True Life: Living With Anxiety

I’ve always been a bit of a nervous personality. Growing up, I was painfully shy. The slightest bit of attention would make me so embarrassed and cause me to retreat into myself [the slightest, you guys. I’m talking, like, when the teacher calls roll on the first day of school, and I turned red AF because two people turned to look at me when I said, “here”]. It was extremely hard for me to make friends – people thought I was mean [or later in life, a “bitch”] because I’m not overly friendly or outgoing. When I see people I know in public, I avoid eye contact and duck and hide in hopes to avoid them [<– seriously, though, does anybody else do this? WHY do I do this? I KNOW it wouldn’t kill me to say “Hi” and chat for a brief moment – sometimes I look at myself and think, “you have issues” LOL].

When I went away to college, I discovered alcohol [due to my shy and introverted nature, I was not invited to parties – shocking, I know], and the glorious gift it gave me to knock down that shy wall I’d had up my whole life. I had no problem talking to strangers, making friends – it made me braver, it gave me confidence, and I liked that. But the thing about alcohol is, it’s a mask. And it’s temporary. And the bottom line was, it made me do things that I wouldn’t normally do. And in the harsh light of day, the anxiety and guilt that riddled me from my decisions the night before was sometimes more than I could handle. It still is.

I am the type of person that will dwell on a situation for YEARS after the fact. Yes, people – YEARS. It sometimes takes me hours to go to sleep because I can’t shut my damn brain off. Going over and over things in my head that are days, months, years in the past. Things that I have absolutely no power to change and yet I just can’t seem to let go of.

It’s exhausting. And the stress of being stressed just causes me more stress. Vicious cycle would be the appropriate verbiage here.

Other things that give me anxiety: riding in a vehicle that is towing something, driving near a vehicle that is towing something, calling a stranger on the phone, confrontation, driving at night, trying new social things like group exercise classes, having plans change last minute, having an overly packed schedule, large crowds.. The list goes on. Some of those are bigger triggers for me than others. Most of them are mild and I can handle them easily without it interrupting my life. But some of the others have recently been the triggers of near panic attacks, which for me is absolutely not acceptable. Most people will have general anxieties, but when it hits a point where your body goes into a state of shock, it’s not okay and it’s not healthy.

When I had my first almost panic attack [I say almost because I’ve never actually had a full blown one], I was so scared because I thought I was having a heart attack. My heart started pounding excessively fast, and it became extremely hard for me to breathe. If you’ve ever had a panic attack, or almost had one, you know the feeling; where you start panicking even more because of the attack. To put it dumbly, and for lack of better word – it’s SCARY. When you finally get your breath back and sort of get your heart back under control, all you seem to be able to focus on is your heart, and how it seems to be beating unusually heard and fast.

I’m writing this post because I know I’m not the only person on this planet that has bizarre anxieties and lives with this level of anxiety every day. And what has really helped me over the last year or so that I’ve been struggling so much with more severe anxiety is talking to other people who share this issue. It is comforting to know that I am not alone.

Another thing that helps me is exercise. Running, specifically, really helps to take the edge off. The further I run, the more time I have to get my thoughts straight, and the more it puts my mind at ease. Exercise also helps to burn the extra energy that I would normally be expelling with anxious thoughts and feelings. In addition to exercise, I have been getting acupuncture for the last eight months, and that has been life changing. It may not work for everyone, but I know for myself, and how much worse my anxiety is if I try and drown it with a substance, natural medicine works a lot better for me than pills or alcohol ever will.

So why do we have so much anxiety now? Why are there so many triggers? Let’s take a trip back in time – before cars, before mortgages, college tuition and careers. A time in history where people took care of themselves as well as took care of others. People worked together as a community to get ahead in life. Nobody had to worry about making their mortgage every month, nobody had to worry about paying for school in order to get a good job. Most people were born into a trade because that’s what their parents did. Oh, I’m sure people had stress back then – there was a lot more disease, no modern medicine, women died in childbirth, people were robbed while traveling by stagecoach in the middle of the desert. But comparative to today, we have so much more going on in our day-to-day lives. Things that humans weren’t designed to ever take on, and yet with science, invention, engineering, etc., people are pushing themselves to do more and be more than we were ever designed to do.

I know travel is expensive. I know pets are expensive. I know a lot of things cost money that a lot of us cannot afford, but I think it’s SO important in this day and age to make a point of taking time for ourselves to relax and destress. Get out of town – get physically away from the things that cause you stress every day. Turn off your work devices – unplug from society. If you can afford it, get a pet. They are wonderful companions, and dogs, especially, encourage exercise and getting out of the house every day [aka NATURE – also a natural destresser!]. If you can’t afford either of those things, then walk to the closest park and plop down in the grass with a book. Or people watch. Anything that will help you get out of your head and to calm your nerves. Eventually the anxiety returns, but taking the steps to help curb it are totally worth it.

If anybody else out there suffers levels of anxiety like I do, please know that you are not alone. It’s not something to be ashamed of, and at this point, there’s only so much we can do to maintain it enough that we can function every day. If you ever need a shoulder to cry on, or someone to confide in, please do not hesitate to reach out. Even as strangers, there’s comfort in knowing that someone else out there is feeling exactly the way you do.