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Living with anxiety can feel different for each and every person because symptoms of anxiety can be experienced differently. After all, we are all unique in our own ways. Many people who live with anxiety on a daily basis can relate to one another while still adding their own spin on what anxiety feels like to them.
This is my own experience living with anxiety (among other mental health disorders):
I can’t remember a time anymore where feeling anxious about one thing or another hasn’t tainted my daily life. Some days my anxiety is easier to deal with and tame than others. Some days I am so consumed by my anxiety that I feel mentally and physically drained to the point where I can’t get myself to do much other than lay in bed and feel like the walls are closing in around me.
My anxiety lies to me all the time and tries to tell me that those I care about and love the most can’t stand being around me and it tries telling me that nothing I do will ever be good enough. My anxiety makes me think about the worst things that could happen in every situation and makes me believe that something bad is definitely coming and there’s nothing I can do to stop or prevent it.
My anxiety makes me overthink and overanalyze every little thing that gets said to me and has me look for alternative meanings when there usually isn’t anything to read between the lines about because many people say what they mean without having a hidden agenda. But my anxiety tries to tell me that everyone is hiding something.
My anxiety makes me feel horrible about myself to the point where it’s hard for me to say that I even like myself most days. My anxiety knows how to mess with my head and make me sink lower even when positive things are going on in my life.
When I am feeling overly anxious, it’s hard for me to think of most of the coping skills I have learned throughout the years even though I should know them by heart after being diagnosed about 20 years ago. It’s like my mind goes blank and only lets me think about the things that are triggering the anxiety and anything that would be helpful falls in between the cracks. It will take away my ability to focus on just about everything. Even my loved ones and trained mental health professionals can’t always talk sense into me enough to help tame my anxieties and worries once I get lost in my mind.
When I am really anxious, it’s like everything I try to do frustrates me and makes me irritable to the point where I sometimes take it out on those closest to me even though I don’t mean to. And every time I treat my loved ones like shit, it just makes me feel like the worst person in the world and will make me feel like I’m not good enough to receive love and kindness from my friends and family. It’s like I don’t know what I want or need to do. It’s like standing will annoy me and increase my anxiety but sitting will also have the same outcome, so I end up standing there and crying because I can’t seem to make simple decisions unless someone else is telling me what to do.
I get anxiety and panic attacks on a regular basis. When I am in the middle of an attack, I usually end up crying hysterically and hyperventilating and it will feel like I am dying and like the panic will never come to an end… I can’t see things getting better during an attack. Sometimes, when my attacks are really bad I even dissociate and then it’s like someone else has taken over the wheel and I am locked in the trunk of a car on some crazy ass joyride.
Panic attacks can last anywhere from seconds to hours and the longer you are in one, the more and more you may start to feel like you would do or try anything just to get these feelings to finally stop. When you’re in the middle of an attack, that’s all you can think about… how horrible you are feeling and the intrusive thoughts and feelings that led to the attack.
My worst episode of attacks lasted an entire day. I would have panic attack after panic attack, and the brief breaks I got between episodes only made me panic more and worry that the attacks would never come to an end especially by like the 8th hour of back to back attacks. So I would sulk and just anxiously wait for the next attack to hit me. That day I thought about seriously taking my own life just to get the anxiety and attacks to go away because nothing else was helping and each attack made me sink deeper into a depressive episode. The attacks didn’t end until the next morning when I decided to use a massive amount of medical marijuana because nothing else was helping by that point.
Anxiety and excessive worrying can go hand-in-hand for me. I worry about everything and everyone that I care about. My worries don’t even always hold any real logic but will still effect me negatively anyway. I am always worried about bad things happening to my loved ones so I tend to obsessively call or text certain people in my life just to make sure they are okay. Especially if I know they were out driving around, I will ask my friends and family to let me know as soon as they get home otherwise I start to worry that they got into an accident or broke down somewhere.
I tend to drive those closest to me insane with my never-ending piles of anxieties and worries. Everyone is always trying to break through my anxiety riddled brain in order to try to help me think using logic and not just emotion, but I can be hard to get through to when my anxiety level is high. And because I know I drive my loved ones insane with everything that can trigger my anxiety, my anxiety-fueled mind will tell me how annoying I am and that everyone wishes I would disappear.
My anxiety makes me feel embarrassed and ashamed about some of the things that I will say or do because of how anxious I can get. I feel like I don’t always have control over myself. I feel like I can’t control my thoughts and emotions all the time. Living with an anxiety disorder every single day of my life gets draining. It’s exhausting worrying about things that are out of my control.
When I try to talk myself down once my anxiety is in full swing, for every positive thought I try to create in my head about whatever situation I am in, my mind will always have a negative comeback lined up and I will feel like I just can’t win against something that has such a major hold over my life and mind. It’s a daily battle, and the struggle is real.
Things have been getting a little better the past few months with my anxiety levels…
I still deal with anxiety every single day, but it doesn’t get as severe as it used to as often anymore. I started a different medication combination that has been helpful and (when I can afford it) supplementing with my medical marijuana has helped me learn to tame my anxiety a lot more effectively.
When I have my medical marijuana I can actually function out in society like a normal person. I can go into stores without feeling like everyone is staring at me and judging me. I can ask questions without feeling like a total idiot. I can go out to eat without fearing people judging what and how I am eating. It’s like a breath of fresh air after being pulled under water for years on end and finally being able to inhale and exhale without water filling my lungs.
It took about 20 years before I found the right medications and supplements to help me function better and deal with my anxiety in a healthier manner.
For those who are struggling…
For anyone who struggles with their anxiety every day, you are not alone. We are sick, not weak. Our anxiety will try to lie to us and tell us things that aren’t true. You have to make sure that you have some sort of support for your mental health and wellbeing whether you have close friends and family that you can trust or if you find your mental health support online in the form of support groups. It doesn’t matter how you get support, as long as you have it.
Until a few months ago, I didn’t realize that it was even possible to have my anxiety under better control after struggling with how severe it would get for me for so many years. After you struggle for long enough, hope can start to fade over time and make you feel trapped and doubt that change is possible. But I am living proof that things can get easier to deal with inside your head.
You sometimes have to work closely with a psychiatrist or therapist while trying to find what will help you and your anxiety. If you find something isn’t working well for you, be honest with your mental health care team about how you are feeling. Honesty is the only way that you will be able to make real, noticeable progress.
Medications weren’t my cure all, but finding the right ones sure did help a lot. I still try to use coping techniques like deep breathing or venting to someone close to me when I start to get really anxious. But to this day, every time I find myself in the midst of another panic attack, my mind still goes blank and I can’t think of even the simplest techniques that I have had drilled into my mind over the years. It will take someone recommending a coping mechanism and walking me through how to do it.
Samantha is the author of "My Bipolar Mind: You're not alone," she is also a freelance writer, blogger, and mental health advocate who runs and manages her own mental health blog MyBipolarMind.com.