When a medical doctor uttered that word to me, it was a relief. I finally had a label I could put on what it was that I was feeling. That feeling I had of my emotions wanting to burst out of my chest? Anxiety. My hands and feet tingling when agitated? Anxiety. Feeling triggered and not able to come down from the fear and anger? Anxiety. I thought with a Generalized Anxiety Disorder diagnosis, I finally had some clarity in what was going on with me.
Unfortunately, our brain and body functions can’t always be wrapped up in a neat little diagnosis, as desperately as we might want them to be, and as it turns out, calling what’s happening to me “anxiety” isn’t enough.
For the past several months, things have not been “right” for me. Lots of staring into space. Lots of easy startling. Lots of agitation. Lots of avoidance. Rare moments of feeling good. “Oh, it’s the anxiety,” I thought.
I finally admitted to myself last week that I needed help for something more, and I am now seeing a therapist who is trained in treating trauma.
Without going into details about what the trauma was, it’s something that has affected me for at least five years. I received my anxiety diagnosis while I was experiencing the trauma, but as my new therapist tells me, the “anxiety” label is an incomplete snapshot of what’s happening with me now.
So yes, I have anxiety. But it’s something more than that. I’m working on that something more. And for the first time in years, maybe I’ll finally find relief.
If things aren’t feeling “right” for you, you can ask for help. You don’t have to suffer through life and think that all of the bandaids you’re using to keep it together is as close as you’ll get to thriving.
I’ll keep you updated on my progress as I feel comfortable talking about it. In the meantime:
Sometimes I don’t have anything to say about my anxiety.
Sometimes the feeling of being scared is so quiet that I don’t even notice it until I stop feeling it.
Sometimes I’m able to step back and see how well I’m handling everything despite it all.
Sometimes I recognize that I am having normal stress reactions to legitimately stressful things, and these normal stress reactions should be welcome.
Sometimes I haveameltdownanditrytogetthroughitandthenimeltdownevenmore
Sometimes I walk away from my triggers and it’s as if they were never there.
Sometimes I get through the day without feeling sad.
Sometimes, I’m okay.
My dog Birdie has a broken heart. Click here to learn more about her story or make a donation.
I started writing about my struggles with anxiety because I needed an outlet, I wanted to reach out to other people with anxiety and I wanted to educate the non-anxious about anxiety. I hope I have helped someone in some way. At the same time, I find it getting harder and harder to communicate what it’s like to live day to day with anxiety.
Writing about the “bad” stuff that happens is the easy part. I can articulate what’s going on in my body. I can articulate the thoughts I’m having. I can tell you how I’m being irrational, even though I can’t always control my body and brain when it comes to responding to irrationality.
Writing about the “good” stuff is easy, too. I want to share when I’m happy. I want everyone to know that I’m thriving and that my body chemistry doesn’t define me.
Writing about the not-so-bad stuff is hard. It’s when I’m between this place of “I AM FALLING TO PIECES AND THE WORLD IS CRASHING DOWN AROUND ME” and the place of “EVERYTHING IS SO GREAT I FEEL LIKE I AM THE ALIVEST PERSON EVER” that it’s hard to articulate what life is like, and most of the time, I live in between those two places.
And that’s true for most people to some extent. The peaks and valleys may peak higher or valley lower for each person, but most of our lives take place in the “in between.” It’s easy for us to attach ourselves to those highs and lows. Those tend to be the moments that define us or stand out the most in our minds.
But if we’re spending most of our time in the “in between,” doesn’t that make it the most important part of our lives? Shouldn’t we be taking the time to pay attention to what happens in those moments?
I want to be an active participant in my own life. I want to walk through life aware and not just pay attention in the margins.
Maybe that will be the key to living a fruitful and fulfilling life with anxiety – not just clutching onto the good moments for dear life, but embracing and remembering the okay moments as well.
I’m sorry I snapped at you. I wasn’t mad at you. I just could not deal with people at the moment because I was overwhelmed, and I had to take control over my surroundings. My surroundings include the people I interact with. I wasn’t in a position to just go to my office and cry and avoid people, and you got caught in the crosshairs.
I’m sorry I didn’t respond to your facebook message. I actually didn’t check it right away because I was afraid that you’d see the read receipt and if I didn’t respond immediately, then you’d think I was rude because I didn’t respond right away. And when I actually got over my fears of you seeing the read receipt, I found out that I read your message too late, and I didn’t know if I should apologize or how I should apologize or if I should just let it be.
I’m sorry I didn’t go to the outing we had planned. I was really looking forward to it, but I can’t get off the couch and I’m embarrassed to tell you it’s my anxiety because I don’t want you to think I’m being all whiny and using it as an excuse. And I’m sorry about not going to that other thing that we had planned because I was able to get off the couch, but the thought of being around all those people really made me feel horrible.
I’m sorry I go home early whenever we get together. I’m doing the best I can.
I’m sorry I haven’t reached out to you in forever. Sometimes I’m worried you haven’t reached out to me because you’re mad at me (even though I have no idea what I could have done to make you mad at me), sometimes I’m worried that you’re hurt because I haven’t reached out to you, and I spend so much time fretting how I actually want to reach out that I never do.
I’m sorry that I’m a jerk.
Anxiety has robbed me of a lot of joy, but I don’t want it to rob me of my friendships.