LIVING WITH AN ANXIETY DISORDER
You're in pain.
Emotional and mental, sometimes even physical, but you don't know why. Just that you are.
Your brain is screaming at you. It is always running at 1000kms/sec and it won't quieten down. The noise in your mins is both deafening and suffocating at the same time.
All you want, is for it to stop.
Even for a couple of minutes so you can have some respite.
Having an anxiety disorder is not the same as feeling anxious. Feeling anxious is a normal emotional reaction to a stressful or uncomfortable situation. It is something that we all feel occasionally. Often occuring when we are overly stressed. According to Medical News Today, "Anxiety disorders form a category of mental health diagnoses that lead to excessive nervousness, fear, apprehension, and worry."
It is an excessive reaction to present and future situations causing symptoms such as increased blood pressure, heart palpitations, excessive worrying, contsantly feeling on edge, increased irritability, insomnia and crying (sometimes uncontrollably).
Anxiety disorders tend to present differently in different people, because of course each of our brains is wired differently. I have a high functioning anxious disorder, which means if you had to look at me from the outside without knowing it, I look like someone who "has their shit together." You couldn't be more wrong if you tried. I am constantly doing, busy, overachieving, and striving for perfection. Anything to stop me from thinking about or feeling what is going on inside my head; because when I do - oh it is bad. That is why insomnia is an anxiety's BFF, you can't get your brain to quieten down, no matter how much you try. You can't turn it off, it is always ON, with the volume turned all the way up. Always.
It is usually due to this that you eventually fall apart, which is when you have a severe anxiety attack. It is out of sheer mental and physical exhaustion. This is when things get rough. You cry uncontrollably for hours for no apparent reason, hyperventilate and basically fall apart. The thoughts get louder and louder until they are screaming at a full crescendo in your mind.
Well meaning friends, family members and even Doctors will tell you that they 'understand how you feel' and that 'we all feel overwhelmed sometimes'. Do you now? Really? Do you live in constant fear of the obsolete and irrelevant? Do you panic at the slightest disarray, do you lie awake night after night worrying about everything and nothing all at the same time? I didn't think so. We don't all go through this. Chances are you have no idea what kind of little mental hell this is unless you're actually experienced it for yourself. Normal people worry about money, work, their kids, their marriages, you know - normal stuff. Anxious people worry all day, every day about even the most mundane things like, 'Why is the door ajar? Who left it like that? What kind of a person does that?'It is not a reaction to some happenstance, it lives with you constantly, in your head, and your entire body. It is not renting an apartment in the building, it owns the entire block.
Find Out What's Causing Your Anxiety
The best thing you can do for yourself is figure out what your particular anxiety is triggered by. What makes it worse, and what helps keep it under control. Then do that, religiously. I discovered the other night, after a particularly bad episode and not being able to sleep AGAIN, that my anxiety is mostly caused by my need to attain perfection and to not disappoint anyone I love to care about. I want to be the perfect wife, mother, daughter, friend, student, runner, get a degree, be fitter, cook well, speak another language, learn photography, be an instagram phenomenon, and the list goes on... I can't, no one can. It is an impossible feat, and so I get anxious, because I feel as though I am letting everyone, including myself down. Then comes fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of the uncontrollable.
I love hoe people will often say to me, "Don't worry about what you can't control." I want to scream at them - "Don't you think I know that? I'm not an idiot!" That is just how people with an anxiety disorder's brain is. If we could stop worrying about the things we can't control we, trust me we would, in a heartbeat!
Some More Fun Facts
According to research, the best form of exercise for anxious people are:
Right... If you have ever met me, you will know that this is literally my worst nightmare. I am a runner by nature. I live for the pain, challenge and endorphin rush that running provides me. Just thinking about walking makes me anxious. Furthermore, I am superbly crap at meditation (for obvious reasons); yoga - meh, maybe this one I could do; but not everyday and not as my only form of exercise. When I broke my ankle two years ago in an epic horseriding accident, my husband will vouch for the fact that I literally pestered my doctor on a daily basis about when I could start running again. I literally run to get away from the thoughts in my head. Imagine being left alone with them for six whole weeks!
I did eventually find a way to meditate. There is an amazing Indian Guru, Sadhguru, who's voice somehow has the ability to calm me. I've added the link here to one of his meditative talks in case you'd like to try it out.
Another problem with anxiety is that you feel guilty and as though you're a burden on those around you, especially when you have an attack.
You feel as though you're broken and you need to be fixed. You aren't, and you don't (I'm still trying to convince myself of this one). There is no cure, you can't be 'fixed', it just is what it is. You have to manage your anxiety as best you can.
Learning to Cope Better (Things That I Found Helpful)
One of the techniques I learnt from reading Sarah Wilson's 'First We Make The Beast Beautiful' (which I highly recommend for anyone with anxiety as well as those who have a loved one with it) is to accept that this is a part of me. Sarah describes a technique of sitting on a bench with yourself and giving yourself a hug and listening to yourself talk about what is making you anxious. A way of 'checking in' with oneself as such. I have found this extremely helpful in the recent weeks post recent main episode.
1. Reading up on my condition (especially Sarah's book).
2. Limiting Caffeine.
3. Listening to Sadhguru.
4. Saying 'no' when I can't cope.
5. JS Health Vitamins PM vitamin with lavender & magnesium has really helped me sleep better.
6. A diet free of inflammatory foods.
The best advice I can give you is to be gentle with yourself. When you're doing okay, keep going, slow down when you need to, take time when you need to, try to gain some balance in your life. When you aren't coping, try to learn to be okay with that too. Love yourself through the difficult days too.