It’s difficult to explain to people how I feel when even I don’t know how I feel, it’s even more difficult to explain anxiety when you don’t know why you’re anxious. I get that everyone feels anxious once in a while, it’s normal. People get anxious because of a test they have to write or because of a problem they’re faced with at work or they have to make a big decision, that’s a normal emotion.
“Anxiety disorders are a group of mental illnesses, and the distress they cause can keep one from carrying on with life normally.”
So basically, anxiety disorders are different and hence they tend to make us (when I say “us”, I’m referring to myself and anyone else who has some kind of anxiety disorder) different. And I just want to be clear and mention that there are different kinds of anxiety disorders.
- Panic disorders
- Social anxiety
- Specific phobia’s
- Generalized anxiety disorder
With all these different kinds of anxiety disorders, there are also different causes and effects. General anxiety disorder is a deep and excessive feeling of unrealistic worry and tension. I don’t even need a real reason whether big or small in order to feel anxious. The worst part about an anxiety disorder is the physical toll it sometimes takes when it occurs. Things like:
- Sleep problems
- Fear, pain, irritable bowel movement
- Not being able to stay calm or still
- Cold, sweaty, numb or tingling hands or feet
- Shortness of breath
- Dry mouth, heart palpitations
- Tense muscles
I remember back in High School when I was in Matric. My 2nd term report was absolutely horrific. I’m talking red lines and red marks everywhere! It was bad, Michael Jackson bad! (I really hope you guys got the Michael Jackson joke because I’m in tears laughing at my own joke right now). I remember my parents calling me into their bedroom to discuss the report and they very angrily expressed how disappointed they were, I instantly felt dizzy and nauseas and had to run out and throw up. All that anxiety about my term report came rushing in and it was a disaster.
Anxiety is a very tricky disorder. It’s also very funny to understand when it’s happening. Sometimes it happens briefly and other times it takes you for the whole week. Sometimes I wake up feeling an immense pain and I don’t know where it is, I wouldn’t even be able to point it out if ever I was asked to. It’s a draining emotional sort of feeling that just weighs heavily on you randomly. General anxiety disorder is even worse because you don’t just worry and stress about one thing but about everything. Everything starts to matter. It’s literally a feeling of, EVERYTHING MATTERS RIGHT NOW, RIGHT THIS SECOND, YOU CARE ABOUT EVERYTHING, YOU HAVE TO FIX EVERYTHING, YOU MIGHT DIE! and then it just keeps going on and on until you calm yourself down somehow.
I used to think I could tell when it’s hit me but I was wrong. You know, sometimes I don’t even want to wake up in the mornings. Not in a suicidal way or a lazy way like normal people feel. I’m talking about an intense feeling of not wanting to wake up and live life because I’m worried about what the day has to offer. I’m stressed about seeing people, I’m stressed about whether or not my friends are really my friends or they just tolerate me, I’m stressed about whether or not I can be someone kind and nice, I’m worried about whether or not I will be successful, If I’m worthy and a lot of other seemingly insignificant things. It’s just a ton of things I have no reason to worry about and yet I’m almost in tears because I’m so anxious.
Here’s the cherry for me, and it’s crazy as well. I’m an extrovert, and I’m always expected to be happy, outgoing, bold and just easy chilling. It’s so tough being an extrovert and having anxiety because even when I’m not up for it, I have to act normal. I have to put on a brave face, laugh, crack jokes, break the ice, be bold and be outgoing – even when all I want to do is huddle in a corner and cry. I’m constantly unsure if my extroverted personality is making people feel uncomfortable, if it’s coming across as forward or if I’m being invasive. My personality and the anxiety are always at war. I have all these thoughts that worry me and I also have to be the extrovert. Normal worry is healthy and it last a few days maximum, anxiety worry is uncomfortable and can last every day for 6 months. Imagine being worried about something/s every single day for the next 6 months? Yep. Here are some examples of things that I’m anxious about every single day when I wake up:
- Being late
- Walking straight
- Things I said 2yrs ago or more
- Being around too many people (too many male people mostly)
- Wondering if the people around me are talking about me
- People touching me (my sister calls this “skin-to-skin)
- Being yelled at
- Being lied to
- Failing at life
- Everything I do, every action
Imagine being worried about these things all day, every day like you’re getting paid to. It’s also an extremely underwhelming feeling in a sense that when it happens – it all happens in your head. Sometimes I just want to be left alone, I don’t want any texts or phones calls. I just want to be left alone to think some of these worries away and then when I am alone I start to worry if I’ll be alone forever and that starts to stress me out too, it’s a vicious thought process that must be overcome every single time. And I do, I overcome every single time. Because if I ever let anxiety get in my everyday living, I’d never leave the house, have friends, eat, poop, celebrate and feel the joy of being alive. It’s a challenge that must be faced head-on by:
- Seeing the good in your life
- Noticing when it hits you
- Doing something that makes you happy or feel better
- Stop judging yourself
- Breathing in and out
- Reminding yourself that it only feels like it hurts but it really doesn’t
- Staying in the present moment
- Talk to someone about something you enjoy talking about
You don’t have to control your thoughts, you just have to stop letting them control you.