Inside an Anxiety Attack: Worrying About Everything, All at Once
I have wanted to write this column for a while, but it’s so hard to find the words to describe anxiety attacks. It’s even harder to write about this topic when I know that anxiety presents itself differently in everyone, brought on by different triggers that manifest in many ways. Add in that these topics are taboo in conversation. Yeah, I have anxiety about writing about anxiety, but here we go.
This is what an anxiety attack feels like for me.
I mentioned in a previous column the symptoms and feelings I had when I forgot to take my anti-anxiety medicine one morning. Some of those things included feelings of bees buzzing in my head, my mind swimming with thoughts without any clear focus. I described my body feeling like Jell-O and my head and fingers feeling miles apart as I typed. But there’s more. Inside these moments, my stomach is twisted, a cold, hard knot that seems to sit in my pelvis instead of where your stomach is supposed to sit. My hands get clammy and sweaty. My legs feel heavy. My mouth is filled with extra salvia. Every sound and every movement around me seems 10 times louder than I know it actually is. I feel trapped, even in an open space. I can feel my whole body tense up. I want to run. Sometimes I dry heave. My cheeks flush with embarrassment, even when I’m alone.
Deep down, I think I feel shameful about these attacks. Why do they have to happen to me? I don’t know, but I’ve been trying to come to terms with these experiences since they began more than a year ago, and I started seeking help about two months ago. During these moments, my thoughts are racing with my biggest fears, moving so fast I can’t hold them long enough to analyze or worry about one single thought. So, I worry about all of them, all at once. I think that’s where the real feelings of anxiety stem from — not being able to work out the solution to one problem in the moment, and having the weight of multiple feelings and worries weighing me all at once. (I pray this is making sense to someone.) There’s no reason why my anxiety attacks happen when they do. Yes, I can identify a list of triggers, and I think, as I assume most people do, the things I have anxiety about are realistic. Again, that’s the problem and the reason why I think people like me struggle to deal with anxiety. It’s realistic to worry about how you might pay your bills at the end of the month; it is not realistic to worry about being eaten by a tiger if you don’t live near a zoo. But some people do worry about the tiger; their experience is valid, too. We all are valid. Your fears are valid. There is no worse feeling than feeling trapped within yourself, within your mind. If you’re struggling, I am here for you, and I wish you courage, strength and luck in getting well. Never be afraid to get help. There are resources out there. Click here for a hotline you can text for help. I love you.
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