(I would like to note I’ve never been diagnosed with anxiety. The word “anxiety” is how I describe what I experience in my day-to-day life, and how it affects me. This is my own take of it, based on my experience.)
I have anxiety.
Not life-sapping, soul-wrenching, “I-can’t-leave-my-room-because-anxiety” anxiety. My anxiety is more like, “Oh my gosh, I have that project due tomorrow. What if I do it, and they hate me, what if I can’t do it well enough, and I fail, what if, what if, what if..”
I have what-if anxiety.
Fear is a reaction to a tangible substance. An action, a word, or a robber — that causes a fear reaction.
Anxiety is a reaction to something else entirely:
That’s the nice thing: Typically, anxiety is all in your head.
That’s also the problem: Unfortunately, it’s all in your head.
No one else is experiencing what you’re going through. And it can be really hard to explain, especially to those who think in the physical world, not the mental. How can you explain something that can’t be seen?
It’s something that affects your thoughts, your feelings, and how you perceive and react to the world.
In moments of emotional vulnerability, if I’m not careful and I become too aware of how much I’m sharing — instead of living in the moment and letting myself be open with someone — I can begin to have a panic attack. I get lightheaded, fuzzy minded, shaky, experience shortness of breath and space out. I suddenly feel like I’m not there, and yet I’m very aware of what is going on in my body and how I’m physically feeling.
A lot of things can cause this reaction for me. I get it most when I’m nervous about talking to someone about resolving an issue. My mind phases out, and I feel hollow, my words echoing in a weird way, as if it’s not my own. It’s uncomfortable, because when you’re addressing an issue, it’s most helpful if you can be present. But if your body begin reacts in a way that makes you unable to concentrate, sharing something emotional suddenly becomes frustrating and downright terrifying.
Maybe that’s why I don’t open up to people. I know there’s a chance my anxiety will take over when I want it least, and it’s easier to just pretend everything is okay, then to address an issue. I’m not conflict averse… until my anxiety acts up and tells me I’m not okay.
Let me set the record straight.
Anxiety isn’t a piece of me that needs to be fixed.
My anxiety is a physical and emotional reaction to emotional and mental vulnerability. I’m overthinking the process of sharing, wondering how they’re going to take it when I admit I have a problem. Anxiety makes the problem seem a lot worse than it really is. I get caught up in the unpredictableness of relationships and worry more about how they’ll react to finding out I’m not perfect than realizing that no one is, and they will accept me for who I am.
Anxiety is a pain. I wish I could share with someone and it could come naturally. I could stand strong even when I’m falling apart at the seams. It makes my life difficult.
But in my experience, your friends are more understanding of anxiety than you would expect. Maybe they don’t know what it means for you. Maybe they don’t understand why you shut down when you try to open up. They may not understand that it’s because you’re internalizing and trying to avoid a scene, and not because you’re being cold and distant towards them.
Here are how my thoughts go:
“I don’t want to react like this, so I’m going to shut down. Then my body can’t do this.
My mind can calm down if I just check out from my emotions.”
But therein lies the problem.
You can’t help anxiety if you can’t feel your emotions.
Checking out is the way to avoid anxiety. If you just space out, you won’t have a panic attack.
But that’s a problem.
You’re living a half life, maybe even a double life, if you’re separating your emotions from your whole self. Maybe that’s the best way to deal with them, you tell yourself. Pretending they’re not there, or trying to find a way around them. Thinking of something logical.
But emotions aren’t logical. They come and go.
And there you go:
Anxiety comes and goes.
It’s not constant. But you never know when it might strike.
It has a date with you, and it won’t miss it. Problem is, you don’t know the time and place of this date. It will just happen, and anxiety crashes in on your party parade.
But you can fight it.
Yeah, having an anxiety attack may cause a scene in the bar, but it’s worth it.
Fighting anxiety is the way to defeat it.
And fighting it looks different to everyone.
Fighting anxiety is holding my cat.
Drinking a cup of tea.
Hugging a friend.
Sharing a smile with a stranger.
Laughing because the world can be funny.
Taking pictures because nature is beautiful.
Finding comfort in my Lord Jesus because my strength always fails.
Because only because of Him I am fighting anxiety.
I am finding my identity in Him, and not my anxiety.
Fighting anxiety is finding happiness in the little things.
Using the skills God gave me to make my day a little better.
Because sometimes taking a photo keeps the dread away.