A friend recently posted a really accurate description of his anxiety symptoms on Face-bot this week and it got me thinking about how those of us who suffer from daily anxiety experience the world differently from those who do not. My family cannot relate to the nausea I feel at the thought of dialing the phone, or the fear and panic I experience at the sound of a ringing doorbell. They think it's weird. Maybe it is. But it's still how I feel.
It's not something I can control in terms of having this anxiety. Sure, I can make a phone call despite my fears (rational or irrational), but being functional doesn't mean I'm not dealing with something significant. And it's EVERY DAY.
* I worry about my loved ones experiencing injury, illness or death all the time. If they aren't right in front of me, there's this ever-present thought that they might be hurt or dead right now but I just don't know it yet.
* I really do love people, but the thought of interacting with anyone is really complex: I will probably embarrass myself, say something dumb, inadvertently offend. I dread it. Even a trip to a store or doctor's office is prefixed with this anxiety. The I DON'T WANT TO screaming inside my head that I must try to ignore.
* Both of my parents have dementia and the responsibility for their care overwhelms me daily. They are in a Memory Care facility, but I visit often and take care of their bills, shopping, etc. I feel as though I am carrying a boulder that crushes me slowly. I want to do everything right and fear it's never quite enough. They have degenerative diseases and keep getting sicker no matter what we do. It's just so damn hard.
* I am overwhelmed by the little things: the spiky weeds popping up in the front yard, the crack in the driveway, the groceries in the fridge that might spoil and be wasted if we don't consume them quickly enough. We went to Costco yesterday and now there is too much food in the house and it's actually freaking me out.
* I am having intense, intense anxiety about my weight. It fluctuates (sometimes wildly) due to multiple chronic illnesses and it makes me feel as if the world is spinning out of control. I gained 25 lbs on high dose prednisone followed by a 50 lb weight loss due to digestive disease. I've now gained back ten of those 50 and I weigh myself every day to see if it's up or down and panic as it inches upward again. Oddly enough, I know this signifies that my illness is under control and I'm finally able to get enough nutrients, but because I know how much kinder the world is to women who are thin, it frightens me. I know that's royally fucked up. I used to be totally comfortable in my body, even when I was at my normal weight (about 20 lbs heavier than I am today). Not now.
* I am not currently medicated for anxiety (although I have been in the past). I can still leave the house, make the phone call, appear functional to the outside world. But how do you control your wild thoughts, your pounding heart, the fear you carry with you always? I don't know. Maybe it's just a natural state for some of us.
* The current political climate is beyond horrifying. I think even those of us who don't suffer from anxiety can relate to feeling that we are watching the world implode as hatred and cruelty become mainstream. I ask myself: what can I do to make things better? Am I doing enough? Crowds terrify me. But I want to help, to make the world a place where kindness and respect triumph over fear and hate. I think about this so much and often feel just helpless.
I vote and I support those who fight for a better world and I try to treat people with kindness and challenge hatred when I see it ( and yes, I have had some heated political arguments with people, even though it's difficult), but there must be so much more I could be doing. This haunts me.
Is there power in practicing empathy, in being a good listener instead of just waiting for your turn to speak? Is it enough?
All I can say, Anxiety Friends, is that I love and understand you.