So awhile ago I wrote about having depression in your 20s and the response I got was amazing! I didn’t do it for myself. Instead, I wanted to give others the confidence to admit what they are going through and not be ashamed. I struggle with depression that’s pretty minor compared to how prominent my anxiety is. I know lucky me, right? Depression and anxiety? I’m basically collecting them all.
What’s it like to have anxiety? It’s one of those things that is difficult to explain unless you have been through it yourself. However, I think it’s important to try and explain what it’s like so people around you, your friends, your family and your loved ones are sympathetic, and more importantly, understand you aren’t your anxiety. It’s just a part of you.
Everyone’s anxiety is different. I’m going to explain mine. What better way to write this than now, when I’m having a rough week of anxiety attacks.
Have you ever woke up from a night of heavy drinking, where you can’t remember what you’ve done the night before? Did you dance on a table, say something silly or just be a drunken mess? You know that panic you go through where you imagine every bad possible outcome? Well, that’s what it’s like to have anxiety, but intensify it by 10 and having it 24/7.
1. Anxiety attacks are sporadic and seemingly without reason.
My anxiety can come at any time in the day. Sometimes, I don’t have it for weeks at a time. Then, bam! Anxiety attack. A constant stream of tears, hyperventilating and the feeling of being suffocated. I can’t tell you what’s wrong because I don’t know, and I can’t fix it. This is the worst part for your friends and your loved ones because they want to help you. It’s natural, but how can someone help me when I don’t know what sets it off? Sometimes, there is no reasonable explanation for it. Personally, I’m still working on figuring out my trigger.
2. It’s a daily struggle.
On a daily basis, my anxiety means I’m constantly overthinking, but I’m not actually concentrating on anything. Sounds bizarre, right? I can be in work, but I will be on autopilot. Instead, my mind is working at a 100 mph thinking about anything and everything at once. It ranges from random thoughts, such as what shall I do at the gym to what am I doing with my life. It’s exhausting. I used to be the most organized person who would take on as much as I could and get it done no matter what. Now? I forget everything. I find it difficult to concentrate. Instead, I procrastinate like a university student doing exams.
Sleep? That’s a thing of the past for me. I get about three to four hours of sleep a night, and I always wake up at least twice. If on a rare occasion I do sleep, then I’ll wake up with scratches on my face from when I’ve been anxious, I sleep walk or have nightmares.
I’ve got into this bad habit of over exhausting my body and not allowing myself five minutes peace because five minutes to myself just means I end up in my head. Whereas, if I’m constantly busy, then I’m distracting myself. I don’t watch television. I can’t watch films and most of the time, people think I’m ignoring them when I’m not. I’m just thinking about other things. Yet, I’m learning to deal with it. I have found it so helpful to talk about it. Luckily, I have the most amazing friends and family who are supportive and understanding, even during times when I am the worst person to be around.
3. It affects your ability to be “normal.”
“Normal” 20-year-old girls love going out with their friends, working and dating. All these things come so natural for most people. You don’t even think about it. You just do it. Social anxiety is a b*tch. It’s so easy to cancel plans and stay “comfortable” in your own surroundings. No one can judge you there, right? You’re safe. Nothing can set you off. That’s what I tell myself anyway.
My friends are understanding when I cancel on them now, but my best friends make the effort to get me out of my comfort zone. Something I’m always grateful for. Dating? Well that’s is a no go for me. I recently found someone who understood what I was going through and was so supportive of my episodes.
And what did I do? I pushed him away of course. In my mind, no one wants to date that girl with anxiety, right? I made things so much harder than they should have been. I wasn’t honest about how bad my anxiety is, and I couldn’t control it. I don’t blame him for walking away, and I don’t blame myself for the way I am.
4. Music helps create a blank space during anxious moments.
As cheesy as it sounds, music is my little savior. It’s the only time I can get out of my head, stop thinking and instead focus on the words. My song lyric knowledge is impeccable. If I ever feel anxious, then I put my headphones in, whether it’s to sleep, in work or at the gym. Headphones on. World out.
I have anxiety, but I’m not my anxiety.
Image via Thinkstock.
This story originally appeared on The Law Foodie.