A seven-letter word that struck me out of nowhere. I can see traits of anxiety in my life before I even knew, but when my anxiety became “a thing,” it took me off-guard.
One night while in bed, I felt a crushing sensation on my chest, shortness of breath, hot and clammy hands and feet and absolutely freaked out over the thought of someone breaking into the house. I knew this wasn’t normal for me.
I spent sleepless nights consistently peering my head out my bedroom window to make sure no one was there. All my senses were alert with any noise I heard. My car — which I had saved up all my money to buy — became a trigger, because I couldn’t bear the thought of my hard work and savings for that car being taken from me. I was checking the front door to make sure it was locked 20 times a night, just in case the last 10 times I checked it wasn’t enough — perhaps I had accidentally knocked the lock the last time I checked and it was now unlocked. These were the outrageous thoughts sweeping through my mind at night. I began to dread nighttime. I hated the thought of coming to the point in the day where everyone was off to bed, the house was dark, and we were meant to sleep.
It then spiraled into my day-to-day life. Leaving the house, driving off before the garage door was down — oh no, better circle back around the block and make sure the garage door came all the way down. Did I turn the hair straightener off? I didn’t use it, but maybe Mum did this morning and she forgot to turn it off, I better go back and check. I can’t be late to anything. I’ll wait half an hour to go through the register and not self-serve because if something with the self-serve goes wrong and someone has to come help me — this is too much.
After becoming severely sleep-deprived while trying to cover all this up, I went to my doctor and said, “I have a problem with anxiety and I need help.” Those were the hardest words to say because never in a million years did I ever think this would be me. That this would be my life.
I can now talk openly about the initial first year of my anxiety and those irrational moments and thoughts I had because I’ve gained some control over it. “Control” seems to be the one thing anxiety doesn’t like; it thrives on having no control. My anxiety is not gone, it never will be, but I can accept that my anxiety is a part of me because it doesn’t take over my life.
I now sleep most of the night, with some hiccups here and there. I can lock the door once and be confident it’s locked. My car can be parked out the front of my house and it’s not a worry for me every night. I still experience my anxiety, but in smaller doses. I feel anxious when I post a letter, hoping that nothing happens to it on the way. When I hear loud wind I hope the roof doesn’t blow off. I feel anxiety when I’m running late or plans don’t run on time. It makes me tired, so bloody tired, 1,000 things running through my head at the same time, two parts of my brain fighting with each other trying to gain control.
It can be a silent struggle as most people are unaware of what is going on in my head. It doesn’t change who I am as a friend, girlfriend, or family member. Instead, my anxiety means I will do absolutely anything I can for those I love, because the thought of not doing enough isn’t an option. My anxiety makes me open-minded as I know everyone has silent chapters we aren’t aware of. It makes me care more for others, strive to achieve great things and it most definitely makes me stronger.
My anxiety doesn’t define me; it’s just a part of me. I am comfortable and confident with who I am now that I have some control back over my life. I think it’s important I talk about it because there are many others who are probably lying in bed at night — overcome with anxiety — and too scared to ask for help because of judgment.
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