I’d be lying if I said I haven’t been petrified of sharing this for over the past two months…I originally wrote this over 2 months ago when my anxiety had been at it’s highest for months…
Anxiety, we've all heard of it, and a lot of us have experienced it. But for those who haven't, consider yourself a lucky one.
The simpliest yet not the most accurate way to describe anxiety according to Medical News Today is: "Anxiety is a general term for several disorders that cause nervousness, fear, apprehension, and worrying. These disorders affect how we feel and behave and can cause physical symptoms. Mild anxiety is vague and unsettling, while severe anxiety can seriously affect day-to-day living."
I suffer from severe anxiety. Well, I did when I first wrote this. Now, I am a survivor.
I am choosing to speak about it, even though it is personal, but it's real, + I know there are a lot of you out there that feel as I did and sometimes still do. Unfortunately people who do not have anxiety tend to not be able to even grasp the concept of it, how we feel, what we go through, + that it's just simply hard to deal. Because anxiety feels like there is a voice in the back of your mind telling you that everything is not okay, when everything in fact is. At least most of the time it is OK.
Let's get to some stats + facts:
How many of us are truly affected by anxiety? According to anxietycentre.com:
"Anxiety Disorders affect 18.1 percent of adults in the United States (approximately 40 million adults between the ages of 18 to 54). - National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).
Current estimates put this number much higher - approximately 30 percent - as many people don't seek help, are misdiagnosed, or don't know they have issues with anxiety.
Anxiety has become the number one mental health issue in North America. It's estimated that one third of the North American adult population experiences anxiety unwellness issues."
Now, that's a good chunk of us all suffering and trying to manage. So what is anxiety? How does one suffering feel?
The best way I can describe my anxiety is that it's debilitating. It feels like a constant heaviness in my mind, like something isn’t quite right, although oftentimes, I don’t know exactly what that something is. My anxiety progressively worsened and made me feel so agitated that for over 6 months but ended over 2 months ago, the people or environment I was surrounded by every day professionally, was actually the cause of it all. One very small thing could make me snap and indeed it did. One day, I just snapped without realizing that I had reached my breaking point. This could be perceived as me looking like a "bad” person and from a professional standpoint, it may not look great either. But, I was unraveling. I felt at the time that I sincerely was not going to make it out alive. I had to save myself. I needed to and wanted to so I could find peace and happiness within myself.
There are triggers to one's anxiety and for me, sometimes I recognize them and sometimes I don't. I do my best to avoid the triggers that I am aware of because trust me, healthy avoidance is sometimes my only solution to dealing with my anxiety.
Triggers can be all sorts of things - the environment you're surrounded by, someone’s unique personality and character traits, certain noises and tones, and the list can go on. Unfortunately, I can't always avoid the aforementioned triggers. I realized a couple months ago that a big trigger of mine was in professional life pertaining to a certain person whose constant actions and words over-stimulated me and severely overwhelmed me. In my work environment, I was stuck interacting and seeing this person everyday and I could not escape them. SO, I must cope, right? That's debatable. Back then, I honestly couldn't with the specific situation I was in but today, I'm working on my coping mechanisms and improving day by day.
Okay, so, I just sound easily annoyed, right? Maybe I was, maybe I wasn't. All I know is that two months ago, I was so mentally overwhelmed and over stimulated in a way that I couldn’t control my thoughts, behaviors or physical reactions to it. It was, in fact, debilitating beyond my control.
Anxiety feels like there is acid in your stomach, burning and eating away at the emptiness, yet taking away any feelings of hunger. It’s like a tight knot that I can’t unwind.
Anxiety feels like my mind is sizzling and burning. It makes me overthink and over analyze every little, irrelevant and relevant thing. Sometimes, it makes me feel restless + invariably distracted. It feels as if every thought is running wild in a million-trillion different directions, running into each other along the way.
With my anxiety, I tend to feel exhausted but my mind won't shut off. Every little thing is consistently being analyzed and agonized over.
Other times, I feel detached as if my mind has just gone blank and that I am no longer present. During these times, I tend to dissociate and feel as if I've left my physical self.
+ sometimes, there are panic attacks...
"A panic attack is the abrupt onset of intense fear or discomfort that reaches a peak within minutes and includes at least four of the following symptoms:
Palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate
Trembling or shaking
Sensations of shortness of breath or smothering
Feelings of choking
Chest pain or discomfort
Nausea or abdominal distress
Feeling dizzy, unsteady, light-headed, or faint
Chills or heat sensations
Paresthesia (numbness or tingling sensations)
Derealization (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (being detached from oneself) Listen to this podcast.
Fear of losing control or “going crazy”
Fear of dying"
(Sourced from adaa.org)
Doesn't sound so great, right?! If this is what it feels like, then what's next?
How does the world tend to perceive anxiety and all that it is? I feel that in today's society, having feelings are bad a burden, therefore, you should isolate yourself. Meanwhile, anxiety is making everyday tasks incredibly difficult, even when it comes to making simple decisions.
What did I do 2 months ago when my anxiety was crippling in my certain situation? I used the following practices:
Identify the trigger of my anxiety.
Avoid your triggers.
Can't avoid it? BREATHE. (I know it sounds too simple, but it really does help).
Leave the room/area of said trigger.
Take a few minutes to yourself, vent it out with someone if possible.
Try to put your focus elsewhere, something you enjoy, or even work.
Go somewhere private + just cry it out. Cry so hard.
If you need even more help, seek a Doctor. THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THIS.
Look into mild anti-anxiety medications, for some people, anti-depressants also helps their anxiety.
If you do take medicine, take it every day as administered + give it time to work.
Most medications typically take 2-4 weeks to start working.
What else did I end up doing to survive? I had to leave my job at the time and move onto a new and better job opportunity.
Where I was working affected my everyday interactions, even in my personal life and day-to-day relations with other people. NOTHING WAS WORKING. It got to a point where I took the mildest form of anti-anxiety medication in the hopes of being able to cope and eventually feel better. My anxiety was never going to improve if I stayed in the same unhealthy environment. I wasn't myself. I was unraveling, loosing too much weight and snapping at people. I learned then that the environment wouldn't change and therefore, I had to change my setting.
This damsel in distress saved herself and I finally moved on. Sometimes the grass really is greener on the other side. I can’t tell you enough how leaving my old job and negative environment was the best decision that I've made for myself. Looking back, I wish I had done it sooner instead of suffering for as long as I did. From this experience, I learned a lot and I am incredibly happy where I am now in my professional life and with managing my anxiety. I no longer suffer from anxiety to the extend that I did. I no longer take medication which is a good thing. I feel more like my true self.
Am I cured? No. Am I working on it every day? 100% Yes. My anxiety is a never ending battle, however, I know that it is not the end of the world. I will escape my anxiety one day. It doesn't have to last forever.
xx Happy Ashe
a woman whose happy now, casually taking smiley selfies in public bathrooms.