I guess in this post, I’m just another blogger talking about anxiety. But I do think it’s important, because every single person’s is different. They might have similar symptoms, but it is brought on by completely different things, and means something completely different.
The definition of ‘anxious’ and ‘anxiety’ is:
1. experiencing worry, unease, or nervousness, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.
2. wanting something very much, typically with a feeling of unease.
Anxiety is, however, filled with a lot more nuances and subtleties than any simple definition can convey. I remember when I was younger and we had to write stories in school, I was never sure when to use the word ‘anxious,’ it just never really quite fitted in, which seems about right to describe a time of my life where I have never really felt quite right, or felt ‘fitted in.’
My ‘anxiety’ or ‘reactions’ are something that I didn’t ever want to think was very serious, and I never wanted to call them panic attacks, but there was a turning point in my second year of University, where after crying my eyes out twice within days of each other at work, I admitted to my mum that I thought I had some form of anxiety. Since this recognition of it, I have been able to separate the different triggers and reactions, but despite probably being able to explain the reasons for the reactions quite well, I am no closer to not having them at all.
I was been brought up basically in the mindset that I could do no wrong. Not spoiled exactly, but more that I was someone that always got things right. I got questions right at school, I got manners and charm right, my teachers would wax lyrical about how lovely I was. I advanced in each of the right ways, I was well behaved and grew accustomed to thinking that I was special, that I was clever, and that I would just carry on just like that. But as with everything, that slowed. In the first exams of the first year of Sixth Form, when I had just turned 17 and had been introduced to new subjects and to independent work, I sobbed my eyes out at getting a B. I felt so utterly helpless, as if my superpower had been taken away, and I had been dumped in the world to fend for myself. My brain was so unaccustomed and confused, that it panicked, and has continued to panic ever since, as I get further and further into the game that is the ‘real world.’ When I was on training for my job we had a group activity where we had to ask another member of the group personal questions. myself and another person realised that we both had the same intense fear and bad reaction to criticism. We had similar experiences growing up – always being one of the ‘clever ones,’ but suddenly there was a whole world of ‘clever ones,’ who were actually a lot more clever. And had that 4 years experience I hadn’t quite managed.
I managed just about okay for the rest of school, and for the first year of University, but in second year I really struggled. I was falling below average, and I couldn’t stop it, and I really couldn’t deal with it. It was around this time where the trigger finally hit, and it exploded. I was trying to sort out a transfer from the shop where I worked to another one at home. It was taking too long, and it didn’t seem like it was going to work, and I didn’t think I was going to be able to go home, and everything just hit me, and I burst into floods of tears in front of my manager. If nothing else, this alarmed her enough to organise it on the spot. Later that month, at the new work, a simple instruction from a colleague had me completely lose it on the shop floor, unable to understand why.
Since then, it has been getting worse and worse, my triggers mainly being any form of criticism, even a gently offered piece of advice, being pushed into making any sort of decision, and feeling closed in. Not physically, because I actually like small spaces, but emotionally or mentally. My common symptoms are my heart feeling as if it’s caving in, my stomach dropping, cold sweats, my heart beating miles a minute, and the pain behind your face when you know you’re about to cry and there’s no way of stopping it. My eyes will sting consistently until I can get away from a public place and cry, without having to try and make a coherent sentence, at which point breathing will also become very difficult. A way I originally used to try and cope with it has now also become a part of it itself, which is digging my nails hard into my palms. I also have very irrational – I call them ‘stressy moments,’ because they are definitely not fully on attacks – about something as small as forgetting to bring a dress on holiday or my hair not looking quite right.
Each day can foresee a different reaction. Some days I will wake up so on edge that the slightest tilt will send me completely off, trying to control myself, other days I can deal with a bit more. As I try and make my way in the adult world and make decisions about where I am going, it is only going to get worse. I know this. Within the past year there has been another part added onto my anxiety, as I remember crying so hard and feeling so wrong inside the last time I travelled, because I knew my then boyfriend was cheating on me. This meant I rejected travelling completely (something I really really loved) for a little while, and even now am finding it hard to separate the feelings of sitting on a plane and not having sudden bursts of despair and panic, completely unrelated to the actual physical flying part. It also puts a strain on my relationship now, as I would say I am much more prone to needing constant affection and reassurance and need the childish assurance that everything will be okay, even if I, as an adult, understand that there are too many facets of the word okay to understand or fully grasp.
I have no wish to psychoanalyse myself, but as I write this I feel like I am developing a better understanding of myself and why it happens. Its like despite years of being given accolades and being told constant compliments, I am plagued by a self doubt that is now proving quite crippling. I do not trust myself to make the right decision,s to wear the right clothes, to do things right. I have to somehow come to terms with the fact that this part of me doesn’t make me weak. Even if something the choice between getting a ready meal or going to a restaurant reduces me to tears, or someone advising me on how to improve a piece pf writing has me hyperventilating in a toilet cubicle. Although I can’t help but fear that I will prove too fragile for the daunting task of finding a real job. I’m not asking for your pity in that sentence, just a pure fact as to my mental state lately. I don’t know, honestly, how many rejections I could realistically take.
I never quite feel ready. I never quite feel right. Every outfit looks slightly wrong, every makeup attempt looks out of places on my face, I am just never quite there. On my down days, or worst days, just everything feels slightly out of place, I try to describe it as feeling homesick, but not being sure quite what for or what’s missing. I haven’t worked out who I’m meant to be yet? Or where I’m meant to go? Something cliche like that I guess will do. It’s a cliche for a reason, but it doesn’t quite help me feeling any better about anything.