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When Anxiety Makes You Feel Like You're Constantly 'Falling Down the Rabbit Hole'

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Sometimes I think my mind is a rabbit hole. Except, instead of bringing me to adventures with cheshire cats and unbirthday parties, it sends me tumbling into a pit of terror where I’m continually forced to battle with my own personally tailored Queen of Hearts. Perhaps you’ve heard of her. Her name is Anxiety. No matter where I am, she always seems to find me. I can be standing on the crest of the mountain, feeling on top of the world, when suddenly — like Alice — I’m tumbling down, down, down. And no matter how hard I try to stop myself, the spiral keeps on spiraling.

And suddenly, I’m reading online about permanent scar damage from the shingles I had a few months ago and I’m convinced I’ll never like my face again. Or I’m obsessing over a recent social encounter I had, replaying it over and over again in my mind to ensure I did nothing to offend someone. Then again, you might find me drowning in tears over intense feelings of doom I can’t even put a description on. The only thing I know is that constantly I find myself falling down the rabbit hole of my mind.

And although I can tell myself repeatedly the thoughts I’m ruminating on are irrational, that doesn’t change their reality. Because although seemingly illogical, they are my reality. You can tell me however many times you want to “just be happy” or to “let it go” or the ever sound advice to “just breathe,” but that won’t change the overwhelming fear when I find myself once again facing the demons whose control over me seems to scream, “Off with her head!”

And sometimes it feels like they’ve succeeded with that.

When I’m laying in my bed feeling too debilitated by fear to move or clenching my stomach from pain during a panic attack or trying to force my eyes to stay awake when everything is so dark that I just want to sleep to escape it all — it seems like the battle is lost and I might as well accept the defeat. When life gets so overwhelming that there doesn’t seem a point in even trying to survive it all, I find myself echoing the words of Alice when the Cheshire Cat asks her where she wants to go and she responds saying, “I don’t much care where.”

But deep in my heart I know that’s not the truth.

The truth is that I have so many places I want to go and so many things I want to do. There is an infinite amount of hope I have for this life. And that is exactly what the anxiety feeds on. It tells me I can’t go there. I can’t do it. I might as well give up. There’s too much potential for failure, pain, rejection.

Yet the words of the Cheshire Cat are interesting. When Alice asks where she should go, he does’t tell her it depends on where she can go. There is no focus on her perception of where she is capable of going. Rather, he suggests, “That depends a great deal on where you want to go.”

And what if that means my desire to overcome the chains of anxiety is enough to defeat this persistent Queen of Hearts? Maybe it means I still possess the ability to stand up for myself and choose to keep moving forward. Perhaps it means that although I may always find myself falling down the rabbit hole, I don’t have to stay there. I can find the strength to pull myself back up.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Thinkstock photo via Bonne Chance.

Originally published: June 28, 2017
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