Anxiety and I go far back. Oh, the memories we share! I mean, we could fill up a few albums of panicky moments and frenzied thoughts.
My anxiety started when I was a child. It’s just how I’m wired. I remember freaking out when I had to do extra mural activities at school, because I was convinced that something would go wrong (I would somehow stuff up, my mom would be in a car crash coming to fetch me, the list goes on). I’d spend days dreading classes or events, picturing all the things that could go wrong. As a result, I dabbled in several activities and sports but struggled to commit to anything, for fear of failing.
In high school anxiety made my social life pretty crappy. I’d make up all sorts of excuses to leave birthday parties or sleepovers early, because I was convinced no-one wanted me there. When I was did hang around people, I’d go to the loo a lot to avoid conversations, or keep quiet to avoid saying something (that I thought) would be silly.
In my university years I finally was diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and my GP put me on 10mg of Cipralex. It helped, but it was only in about six years when I saw a therapist that I really started engaging with my anxiety.
What does anxiety feel like?
We all experience anxiety differently. Here’s some insight into what it’s like for me:
- I get the occasional bout of IBS. Sometimes my anxiety manifests physically in the form of cramps and diarrhea, usually before I have a meeting or something important to do. Imodium and I are BFFs… charming.
- I have an invitation to a party. Get dressed up. Drive there. Struggle to find parking. Feel panicky. Turn around, got home and make up an excuse about not feeling well.
- I need to make a phone call. But I can’t bring myself to pick up the phone! The thought makes my heart beat faster and I feel a bit queasy. I rehearse what I should say in my head and swear I’ll make the call in ten minutes. Which then becomes 15. Then 20.
- It’s been a long week and we’re off to dinner. I feel tired but don’t want to let anyone down by seeming flat or boring. So I drink too much/party too hard. Now I’m a fun person, right?
- It’s Saturday. I’ve smashed my deadlines, fed the cats and hey, even the sun is shining. Sound good? KABLAM (that’s the sound anxiety making its grand entrance). I mean, my car needs a service and there’s probably a new email in my inbox WTF how are Trump Zuma and Putin in power oh shit I must submit my tax returns and I must reply to that friend and do I look weird in skinny jeans I feel like a dork and we have to see people tonight I bet they only pretend to like me why is my head sore and why do I feel tired again will I get cancer will my husband get cancer will we all just get cancer and die?
Ja, anxiety is a bitch. It can be paralysing and debilitating. It gnaws away at your self-esteem and reason and tells you that the worst will happen.
I’m going to kick anxiety’s butt
Anxiety and I may still live together, but with each year that passes I hope to become its boss. I’ve got an arsenal of things to fight it: I see a psychiatrist every few weeks. Most days I try to be eat healthily. My psychiatrist has prescribed Zoloft. I also try to speak to friends and family about how I’m feeling (although I find this hard). On very bad days I might need Xanax to cope, and that’s ok. I’ve got two cats that relax me too.
It all takes time, self-love and some more time. What’s your anxiety story?