The Mighty Logo

Why We Don't Talk About the Anxiety Relapse

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

There are aspects of generalized anxiety disorder that no one talks about. We shout our symptoms from the rooftops, hoping someone will take notice. But we don’t talk about the period of recovery. When we’re better. And today I’m realizing why we self-impose “Fight Club Rules” to our recovery: it’s “The Relapse.”

I’ve been OK for a while. Little bouts of panic, far less anxiety than I’ve had in a decade. All things considered, I have been closer to my pre-anxiety self than I have since I had my first panic attack. It’s been a period of rest and quiet and it’s been peaceful.


Those familiar feelings start seeping back in. Slowly at first: tight chest, sweaty palms. The usual indicators for me that anxiety is on the horizon. But then it goes away. Deep breath — that was a close call! So, I stay quiet; no sense in calling in the cavalry when there’s only been a blip. No social media posts about facing down anxiety once more. No calls to my friends to ask them for advice. No vent sessions about how annoyed I am that I felt anxious. I don’t talk about it again.

But then…

Muscles in my back are tense. My vision’s fish-bowling. I stand up too quickly and I’m dizzy and I stumble. Someone notices. I’m OK; this happens. It’s part of the anxiety life. Sometimes I take a moment to gain my bearings and then it’ll go away. It went away before. Why isn’t this going away? It’s not worth bothering anyone; it’ll pass. It’s been so long, and I’ve been so well, and there are expectations now. I’ve gotten through this once, surely I can get through this again.

And now…

I’m in full-blown panic mode. My throat is tight, I can’t breathe, my blood is cold inside my veins. I consider that this is my first panic attack in months, so maybe it’s not a panic attack. Maybe this is “it” and I need to seek medical care. Then the doom sets in and the panic crashes into me and I’m drowning in it. I’m in full-blown fight or flight, back to where I started years ago.

Because I didn’t talk about what I felt. Because I didn’t think it mattered. Because I thought I was over it and now here I am. And all I can think about is what a gigantic failure I am — even though it’s the furthest thing from the truth. I’m a warrior, but my anxiety won’t let me believe that.

We don’t talk about The Relapse, because we don’t want it to be true.

However, just because the status quo of recovery is Fight Club Rules, it doesn’t mean we should suffer in silence and solitude. If it comes down to your anxiety versus other peoples’ comfort: break. the. rules.

Image created by the contributor using PicsArt

Originally published: January 21, 2020
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home