Thursday, May 17, 2012

anxiety explained

let me describe anxiety for you...
drink that 2 liter bottle of cream soda. yes, cream soda. it has just the right amount of caffeine in it for you to relate to anxiety.

ok, now i'm going to give you half an hour to begin feeling the effects of the caffeine - from here on referred to as anxiety - in your system.

you will notice a few changes. first, you are hyper aware of everything. sounds, lights, people. you will feel jittery inside.. this is your new normal. your mind will be jumping from thought to thought without ever coming to a good resolution on anything. and let's not forget the physical heart pounding. yes, you can feel your heartbeat and you realize how wise it is to have skin covering that thing, otherwise it would've been out of your body and hopping down the street hours ago.

now, this is anxiety. functioning in a constant state of "hyper." remember that nothing, i repeat nothing, is "no big deal." everything is a B I G D E A L. everything matters. and everything new causes a spike in your anxiety level. going into a new grocery store, calling to make a dr appt, conflict - oh conflict, we are going to come back to that one - people talking to you, going to new places alone, or even known places alone because there is so much un-predictable-ness there, going to the movie theater, taking a walk in your neighborhood, going to the gym, walking into a restaurant and telling them how many people will be in your party, filling you tank up with gas - and heaven forbid the keypad doesn't work ... because you're already in a heightened state of anxiety .. now if pushed, you will go into full panic mode. a panic attack. all of the feelings of anxiety plus racing thoughts, cold hands and feet, sweating head back and chest, a disconnected feeling (dizziness//light headedness), and a wall of fear that can and sometimes will literally stop you from doing what you were doing.

this is how i lived my life. school - oh school. my anxiety got so bad in college that my fingers broke out into turquoise veins. the tips of my fingers. everyday before i left for school. i didn't know what it was then. now i know it was my body trying to get blood to my extremities. because you are fighting against yourself. you are in "fight or flight" mode but you have to act calm because what you are doing is really quite "normal." you are not running from a man eating tiger. you are going to your college classes. and work. if i was 1 minute late for work i would begin to panic. because the food for panic is irrational thoughts. ex "i'm going to get fired, everything will fall apart, my paycheck won't match up, i'll have to stay longer" and on it goes. at my first job out of college in my chosen profession i literally went to work each day prepared to be fired. it never happened - in fact i got a 40% raise - but that's not the point, the point is i was constantly in a state of irrational anxiety.

now that you understand a bit, add to this trying to sleep or carry on a conversation or working. because i had to push through the anxiety to do these things, it came out in other ways ... teeth grinding, my jaw ached all day because i was grinding all night. migraines, which literally shut me down for hours. the pain of light and heat was//is blinding. beginning at age 12 i had a headache everyday that i took 3 ibuprofen for. after those "went away" (or rather after the med stopped working) i began having migraines. stomach cramps. the acid in my stomach would churn and churn causing a burning that never went away. and crying spells. age 15 : i started going to college. and maybe it started before then, but i remember everyday before i left for school, sitting on the floor in my room, sobbing. sobbing. for a good 15-20 minutes. then i'd get up, dry my tears and go to school. i began taking a vitamin b supplement a year or so later which helped, but i was still emotional.

in order to stop the panic or return to your "normal" anxiety functioning level, you have to push through all anxiety provoking activities. so you are at normal, you have to go to school or work and it spikes, you live in a heightened HEIGHTENED state of anxiety for fill in the blank number of hours, then the pain eases and you return to "normal" and feel so much better. but a phone call from an unknown number, a last minute activity, or something unplanned (and therefore unprepared for) spikes that anxiety. after the activity is over, you return to "normal" and have a crash or sorts - for me i think it was my crying spells when i was younger, now i experience depression.

it is the filter through which everything must pass. you live life through anxious lenses.

please remember that you are also hyperventilating during this time because you are not breathing properly and therefore not filling your lungs with air.

and on the outside i//you can look like a put together, focused, and determined individual. on the inside you are falling apart.

conflict puts you into overdrive. because there are too many people involved with differing thoughts and opinions and perspectives. or getting into "trouble." i struggled with this one today. if i think i have done something wrong or made a mistake or messed up in anyway, it gets bad super fast. i begin to panic, my thoughts race, my body begins to pump adrenaline, and i cry. i sobbed for an hour this morning over a situation that i knew was ok, but my irrational anxiety brain took over and i couldn't calm myself down until it all turned out -- exactly as i knew it would.

this is anxiety. it is real. and it sucks.

( has some amazing information on generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder. great to use when trying to explain or understand.)


  1. Rachel - I love this post! I have a different kind of anxiety - social anxiety - which is less encompassing than what you experience I'm sure, but I understand so much of what you're talking about! Just want to let you know that I love you. Anxiety does suck, but YOU are amazing. :)

    1. So grateful that you understand. It's always wonderful to be understood. Anxiety does suck. Thank goodness for friends who get it!