I first notice it in my throat, a tightening, like I just swallowed a pill that didn’t quite go down the right way. Other times, I will notice it in my neck and shoulders at night, when I finally quiet myself enough to realize all the tension I’ve been carrying throughout the day. Often this makes it hard to fall asleep. Even still there are times that I am left wide awake by the endless stream of thoughts that permeate my brain when all I want is rest. Then there’s even the feeling I get in my chest. The palpitations and the nervous feeling only made worse by the fact that my heart is racing, an endless cycle. Usually when this is happening, I say nothing and push through until the wave of anxiety subsides.
Last night was one of those nights. I tossed and turned and replayed every scenario of everything going on in my life up to the current moment. Work has been pretty challenging for the last several weeks. Things have been extremely busy, and there are a few people that I have felt I am constantly walking on egg shells around. Trying to manage this with my need to make everyone happy is exhausting. I deal with the stress with a smile on my face and try very hard to not let anyone see behind the façade.
I have been diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, but I tend to refer to it as high-functioning anxiety despite the fact that it is not an officially recognized diagnosis. For me it is just a better description of my personal experience. Sometimes people mistakenly assume that someone with anxiety tucks themselves away hiding from the world outside, and this may be the case for some people, but my experience has been very different. For me it has more to do with my endless pursuit of perfection. The carefully constructed image of myself that I want to convey to others in order to hide my insecurities and imperfections.
I have an endless array of hobbies, volunteer work, achievements and pursuits. Many of these things do bring me joy and fulfillment. But there is also my need to be busy, to fill my time so that I can stay out of my own head. There is also my embarrassing nervous laughter. Laughing to fill the space in a conversation, when maybe I am feeling insecure. Other times it is my shortness with someone caused by how overwhelmed I am feeling at that moment. Different things trigger this for me and I am aware of what those triggers are, but every once in a while the wave of anxiety still pours over me.
Most people (outside of those who read my blog, and those very close to me) would never realize that I am constantly at battle with my own mind. This is significantly better – I do take medication, practice yoga and breathing techniques nightly and try to eat healthy and live a healthy lifestyle. But occasionally nights like last night sneak up on me and suck me into that black hole of my mind, with the endless gravitational pull of my incessant thoughts.
It’s often hard to remember but if you are coping with an anxiety disorder, realize that you’re not alone. Often those you may least expect may be dealing with similar issues. Anxiety isn’t a stereotype, it looks different on some people than it does on others. Exercise and breathing techniques work, talking to someone is even better, self care is a necessity.