorite illustration – a bird with the caption, “Today is a brand new day, and you are a brand new you. Good luck!”

Bird with quote

“I tend to get stuck in a really negative mindset, and thinking this way — like every day is a new start — helps break me out of it. It’s something that’s continually stayed relevant for me.”

Now Allan, is sharing her illustrations to help others. “I didn’t think drawing things to cheer myself on would be of help to anyone else,” Allan said. “It’s been really nice to connect with people who struggle with the same things.”

Cat with "It's ok to take things on as you feel ready text"

 

Beyond helping people living with anxiety, Allan hopes to help others understand how debilitating anxiety can be. “I just wish for more awareness, that people understood anxiety disorders better,” she said. “An anxiety disorder may not be something that everyone experiences, but I think people can understand what it’s like to feel uneasy about a situation or too afraid to move forward when they can’t predict the outcome. With [generalized anxiety disorder] it’s just that, but all the time and about pretty much everything. What we feel and perceive forms our reality, same as everyone else. Our perceptions are just, unfortunately, a lot more threatening.”

To view more illustrations, check out Kate Allan’s website.

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What I've Learned About Managing Anxiety After a Decade

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I was 15 when anxiety entered my life. It started with the fear of contamination then snowballed into panic attacks and everyday fear about leaving the house. My anxiety became a full blown force in my life when I ended up in the ER multiple times with a heart rate of 160, fear of death and overwhelming feelings about losing control of everything around me. I continued to struggle with anxiety for the next two years before I sought help from a therapist.

Since entering therapy at 17, I’ve done work around learning the roots of my anxiety, coping mechanisms and practicing self-care on a daily basis. I’ve learned a few things over the past decade and wanted to share as they may help you manage your anxiety.

Coping Skills

Learning and using coping mechanisms is necessary for living with anxiety. Trust me, there are days I feel like I am just getting by with anxiety and it’s OK to have those days, but I want to feel good and like I am thriving at work and in my personal life, and the way I do that is using my coping mechanisms. Positive self-talk, exercising and talking to someone about my anxiety, be it a friend or my therapist, are just a few coping skills I use when I start to feel anxious.

Triggers

Moving, career transitions, entering a new relationship and failing health of a loved one are all things that have triggered my anxiety. You may recognize many of them are positive, happy experiences, which they are, but for me even positive changes present challenges for my mental health. Being aware and preparing in advance for known triggers can help ease anxiety.

Move It Out

Therapy, exercise, talking, writing or drawing — whatever it is, moving anxiety out of your body is something I learned is necessary and also helps to prevent future panic attacks or anxiety. Think of it this way: when you have an infection you take antibiotics to get it out of your body. Anxiety is like bacteria; it is something inside your body that needs to be broken up and moved out to feel better.

Self-Care

Forget taking the notion that self-care is only a monthly massage, or self-care is something that can and should wait till your project is done. Self-care is something that needs to be integrated people’s everyday lives. Make it a priority to do something outside your routine every day to take care of yourself. It can be a walk, playing with an animal or buying yourself lunch. It doesn’t have to be extravagant, even five minutes of focusing on just you will help. Whatever it is, as long as it doesn’t harm your body or mind, do it!

Connect

While I was seeing my first therapist, she recommended I check out an anxiety and phobia workbook. After getting through a few sections, I started to realize it wasn’t the worksheets that helped, but reading the introduction stories people shared about their experiences with anxiety is what helped the most. I began to learn other people felt the same way as I did, and I no longer felt I was the only one.

At 26, I’ve lived through over a decade of anxiety, and I will continue to live with anxiety for the rest of my life. Remaining committed to my self-care practice and keeping my coping skills fresh helps me successfully live with multiple anxiety conditions.

Image via Thinkstock.

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