What It Feels Like to Dissociate Because of Anxiety

You feel a familiar pain pierce your heart. Without warning, it swells within you, capturing your breath, caging your stomach with its dull intensity, relentlessly suffocating your heart until you can barely breathe. It feels like the ache of days gone by — the pain of the past arriving to haunt your present.

Suddenly, you feel self-conscious, hyper-aware of the rhythms of your movement. The gentle slap of your feet against the tile seems thunderous to you. You impatiently wait for the storm to subside, seeking out anyone who can rescue you, convinced they are judging you for drowning in your own pain. But passersby remain oblivious to the storm rising within you and threatening to overtake your mind. They move through life with a joviality you desperately emulate as you find yourself sinking without any prospect of rescue.

The world blurs in a nauseating kaleidoscope of color; a penetrating, dissonant cacophony of sound. Laughter becomes too loud. Joyous shouts become menacing. Your heart is racing, beating louder and quicker as if it is seconds away from combustion, but you can hardly hear it over the overwhelm of your surroundings. You fervently attempt to wish it all away — the stark brightness and blaring chatter bearing down on you. Please let this all be over soon.  

You feel disconnected from your own body. You wander aimlessly, purposelessly, your mind unconsciously piloting you. You no longer notice the rhythms of your body, only that you are going through the motions, letting your anxious mind sway you. In your disorientation, you feel lightheaded, like you are floating. Your thoughts are so blurred that they are indistinguishable. Only one nagging thought remains.

Is this reality? This can’t be real.

You begin chiding yourself as if you were a child, wrapping yourself in a mental embrace you fervently hope is warm enough to quell your anxious thoughts. It’s going to be OK. It’s going to be OK. It’s going to be OK.

Slowly, you regain your sense of clarity. The world is no longer a bustling blur of noise and activity. You see people laughing with each other, gently and softly, no longer with the raucous sense of abandon you perceived just a few minutes before. The lights no longer seem harsh and blinding. Your sense of control returns — there is purpose and direction in every stride you take.

You remain shaken by the deception your anxiety has caused, longing to never again experience a disorientation so powerful that it grips your mind, imprisons your thoughts, and refuses to release you. Softly, you whisper, “It’s OK. You’re safe.” And, as your breath falls evenly and your heartbeat grows fainter once more, you slowly begin to believe yourself again.

This post originally appeared on Thought Catalog.

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