Imagine waking up, the sun cuts through the curtains like a beautiful painting, splattering light all over your face. The curtains drawn slightly, birds chirping, it seems like the perfect morning. And then your mind speeds up to a million miles an hour. The thoughts bust through your perfect painting, flustered, disorganized and completely out-of-control. Instantly your body starts to shake, all sense of steadiness is gone. There is no safety, no hope. You become trapped in a downward spiral of thoughts that continuously convince you that you are crashing toward a wall without any breaks:
"I'm not doing enough with my life" "Should I call my mom?" "Where did I put that notebook." "If I don't find that notebook, with my ideas in it..." "I could lose my job." "But If I spend too much time looking for it, I could be late." "If I"m late they'll think I'm unreliable." "If I'm unreliable, they'll fire me." "I have to go. I can't get fired." "If I get fired I'll have to move back home." "I'll be a failure."
"I am a failure."
Sometimes my breath gets short and my hands shake. I get tired easily. I start to hate myself.
I never think I'm moving fast enough, and when others pass me by I get extremely flustered, I often think it has a direct correlation to my worth as a person, and I slide into these destructive thoughts. Deep chasms of panic flood my mind, and everything becomes jumbled. Sometimes people can't understand me. I can't organize my thoughts. There is constant chaos. I can't think straight. I can't let people in. I can't explain myself, I'm just stuck, with a mind that is always moving faster than a race car and a body that can never catch up.
That is the typical thought pattern of a person living with anxiety. The exact definition of this hideous word is individual to each person. Though, Charles Darwin justified anxiety as a part of the "fight or flight" response, it doesn't justify being in a constant state of fear. Anxiety wills you to believe that the simple thought of leaving work a little bit late lead to certain death.
For me: anxiety is living with the constant fear that everything is falling down around you, and every false move, every little mistake, every move you make could lead to disaster.
It makes you uneasy, panic stricken and completely helpless to create a safe and stable environment for yourself. Anxiety causes you to be in a complete free-fall with nothing supporting you. Even though, logically you can put things together...realize you're okay, doing well...the anxiety prevents you from actually believing that you're okay...that you're doing well.
There is this constant fear of "what if" that goes a little something like this:
---You're leaving your house for work, and you look back and see a fan plugged into the wall. It keeps you cool at night in your hot Brooklyn apartment, and makes it easier for you to sleep. You inch toward the door, and then your mind starts running--- "IF this fan stays plugged in, it could catch fire, the fire could burn down the apartment, killing the little cat that my roommate has. IF this fan stays plugged in, it could cause a million dollars worth of damage that I can't pay for, because I'm just a sub-letter. Do I have renter's insurance? Should I buy some today? Would it cover the cost of the damage from the freak fan fire? I guess I should google that.--- Are you tired yet? And that's just one thought. One of the thousands of ridiculous thought that run through my brain on a daily basis. Anxiety led me to do some pretty dumb things to relieve it. But nothing ever worked.
Anxiety causes me to feel guilty for having fun. For not working hard enough. For falling behind. For sleeping in too late. Anxiety wills me to become a machine, but it just isn't possible.
Living with anxiety is like walking out onto a beachfront veranda and seeing flames.
These feelings and thoughts aren't rational, and relaxation is a remedy that just doesn't enter my head-space rationally either. You can breathe. Take a walk. Sleep. Eat.
But the thoughts always come back, like some kind of fucked up boomerang you're always trying to lose.
In America, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, over 18.1% of Americans live with anxiety disorders. That's over 42 Million American Adults that have thoughts like this, live in the flames. That's why I feel it necessary to get these thoughts out. To share the story, because I know there are a lot of you living with this, dealing with this, feeling like this. And it's okay. In fact, it's NORMAL.
I spent so much time thinking I was a freak or a complete mental wreck that it fueled my anxiety even more. It's important to know that thoughts like this happen to everyone. It may not be as frequent, or as severe, but these thoughts exist. It's not like you can wake up and it'll all be better...but the little things...like appreciating lunch with a friend, or slowing down to look at a piece of street art, or just breathing deeply can make a world of difference. There isn't anything wrong with me, there's only room for improvement. And if you feel this way, the same goes for you. And by acknowledging them, maybe some day we can best them. Move past them. Get better, stronger, happier.