Over the last year I’ve felt a sort of anxiety I’ve never known. A lingering emotion that seems to have no specific cause and won’t subside for weeks, even months. I won’t pretend I completely understand what it’s like to have a true anxiety disorder but the experience I’ve had in the last year has shown me a little of what it must be like.
Anxiety is normal and everyone feels it. Maybe you’re worried about money and how you are going to pay the bills. Perhaps your chest tightens as you think about a difficult conversation you need to have with your partner. Or you find yourself lying in bed with thoughts of shame and regret over something you said or did and what people must think of you.
Normally when you feel these sorts of things they are a response to a specific situation. If you’re feeling strong you can use any number of coping mechanisms such as reflecting on the true size of the problem, distracting yourself with something fun, thinking your way out of the problem or simply waiting until the feeling goes away. Anxiety is useful and it’s part of our animalistic fight or flight system that’s kept us alive as a species.
But what if the feeling doesn’t go away? What if no matter how much you think about it you can’t put your finger on exactly why you have a big ball of tension in your chest? What if you just wake up feeling that way without a chance to even get worked up about anything?
Anxiety is a strange kind of pain that has an emotional colour to it. It gives you the impression something bad has just happened or is about to happen. That there really must be something wrong with you, or your life. Otherwise why would you feel this way? When it lingers your mind goes into overdrive trying to figure out why you feel this way. It tries to find a suitable target to aim at. It can take anything in its’ sights making you question everything you care about, from your relationships, your job, and even your ability to ever feel comfortable again.
This past year has been one of the hardest years of my life. Weeks and even months went by where the majority of my waking time was spent feeling anxious. It didn’t matter what I was doing it was always there. It got to a point where I didn’t even care about being happy, I just wanted to feel ok, at least some of the time. Just set me in this middle please, that’ll be enough.
As the time goes on, the anxiety starts feeding on itself and even the anxiety itself will make you anxious. You start to compare how well everyone else is coping with life while you’re a nervous wreck barely hanging on. I even started imagining pressure from my partner to get better so we could just enjoy our time together.
Things are still tough but I’ve started to have more and more moments of peace. I plan on writing more about what lead me to this point in a future post but I just wanted to share the experience of an anxiety that doesn’t go away. Because I know everyone knows what anxiety is like, because it’s normal. But when it never leaves you it becomes something different. I hope someone will see their own experience in this and consider getting the help they need. Or maybe you might understand that friend with anxiety a little better. Be kind to yourself. Be kind to each other. May you find peace.