What It Feels Like When Anxiety Comes to Stay


It has been a while, but my old friend, Anxiety, has come to stay again. Oh yes, she has come for a visit every now and again but normally only fleetingly. It has been quite some time since she arrived with her bags packed and demanded room and board.

I wish she would leave, but it really feels as though anxiety has settled in for now, and the most irritating thing is that there is no reason for her to be here. These past few days have been some of the best I have had in a long time. Physically, I am feeling well, my pain levels are managed and low. Emotionally, I am positive and well on track in my recovery journey. There is nothing to worry about, and that means there is everything to worry about.

With nothing going wrong, my anxiety has launched a full investigation into what could possibly go wrong. That calm and peace I was feeling emotionally has dissipated into the fear of the unknown, and while the pain is managed, the racing heart and nausea that comes as part of the anxiety package deal is now in place. The excitement of children home from holidays, the busyness of a full house, the loudness of generators and vacuum cleaners and the dog running frustratedly around the house have turned into threats in lieu of any real danger.

The familiar feelings that come along with a panic disorder have returned. My heart is racing while I lay on my bed. My chest feels tight, as though my lungs are becoming frozen with fear. It hurts to breathe. The ribs that protect my inner organs feel as though they are squeezing in on them, shrinking and crushing me. Is it possible that my throat is closing? It feels as though I can’t swallow!

I get up and try to walk, to ease the racing of my mind, but my head spins and I feel as though I might pass out. My legs feel like jelly and my hands are shaking from the adrenaline coursing through my veins. My stomach is churning. I feel as though I may be violently ill at any moment, and there is a pressure in my head that I can only describe as being uncomfortable and worrisome. Everything feels too loud, too bright, too fast.

I have bitten at my nails and chewed on my lips. I have held my breath until things seemed to be turning black around the edges. I don’t know what I am doing wrong but nothing seems to be able to end the panicked feeling racing around my body today.

Breathe. Focus. Decompress. I lay myself down on the floor and try to remember to breathe all the way in and all the way out, to focus my mind on counting or grounding, practice mindfulness and calm my heart to a regular pace. I practice self-talk, positively affirming I am not going to be sick, my body is fine, there is nothing to worry about, I am just feeling anxious and it is all going to be OK.

But for every gentle moment I try to evict my familiar friend, she battles harder to stay put. It is upsetting when these things happen, and it can feel like you are failing at recovering. I feel like a failure today while I struggle to understand why I am letting panic take control over my mind and body. 

I feel panicked and overwhelmed, and even more annoyingly, I feel angry at myself for feeling these things when there is no real reason for them! And that is OK, it is perfectly acceptable to fall apart sometimes. We cannot be strong all the time. I am a capable woman and have worked hard to get to this place in my recovery.

I am so afraid this feeling will last, and it is feeding the worry and making me terrified. But the one thing I am trying to remind myself of is this: feelings are not facts.

Today I will rest, tomorrow I will work on evicting my unwanted guest.

Follow this journey on The Art of Broken

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