When you think of the word ‘anxiety’ what image fills your mind? Those ‘butterflies’ fluttering around in your stomach before you take your driving test? That dry mouth and stutter you get before a class presentation? How about sweaty palms on your first day in school or a new job? So what happens when anxiety becomes a life – limiting disorder? Panic Disorder, Agoraphobia, Social Phobia, Depersonalisation, the list seems endless.
I do believe that non – sufferers will never fully understand the level of strength and courage it takes for a person to live with an anxiety disorder. Since experiencing those first few panic attacks I have become scared of, well, everything. I was always a strong person with a stiff upper lip. I had spent my childhood and teen years grieving for my mother, something which no child should ever have to go through, and yet here I am now a prisoner of my own mind, powerless to release its grasp. I bear no visible scars, no rash or foaming at the mouth. To an outsider I am simply pale and shaking through my inability to catch my breath – something that should come so naturally. Deep breaths, they say. Pfft. Like it is that easy.
This may be the reason as to why those little ‘share this and you will have….’ posts you see being shared so freely on Facebook infuriate me so much. Anything to do with money and luck will accumulate numerous likes and shares, but throw a mental health awareness ribbon into the mix and it is a totally different story. I have used Facebook as a platform of understanding on numerous occasions, to no avail. Sadly, many just do not want to know. Maybe they would if they were made to spend a day walking in the shoes of a mental health sufferer.
I have come to fear people, the outdoors and the unknown. I fear failure, passing out, and losing my mind indefinitely, to name but a few. Almost overnight I went from being a bright and confident twenty year old with a close circle of friends to a shell of my former self, a recluse. Once an outgoing 19/20 year old, I was working (well, more skiving) part – time at McDonalds while studying for my degree. I would happily attend work nights out and have my work friends round mine on a Friday/Saturday night for pre – drinks and an after party following a night in town. Heck, I was unbeatable when it came to drinking games as I managed to knock back a pint of some lethal concoction in six seconds and still go back for more. I was never the most popular person but I was never lonely either. I had friends to go to the cinema and bowling with, friends to get tattooed with, and friends to turn to when I needed cheering up. I had rebuilt a life for myself in Manchester following our move here a few months before and I was genuinely happy.
As the saying goes ‘things were on the up’, or so I thought as, following that initial taste of panic, I lost all of my friends and soon came to fear alcohol and leaving the safety of my home. That feeling of not being in control, that I had to put all of my trust in the bartender to pour me out a ‘safe’ measure and in those surrounding me to not hurt me. What if I passed out? People would laugh at me, and point and stare. I am not the skinniest nor am I the prettiest so people would be bound to comment on my appearance. What if I ended up being taken to hospital? I would have to stay away from home. Plus, I am totally crackers so they would definitely have me sectioned for the foreseeable.
I do believe that this is one of the most difficult parts of my illness to live with as I am surrounded by pictures of people my age (24) and older living their lives, going on holiday and nights out. It sounds so simple, does it not? “You only get one life so you should live it”. I am sure said people would not be saying this if they were made to face their greatest fears on a daily basis. Having a tarantula constantly perched on their shoulder, or spending their time confined to a lift. I am not bitter, but I will admit that there are days in which I cannot breathe through sheer jealousy. That should be me. I am a good person. What did I do to deserve this? It becomes all too easy for others to tell us to ‘stay positive’, that ‘we will get there’. I have become a professional at putting on a front. I wear a smile everyday because I do not not want people to know that inside I am dying, but there are days in which I struggle to believe that I will ever overcome this. Anxiety has sunk its claws in far too deep and with each panic attack and worsening of my Depersonalisation comes a greater distance between ‘the old Krista and me’. I cannot spend the rest of my life like this.
Thank you for sharing your story. Anxiety is so tough because as you said, there are no scars. It is the invisible monster that has no boundaries or warning.
I hope you find some peace soon. I have been anxious my entire life but about a year ago I started getting horrible panic attacks while driving.
I am scared to death now to drive on the interstate and trying to maintain that I am just fine on the outside. I feel ashamed to tell friends and family. I dont have any support besides my husband but he is a very confident outgoing person so it is hard for him to relate. I know I need to conquer my fears but not sure how.
I used to be the one saying just breath, I sometimes pass out that advice even now. I face not only my anxiety, but the very core of my families anxieties. I watch as my young adult daughter cries out for help and is eaten up with the very jealousy and despair that you speak of. Everyone needs to have a human touch, a feeling of love. She is loved but I cannot touch that part of what she is missing; I ache, I have anxiety of my own, but to witness and carry her’s is the most painful.
I can definitely relate to this. Lately I have been thinking about telling “people” that I broke my leg, or worse. If they could SEE our illness maybe they would try to understand rather than judge or criticize.
I totally understand. My family doesn’t know how hard it is I am at the end of the rope here and don’t know how much longer I have. My therapist is scared because she knows I am a train wreck waiting to happen. She just doesn’t know when or how. I can say I will be safe to her face then walk out and OD hours later. She can’t do anything due to fact that I say I will be safe but that can change in an instant.
How you are struggling, impressive! I am a woman at 59 who has been coping with anxiety since my teens.
I feel there is better hope for you because you’re still young.
I have recently learned that all we have is now. The trick is to stop thinking of the past neither the future. Just stay in the present and recognise your thoughts without judging them. They are just thoughts and may have no relevance at all. I guess this will take a lot of training and perhaps I am to old to reprogramme my brain.
Anyhow I can totally relate to what you are going through.
I wish you all the best and that you will get help before you get worse.