It can happen at any time, any day, in any situation. No warnings, no signals, no red flags besides the sensation of a rapid beating heart and a swollen throat or tongue. Anxiety can be absolutely crippling and has all the potential in the world to completely keep someone from living a normal life. If you have it, I can sympathize. I do to. If you don’t have it, well, I envy you. But for those of you who do not suffer from severe anxiety, please read this blog anyway so that you can be there for your friends that do.
Some of you may have read my blog from last week about depression, and if you did then you’ll note that I mentioned anxiety as a hand-holder of depression. A lot of the time they are a packaged deal, and not by choice. Sometimes, if it’s not one thing, it’s another and that can be detrimental to the victims’ social life. Anxiety and depression are similar in the following ways:
1.) Both can keep you from doing the things you enjoy most
2.) Both can rob you of motivation
3.) Both can encompass you in unwanted thoughts and emotions
4.) Both will make you want to isolate yourself
The trouble with anxiety is its speed. It can happen in the middle of a movie, while grocery shopping, or during a night out with friends. The scary part is that you never know. But when it hits, it doesn’t hold back. Let me break this down real fast for those who have been fortunate enough to have never experienced an anxiety attack: imagine that you’ve had a fabulous day. It’s Friday, you have big plans for the weekend and you just got paid. Your friends invite you to go have drinks and dinner with them and you spend two hours getting ready listening, blissfully, to your favorite music, sipping your favorite wine. When you get out, you hug all of your friends necks and are excited for a great night with your best friends. In the middle of the meal, you’re listening to your friend tell a funny story, but you suddenly feel short of breath and very dizzy. You jump up without saying a word and run to the bathroom, trying not to faint. Your friends are stranded at the table because you left so suddenly. They’re thinking “what the hell was that all about”? You’re in the bathroom, locked in a stall, holding your head in your hands and trying to pace your breathing. You don’t want to leave the isolation of the stall because at this point, crowds are too much and will likely throw your panic into high gear. Sound strange? We know, we are the ones who are running from the table because we’re convinced for the 329285983471 time that week that something disastrous is happening to us.
The thing about anxiety is that it happens in waves. I have, personally, had years of no anxiety. I thought at one point that I had grown out of it. Then suddenly, one day when I was walking back from class I was overcome by a panic attack. It never truly leaves you. Some people have regular anxiety/panic attacks, and some have them in spurts. The common factor is that it never gets easier. It becomes controllable, manageable, but never easier. You learn breathing techniques and hand movements that MIGHT distract you from what you’re feeling, but nevertheless, you still feel like something isn’t right.
To be honest, it feels like you’re dying.
It curbs your appetite, it dampers your mood, and it affects those around you. It’s no walk in the park, but it’s a real thing and so many deal with it on a daily basis. Once again, for some, it’s depression one day and anxiety the next. For others, it’s one or the other. For me, it’s both, just in rouge waves. I never know which one is coming to visit at what time, but they usually don’t stray too far from one another.
A couple things I’ve learned to do to manage my anxiety is to literally say out loud “this is an anxiety attack, and I have been here before”, breathing in through my nose and out through my mouth. Another thing that I recently discovered that helps me come down from the unwarranted adrenaline is…wait for it…the dreaded fidget spinner. Yes, I was one of those people who scoffed at fidget spinners for a long while until I got my hands on one. I love mine. It helps more than you might think, just having something to handle to distract you from the feeling of panic. Don’t knock it until you try, that’s all I’m saying.
Anxiety isn’t necessarily out of the clear blue, either. Anyone can have it, and sometimes it’s genetic, sometimes it’s not. The way we handle stress and the way we deal with reality is a large key factor in determining how and why anxiety even exists. Some work very well under pressure, some can only handle small amounts of stress at a time. Personally, I can take stress all day, every day, for weeks on end and when the stress is over, I will have a stress hangover in the form of days of anxiety. It’s just different for everyone.
Much like depression, anxiety is difficult to explain. It’s hard to tell the friends you’re sitting with that you feel like your throat is swelling up and you can’t slow your heart rate down; namely because they will assume that you are, in fact, dying and assume to rush you to the hospital, which will only make matters worse at a rapid rate. No, the best thing one can do if an anxiety attack is occurring is to offer them some water and just sit with them, if need be. Be reassuring. Be supportive. Maybe rub them on the back or escort them to a quiet place nearby. Ask them if they are having an anxiety attack, because if you ask “what’s wrong” they probably won’t tell you it’s an anxiety attack. It’s just too hard to explain while having an actual anxiety attack.
The good thing about anxiety attacks is that they don’t last too long, maybe 30 minutes at the most. For some it may be longer, and to them I sympathize. And of course, medicine is always an option, but lots of people with anxiety refuse treatment because anxiety is also a form of paranoia, and paranoia makes it hard to trust people, including doctors. If nothing else, cold water and a quiet room can kick an anxiety attack. But just be mindful that anxiety attacks are somewhat embarrassing, especially in a public setting. I’ve abandoned my shopping cart in Walmart like three times before because I couldn’t deal with the overwhelming anxiety. Between the crowded isles + bright lights + massiveness of the store in general, Walmart is usually a no-go for me when I’m all alone.
Anyway, that’s my thoughts and experience with anxiety. It’s sucks, but it is what it is. No point in staying embarrassed or ashamed about it. I obviously don’t hide much from my readers, and I am an avid supporter of overcoming things like depression and anxiety. I hope this article was helpful for those who do and don’t suffer from it. It’s always nice to have a better understanding for something that is not talked about often enough, and I hope this blog did just that.
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