This is a topic that I’ve put off for a long time. Since high school, I’ve dealt with anxiety from a situational aspect. This means that when put in certain situations where I wasn’t comfortable or had bad experiences with, I would feel anxious, just like anyone could. But lately I’ve found myself moving into the realm of general anxiety, which is alarming for me because I didn’t realize it was happening until I was already dealing with the symptoms.
Anxiety is the most common mental illness in the U.S., and it currently effects up to 18% of the population according to the ADAA. Anxiety and depression often come hand in hand, but luckily I haven’t faced depression despite the fact that many of my peers have struggled with it.
Anxiety as a whole has always been a touchy subject for me. In high school, it felt as though many of the people around me would over-exaggerate their feelings, claiming they had “anxiety”. Whether it was about a boy, or homework, or how “busy” we all thought our lives were, I always felt frustrated with how easily they threw that word around. Because little did they know, I was trying to cope with a full fledged version.
Looking back with a different understanding of this illness, I know that I could’ve been completely wrong about those people. They could’ve had anxiety of a very different degree than what I had. Anxiety doesn’t discriminate, and it can be measured at many different levels.
Flash forward to college, and I became much more aware of who I was and the path I was on. I became increasingly aware of the way I distanced myself from others, and how I was often more comfortable being the one who stepped back from situations. I enjoyed observing, and “people-watching” more than being involved.
But despite these realizations, I kept challenging myself to push through that trapped feeling. I challenged myself to lead conversations, speak up in class, execute verbal presentations and memorize speeches. I always though it was rather ironic that a communications major would struggle with such things, but there I was.
A huge part of my anxiety was deciding that I wasn’t going to “suffer” from it the way that many people categorize us. Was I going to struggle? Hell yes. Was I going to simply cope with it sometimes? Absolutely. But anxiety is like a wave most days. When the waves come in, they’re strong and unavoidable and present. But when they recede, we have an opportunity to breath, and learn again.
Flash forward to today, a seemingly bad day for me and my anxiety as I try to work around some new symptoms that decided to pop up. I’ve had trouble falling asleep lately, and actually sleeping through the night. I thought it was just a phase (we just got an amazing new bed!) and that it would eventually subside, but it’s been a month. Then last night I woke up from the strangest dream that I was in high school again, running frantically from some faceless individual.
I woke up at 4:30am when Kyle and I were going to wake up at 5:00 for the gym anyways. But I felt cold. It was like I was frozen with fear over something that wasn’t real. I knew it wasn’t real. But I just laid there as though I was paralyzed. I know that everyone has nightmares from time to time, and they can be absolutely horrible. But my body’s reaction to it is what put up the red flags for me.
Now I have this lump in my throat that just won’t go away, and these random hot flashes that come out of nowhere. And it’s left me wondering, “why now?”. I have a wonderful relationship, a stable job that I enjoy, an active lifestyle, a supportive family.. I’m so far from where I was and who I was in high school. Why is it that when everything is going right, my mind sees something wrong?
I know that anxiety can lessen or worsen as we get older and life changes. But as we get comfortable with our routine, why does anxiety still persist? I guess I always thought that stability was the key for controlling my mind a little better, but my recent experiences have proven otherwise. I’m really hoping to get a handle on this, and learn different ways to cope with it in the future.
Have you experienced anxiety in your life? How have you coped with it personally? What advice would you give to someone dealing with anxiety?