My Life With Anxiety (Impact, Struggles and Taking Action)

“Anxiety is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained” – Arthur Somers Roche

I first noticed something was wrong at the age of twelve. I remember asking my mother if she ever felt the way I did. I described it as “the feeling you get when you’ve done something bad and you know you’re going to get in trouble, except you’ve done nothing wrong.” I don’t remember her answer, but this feeling continued. I was having very wild mood swings and would get angry and frustrated for what seemed like no reason.

My mother thought it was due to a hormone issue, so she booked an appointment with a doctor. After the appointment, the doctor told us that she would like to have me sit down and talk with someone. I was led to a room with stuffed animals in a basket in the corner and breath mints on the table. I was immediately uncomfortable, as I would go out of my way to avoid interacting with strangers—a habit I now know was a symptom of my anxiety.

The new woman asked me a series of questions; when my mother tried to answer them for me as usual, she asked her to leave the room. This increased my anxiety ten-fold, and I began to bounce my leg—a tic that I developed when those emotions threatened to overwhelm me. She asked if I did that often, as well as a lot more questions, and then brought my mother back into the room.

I remember her mentioning something about an anxiety disorder. The woman told my mother that she doesn’t prescribe medications for someone my age—she didn’t think it would be the best course of action yet—but that she strongly recommended counseling, giving my mom her business card so we could set up an appointment with her. I remember leaving that day feeling nervous, but also relieved. I had a name for it. I wasn’t crazy.

My mother held the woman’s business card between her fingers. “Do you want to go?” she asked. I told her I did, but she never made that appointment.  

My anxiety got worse over the years, but I learned to hide it from others. During attacks, I would go quiet and “space out.” When someone asked what was wrong, I lied and made the excuse that I was just tired. In my teenage years, my mental health was a large source of embarrassment for me. I would talk too fast when my heart started racing, and I would stutter when I felt overwhelmingly nervous.

I felt like others could tell something was wrong with me. “Why are you being so quiet?” was a question I heard often. When my heart started racing, I would breathe really hard, and it felt so loud in my ears; when I was in those quiet classrooms at school, I was paranoid that others would hear it and start asking me if I was okay. I didn’t want any attention brought to it, so  I attempted to deal with it on my own.

When I got married, though, I no longer had to face many of the things that triggered my anxiety because my husband was more than willing to do them for me: driving, making phone calls to pay bills, going grocery shopping, or even ordering pizza. However, as I stopped doing all the things that triggered my anxiety, it actually made the problem worse.

It got so bad that when I was faced with these activities, it would cause a panic attack.

Driving was probably the most stressful of all. The very thought of driving would cause my heart to start racing, pure panic taking hold. My stomach would turn, my body would begin to shiver uncontrollably like I was freezing, except I was hot. So hot, in fact, that my face would become flushed, and my hands weren’t just clammy but would sweat profusely.

The first time this happened wasn’t so extreme. I brushed it off best I could and ventured out anyway. On the way to my destination, I had a panic attack while driving. I started having difficulty breathing and got light headed. Afraid that I was losing control and would pass out at the wheel, I tried to pull over immediately, quickly veering into a nearby parking lot. In my rush, I didn’t see an oncoming car and missed being T-boned by a hair.

I suppose this incident fed my anxiety monster as this is always a memory that resurfaces when I pick up a set of keys. From that moment on, the idea of driving would set in motion a series of alarming thoughts about all that could go wrong. You could die… People die in car wrecks every day… You will leave your family in shambles.

If I had my children with me, the intrusive thoughts would create a paralyzing fear of what could happen to them. Your kids are with you…If you die it will scar your kids for life. What if you have a panic attack and wreck… What if you’re responsible for their deaths? How will you live with yourself? The thoughts were dark indeed and the anxiety used my deepest fears against me.

I knew I needed to seek help, but the thought itself caused me anxiety. They would put me on medications, I assumed. What if I stopped acting like myself? Could the medication cause me to do something crazy? What if I hurt someone?

There was also the issue of my husband, who just didn’t understand my anxiety. “It’s all in your head; mind over matter,” he would say. I felt like others would either see me differently or just not believe me at all. “It’s all in your head” was a phrase I’d heard often throughout my life, not just from my husband.

Sometimes I would have self-doubt, asking myself if the racing pulse, jittering, and panic attacks were something I was doing to myself. Riling myself up. Maybe it is all in my head.

I started becoming depressed. I would sit around and think about all the things that normal people get to do. I would think about the effects it had on others. If I wasn’t obsessing over my anxiety, I was sleeping. I found it hard to get out of bed. I was a burden to my husband. I stopped playing with my children. It took everything I had just to get up and pick up the house. The dishes started to pile up.

My daughter started picking up on my sudden change in personality and began to constantly ask if I was okay. I was worrying her, and it made me feel guilty. It’s not a child’s job to worry about a parent. I reached a point where I just had enough. This is what finally pushed me to do something about it after all these years. At this point, I didn’t care what I needed to do—if I had to go on medication, so be it—and I began doing research on anxiety and my options.

Taking Action: What I Learned About Anxiety

The first thing I did was type in “anxiety” into a search engine, and I went from page to page trying to learn as much about this disorder as I could.  I learned that there are many different types of anxiety, and that some are worse than others.

There is day-to-day anxiety, which is normal and not considered a medical concern, like the anxiousness you might feel before a big speech, or the feeling you might get when waiting for some important news. For some, however, this anxiety is felt constantly, or to such a great extent that it impacts their life in large and negative ways; this is when it is classified as a disorder.  

I learned that there are many symptoms that accompany anxiety. Some common symptoms are nervousness, sweating, chest palpitations, and a sense of impending doom. These symptoms are often hard to ignore and can often increase a person’s anxiety, creating a vicious, self-feeding loop.

Being equipped with this knowledge gave me a large amount of power over this hardship. I no longer wondered if every symptom was a fiction that my body was creating. I knew the symptoms and their names, so when they became active I was able to put a name to it and view it as a part of something that I could combat. They were no longer just alien feelings that brought on fear and a sense of helplessness.

Upon consuming article after article about anxiety and the many forms of treatment for it, I realized that medication wasn’t the only thing that could help me. There were so many different ways to help keep it under control that didn’t involve a prescription. There was counseling, breathing and grounding techniques, exercise, and anxiety-reducing diets. There were tips and tricks to reduce anxiety. For Instance, one tip said that before you can even begin to remedy your anxiety you have to stop hiding it. Another said that by avoiding your anxiety stressors it makes your fear them even more.

I realized that all that time I spent avoiding my triggers only fed the anxiety monster and gave it a greater hold on my life. I came across many articles and comments from people experiencing the exact same things as me, and I realized my embarrassment over this mental illness, as well as the feeling that I was alone in it all, was a very large source of my anxiety. Knowing that there were thousands of others like me helped me find the courage to be more open with others about myself.

I stopped hiding my mental state from others. When someone asked me what was wrong, I told them the truth. “I have anxiety. It’s acting up a little bit.” It seems so simple, but it was really hard to admit at first. When someone asked me to meet them somewhere, I didn’t lie my way out of it. “I have anxiety, driving triggers panic attacks for me. Maybe I’ll come when my husband gets home.” I wish I could say that everyone was understanding, but they weren’t; however, surprisingly, most people were.

Life Impacts

I realized that a lot of people have experienced anxiety themselves, or have a family member who’s struggled with it. Most that weren’t familiar with anxiety in some way were curious about it and just wanted to understand. Unfortunately, though, I’ve had family members take it personally and assume I’m lying—or overreacting—as if I’m trying to get out of seeing them. I ignore this. I will admit, however, sometimes it bothers me, but I know that I’ve done what I can and that their reactions to it are out of my control. In all honesty, if they can’t be supportive, then they don’t really deserve my time.

My husband had a very big role in my anxiety for a time. He didn’t understand. He’s one of those people who likes to tackle things head on. He would try to be encouraging, but he went about it the wrong way. He would try to push me out of my comfort zone, and while leaving my comfort zone was exactly what I needed, it needed to be on my own terms and at a very slow pace. I realized instead of educating him, I pushed him away and closed myself off.

It took a large toll on our marriage, as my anxiety was non-stop. It was a constant issue that we argued about daily. It took a lot of self-reflection to understand that a big part of our challenges on the issue was my own doing. I had expected him to understand something that took me years to wrap my head around. Through this realization, I made a change—I taught him about it, I showed him the research, I described how it felt, I told him how to help me, and I opened up—and something amazing happened.

He became so supportive, and he did everything he could to help me with it. Still to this day, he is my greatest ally. All that time, and all I had to do was open up.

A lot of my anxiousness stemmed from obsessing over how my mental disorder affected others. Mostly, my husband and my children. I hated the fact that I couldn’t drive to the park on a nice day so they could play. My children would beg to go out and I would have to tell them to wait until their father got home. I felt like my anxiety not only chained me to the house, but my kids as well, and it made me feel like a failure as a parent.

I worried that long-term exposure to my anxiety would make them anxious to go out in the world, and it really bothered me. I didn’t want to contribute to their own anxiety, which has caused so much heartache and trouble in my own life.

My anxiety affects my ability to make friends, as I have difficulty speaking to new people. It also affects my ability to be self-reliant, as driving is still an issue for me, though a lot less of an issue than it once was. When I’m overwhelmed with stress or go into sensory overload, it makes me snap at loved ones who really don’t deserve it, which can cause tension in my relationships. It negatively impacts my life in a lot of ways still, and realistically, probably always will. I won’t let it win though. Giving up isn’t an option, it won’t make it better. Giving up will only make the symptoms worse.

Life With Anxiety (Moving Forward) 

Through a lot of research and listening to my body, I have decided to go down the path of no medications. Personally, I don’t want to add chemicals into my body that I can’t even pronounce if there is an alternative, and I’m confident that I can get a handle on my anxiety without medication. To clarify, I’m not against medication, I just don’t think that it’s the best thing for me at this moment in time.

Facing my triggers head on and being open about my mental disorder with others has really made a difference in the severity of my anxiety. I’m taking small steps. As far as driving is concerned, I started with only driving short distances with my husband in the car, then long distances with him in the car, and now I can drive short distances by myself. It’s a very large improvement considering last year I couldn’t even think about getting in the driver’s seat without having a full-blown panic attack.

I still have random bouts of anxiety that seem to come to a head without any triggers at all. I’ve found removing myself from that area, or taking long cleansing breathes can put an end to that very quickly. It’s still a struggle for me, and I’m still finding new things to implement into my life to help deal with it. It’s not easy in the least, but it’s progress.

If you or someone you know is impacted by an anxiety disorder, or even think that you/they may be impacted, I encourage you to research it. Share this article, type it into a search engine, go see a doctor and ask them about it. Don’t do what I did. Don’t close your eyes and hope it will disappear. Once you get it confirmed and understand it, you need to learn to accept it.

It’s a part of you. It may not be your favorite part, but it is a part of who you are, and nothing good will come from rejecting a part of yourself. You may be different, but that is okay. Those that care will try to understand, and those that won’t were never worth the worry in the first place.

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My Life With Anxiety (Impact, Struggles and Taking Action)

“Anxiety is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained” – Arthur Somers Roche

I first noticed something was wrong at the age of twelve. I remember asking my mother if she ever felt the way I did. I described it as “the feeling you get when you’ve done something bad and you know you’re going to get in trouble, except you’ve done nothing wrong.” I don’t remember her answer, but this feeling continued. I was having very wild mood swings and would get angry and frustrated for what seemed like no reason.

My mother thought it was due to a hormone issue, so she booked an appointment with a doctor. After the appointment, the doctor told us that she would like to have me sit down and talk with someone. I was led to a room with stuffed animals in a basket in the corner and breath mints on the table. I was immediately uncomfortable, as I would go out of my way to avoid interacting with strangers—a habit I now know was a symptom of my anxiety.

The new woman asked me a series of questions; when my mother tried to answer them for me as usual, she asked her to leave the room. This increased my anxiety ten-fold, and I began to bounce my leg—a tic that I developed when those emotions threatened to overwhelm me. She asked if I did that often, as well as a lot more questions, and then brought my mother back into the room.

I remember her mentioning something about an anxiety disorder. The woman told my mother that she doesn’t prescribe medications for someone my age—she didn’t think it would be the best course of action yet—but that she strongly recommended counseling, giving my mom her business card so we could set up an appointment with her. I remember leaving that day feeling nervous, but also relieved. I had a name for it. I wasn’t crazy.

My mother held the woman’s business card between her fingers. “Do you want to go?” she asked. I told her I did, but she never made that appointment.  

My anxiety got worse over the years, but I learned to hide it from others. During attacks, I would go quiet and “space out.” When someone asked what was wrong, I lied and made the excuse that I was just tired. In my teenage years, my mental health was a large source of embarrassment for me. I would talk too fast when my heart started racing, and I would stutter when I felt overwhelmingly nervous.

I felt like others could tell something was wrong with me. “Why are you being so quiet?” was a question I heard often. When my heart started racing, I would breathe really hard, and it felt so loud in my ears; when I was in those quiet classrooms at school, I was paranoid that others would hear it and start asking me if I was okay. I didn’t want any attention brought to it, so  I attempted to deal with it on my own.

When I got married, though, I no longer had to face many of the things that triggered my anxiety because my husband was more than willing to do them for me: driving, making phone calls to pay bills, going grocery shopping, or even ordering pizza. However, as I stopped doing all the things that triggered my anxiety, it actually made the problem worse.

It got so bad that when I was faced with these activities, it would cause a panic attack.

Driving was probably the most stressful of all. The very thought of driving would cause my heart to start racing, pure panic taking hold. My stomach would turn, my body would begin to shiver uncontrollably like I was freezing, except I was hot. So hot, in fact, that my face would become flushed, and my hands weren’t just clammy but would sweat profusely.

The first time this happened wasn’t so extreme. I brushed it off best I could and ventured out anyway. On the way to my destination, I had a panic attack while driving. I started having difficulty breathing and got light headed. Afraid that I was losing control and would pass out at the wheel, I tried to pull over immediately, quickly veering into a nearby parking lot. In my rush, I didn’t see an oncoming car and missed being T-boned by a hair.

I suppose this incident fed my anxiety monster as this is always a memory that resurfaces when I pick up a set of keys. From that moment on, the idea of driving would set in motion a series of alarming thoughts about all that could go wrong. You could die… People die in car wrecks every day… You will leave your family in shambles.

If I had my children with me, the intrusive thoughts would create a paralyzing fear of what could happen to them. Your kids are with you…If you die it will scar your kids for life. What if you have a panic attack and wreck… What if you’re responsible for their deaths? How will you live with yourself? The thoughts were dark indeed and the anxiety used my deepest fears against me.

I knew I needed to seek help, but the thought itself caused me anxiety. They would put me on medications, I assumed. What if I stopped acting like myself? Could the medication cause me to do something crazy? What if I hurt someone?

There was also the issue of my husband, who just didn’t understand my anxiety. “It’s all in your head; mind over matter,” he would say. I felt like others would either see me differently or just not believe me at all. “It’s all in your head” was a phrase I’d heard often throughout my life, not just from my husband.

Sometimes I would have self-doubt, asking myself if the racing pulse, jittering, and panic attacks were something I was doing to myself. Riling myself up. Maybe it is all in my head.

I started becoming depressed. I would sit around and think about all the things that normal people get to do. I would think about the effects it had on others. If I wasn’t obsessing over my anxiety, I was sleeping. I found it hard to get out of bed. I was a burden to my husband. I stopped playing with my children. It took everything I had just to get up and pick up the house. The dishes started to pile up.

My daughter started picking up on my sudden change in personality and began to constantly ask if I was okay. I was worrying her, and it made me feel guilty. It’s not a child’s job to worry about a parent. I reached a point where I just had enough. This is what finally pushed me to do something about it after all these years. At this point, I didn’t care what I needed to do—if I had to go on medication, so be it—and I began doing research on anxiety and my options.

Taking Action: What I Learned About Anxiety

The first thing I did was type in “anxiety” into a search engine, and I went from page to page trying to learn as much about this disorder as I could.  I learned that there are many different types of anxiety, and that some are worse than others.

There is day-to-day anxiety, which is normal and not considered a medical concern, like the anxiousness you might feel before a big speech, or the feeling you might get when waiting for some important news. For some, however, this anxiety is felt constantly, or to such a great extent that it impacts their life in large and negative ways; this is when it is classified as a disorder.  

I learned that there are many symptoms that accompany anxiety. Some common symptoms are nervousness, sweating, chest palpitations, and a sense of impending doom. These symptoms are often hard to ignore and can often increase a person’s anxiety, creating a vicious, self-feeding loop.

Being equipped with this knowledge gave me a large amount of power over this hardship. I no longer wondered if every symptom was a fiction that my body was creating. I knew the symptoms and their names, so when they became active I was able to put a name to it and view it as a part of something that I could combat. They were no longer just alien feelings that brought on fear and a sense of helplessness.

Upon consuming article after article about anxiety and the many forms of treatment for it, I realized that medication wasn’t the only thing that could help me. There were so many different ways to help keep it under control that didn’t involve a prescription. There was counseling, breathing and grounding techniques, exercise, and anxiety-reducing diets. There were tips and tricks to reduce anxiety. For Instance, one tip said that before you can even begin to remedy your anxiety you have to stop hiding it. Another said that by avoiding your anxiety stressors it makes your fear them even more.

I realized that all that time I spent avoiding my triggers only fed the anxiety monster and gave it a greater hold on my life. I came across many articles and comments from people experiencing the exact same things as me, and I realized my embarrassment over this mental illness, as well as the feeling that I was alone in it all, was a very large source of my anxiety. Knowing that there were thousands of others like me helped me find the courage to be more open with others about myself.

I stopped hiding my mental state from others. When someone asked me what was wrong, I told them the truth. “I have anxiety. It’s acting up a little bit.” It seems so simple, but it was really hard to admit at first. When someone asked me to meet them somewhere, I didn’t lie my way out of it. “I have anxiety, driving triggers panic attacks for me. Maybe I’ll come when my husband gets home.” I wish I could say that everyone was understanding, but they weren’t; however, surprisingly, most people were.

Life Impacts

I realized that a lot of people have experienced anxiety themselves, or have a family member who’s struggled with it. Most that weren’t familiar with anxiety in some way were curious about it and just wanted to understand. Unfortunately, though, I’ve had family members take it personally and assume I’m lying—or overreacting—as if I’m trying to get out of seeing them. I ignore this. I will admit, however, sometimes it bothers me, but I know that I’ve done what I can and that their reactions to it are out of my control. In all honesty, if they can’t be supportive, then they don’t really deserve my time.

My husband had a very big role in my anxiety for a time. He didn’t understand. He’s one of those people who likes to tackle things head on. He would try to be encouraging, but he went about it the wrong way. He would try to push me out of my comfort zone, and while leaving my comfort zone was exactly what I needed, it needed to be on my own terms and at a very slow pace. I realized instead of educating him, I pushed him away and closed myself off.

It took a large toll on our marriage, as my anxiety was non-stop. It was a constant issue that we argued about daily. It took a lot of self-reflection to understand that a big part of our challenges on the issue was my own doing. I had expected him to understand something that took me years to wrap my head around. Through this realization, I made a change—I taught him about it, I showed him the research, I described how it felt, I told him how to help me, and I opened up—and something amazing happened.

He became so supportive, and he did everything he could to help me with it. Still to this day, he is my greatest ally. All that time, and all I had to do was open up.

A lot of my anxiousness stemmed from obsessing over how my mental disorder affected others. Mostly, my husband and my children. I hated the fact that I couldn’t drive to the park on a nice day so they could play. My children would beg to go out and I would have to tell them to wait until their father got home. I felt like my anxiety not only chained me to the house, but my kids as well, and it made me feel like a failure as a parent.

I worried that long-term exposure to my anxiety would make them anxious to go out in the world, and it really bothered me. I didn’t want to contribute to their own anxiety, which has caused so much heartache and trouble in my own life.

My anxiety affects my ability to make friends, as I have difficulty speaking to new people. It also affects my ability to be self-reliant, as driving is still an issue for me, though a lot less of an issue than it once was. When I’m overwhelmed with stress or go into sensory overload, it makes me snap at loved ones who really don’t deserve it, which can cause tension in my relationships. It negatively impacts my life in a lot of ways still, and realistically, probably always will. I won’t let it win though. Giving up isn’t an option, it won’t make it better. Giving up will only make the symptoms worse.

Life With Anxiety (Moving Forward) 

Through a lot of research and listening to my body, I have decided to go down the path of no medications. Personally, I don’t want to add chemicals into my body that I can’t even pronounce if there is an alternative, and I’m confident that I can get a handle on my anxiety without medication. To clarify, I’m not against medication, I just don’t think that it’s the best thing for me at this moment in time.

Facing my triggers head on and being open about my mental disorder with others has really made a difference in the severity of my anxiety. I’m taking small steps. As far as driving is concerned, I started with only driving short distances with my husband in the car, then long distances with him in the car, and now I can drive short distances by myself. It’s a very large improvement considering last year I couldn’t even think about getting in the driver’s seat without having a full-blown panic attack.

I still have random bouts of anxiety that seem to come to a head without any triggers at all. I’ve found removing myself from that area, or taking long cleansing breathes can put an end to that very quickly. It’s still a struggle for me, and I’m still finding new things to implement into my life to help deal with it. It’s not easy in the least, but it’s progress.

If you or someone you know is impacted by an anxiety disorder, or even think that you/they may be impacted, I encourage you to research it. Share this article, type it into a search engine, go see a doctor and ask them about it. Don’t do what I did. Don’t close your eyes and hope it will disappear. Once you get it confirmed and understand it, you need to learn to accept it.

It’s a part of you. It may not be your favorite part, but it is a part of who you are, and nothing good will come from rejecting a part of yourself. You may be different, but that is okay. Those that care will try to understand, and those that won’t were never worth the worry in the first place.

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