Having anxiety is like a whole other mind-fuck that decides to creep up on you whenever, wherever. With my return to school, and everything else going on in my life, I’ve been experiencing this more often and it’s been seriously affecting me. I’m so, so happy, but there are times when my mind begins to question everything and I’m stuck in an emotional rut that’s hard to crawl my way out of.
I’ve always struggled with anxiety. This wasn’t something I recognized and was actually diagnosed with until college. Looking back on my childhood, it’s shockingly there: the separation anxiety I had from my mother, the social anxiety I experienced around my peers, the maddening anxiety and “stage fright” I experienced before performing. All of these things I just brushed off as being nervous or part of who I am; in reality, they are. I am an anxious person.
It’s weird being an extrovert who also struggles with anxiety. Most people equate anxiousness with timidness or quietness. For any of you that know me, you know that I’m starkly the opposite of both. I’m loud, I’m exuberant, I’m generally happy when around others. I can public speak like a mofo, I’ve never shied away from social events — I actually need a lot of social interaction in order to function. But all of these things don’t mean that I’m also not experiencing an anxious state at any given time — I’ve just learned how to live with it.
With that being said, sometimes it’s nearly impossible to cope with. I’ve had to leave social events because I felt claustrophobic, unable to breathe, and peaking an anxiety attack. I’ve been brought to tears or vomiting because I get so anxious about something that I literally become sick. I’ve laid in bed for hours, unable to fall asleep, because my mind begins to overthink every little thing going on in my life, my heart-rate shoots up, and I’m unable to calm down enough to rest.
I’ve allowed my anxiety to control me at times: lashing out at others, avoiding people and places, skipping entire situations because I know, before they’ve even begun, that I’ll be anxious.
Living with anxiety is living in a constant state of worry. Worrying about something you said two years ago to someone that made them mad at you. Worrying about things that are so far-off in the future and so far out of your control. Worrying about your relationships with others and what they’re thinking, and assuming the worst of them when they don’t always reciprocate reassurance. It can easily transform itself from making you a “victim”* of anxiety into an antagonist that projects your own fears onto others, all while using your anxiousness as an excuse.
This is something so easy to do. I’m ashamed to say that I’ve done it too many times. While I regularly do things for myself that help lessen my anxiety (yoga, writing, reading), there are times when I literally take my emotions out on others because I’m worried about something — I’ll get hostile and defensive and angry, and over what? My own overthinking.
And I’ve seen how that affects the people around me that I love and care for deeply. It’s taken a complete re-arranging of my own cognitions and a re-enrollment into therapy to try and learn how to manage it.
I was recently talking to my aunt (hey, MB), who said she has been keeping up with my blogs but wanted to make sure my recent happy, go-lucky posts were true reflections of how I’m actually doing. It’s so easy to put on an image for others’ to see and it’s so much easier to share the good than the bad. The truth is, I’m doing great. I’m doing better than I have in a long, long time, but I still wanted to highlight that, though I’m doing amazing, I’m still struggling through things. There are still nights when I lay in bed unable to do anything other than stare at my ceiling, and there are still days when all I want to do is scream and cry, but all of these experiences are allowing me to learn more about myself and better myself with each passing day.
And that’s really all life is: experiences. And what you decide to take from those experiences is what you make of life.
Photo Courtesy of: Ricardo Esquivel via Pexels
*I put quotations around the word “victim” because I believe there’s a lot of stigma and negative connotations with words used to describe mental health. I do not consider myself a literal victim of anxiety, though it does have a significant effect on my day-to-day life. Some people might identify as victims of their mental illnesses, but I choose not to as it relays a feeling of helplessness on my end that I don’t like to feed into. For me, word association is a big part of bettering myself, so I actively don’t describe myself as a “victim” so I can take a more proactive stance on my own mental health. It’s a personal choice. I use the word in quotations, though, to get my point across in that particular paragraph.
Note: I have written many times before on my mental health, including anxiety. If you’re interested, check out my selected blogs below for more insight into my struggle with mental health.