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Why I Didn’t Think I Had Anxiety

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It took a long time before I truly believed that anxiety was what I was actually experiencing. I had convinced myself that I was this sickly person, riddled with weird aches and pains, destined to die alone in a curtain-drawn room, cuddled in bed watching movies about people I envied. Every twinge or strange sensation caused my hair to stand up and a prickling feeling up my spine: is it cancer? An aneurysm? Am I dying?

I remember being in the shower one day, washing my hair, only to find a few strands had gotten caught in my hands. Naive to the how cancer and treatment actually work, I convinced myself I had leukemia. I kept all of these struggles to myself. I was a shy, anxious child.

As I got older and I began to experience life, I realized more and more how different anxiety presents itself. I largely internalized my anxiety, rarely hyperventilating or experiencing the chest heaviness that leads most to believe they are having a heart attack. Most of my anxiety caused an overwhelming feeling of losing control, feeling trapped and tunnel vision. If you were to look at me while I was having an anxiety attack, you would never know I was in the midst of a raging internal battle. Because of this, when I searched the internet for anxiety symptoms, I could never completely convince myself I was actually struggling with anxiety because I didn’t have “all” the symptoms.

As I talked more and more openly about my anxiety, I realized that nearly everyone has experienced it at one point in their life and everyone experiences it differently. I’ve known people who lost their ability to swallow, gone completely numb, passed out, projectile vomiting — it’s unbelievable. Anxiety symptoms have such a vast range, which is why many people with anxiety don’t believe they are actually struggling with anxiety. For the hypochondriacs out there, you can convince yourself you are experiencing nearly any illness and even start to exhibit certain symptoms of that illness. I broke out in hives from a high stress response once, and I had a friend who got shingles from severe stress as well.

The moral of the story: Anxiety is different for everyone. Just because you don’t have the traditional signs of anxiety doesn’t mean you’re different; it just means your body responds to the hormone release differently. Another thing to keep in mind is that your symptoms may change over time too. I never used to be dizzy or have a feeling of a “heavy head,” but lately those symptoms have been the most noticeable when I go through a bad bout of anxiety. As with anything anxiety-related, don’t be so hard on yourself. The weird sensations will pass soon enough and you can get back to living normally.

Pexels Photo via Katii Bishop

Originally published: July 2, 2018
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