Friday, October 31, 2014

What Anxiety Feels Like

     I know when people hear someone say they have anxiety, it seems kind of trivial. It's like, "So you get nervous sometimes, don't we all? What's the big deal?" Sure, we all get nervous sometimes, but it's more than that. It's not just nervousness. It's a lingering, unrelenting feeling of worrying and uneasiness, sometimes for no apparent reason.

     For me, there are a lot of specific scenarios that make me anxious and that I know I'm going to be anxious in. One of the main ones is during thunderstorms. I know a lot of people love thunderstorms and say that thunder is calming, and I have never understood that. If I even see a flash of lightning through a window or hear a rumble of thunder, my heart starts beating a million miles an hour, my hands shake like crazy, I get lightheaded, and a lot of the time I get nauseous. A lot of people know I have a horrible fear of lightning but it's not just that I'm afraid of it. There's something about the flashes of light and the cracks of thunder over and over again that just makes me feel like I'm in the worst possible place I could be. No matter where I'm at, even if it's a car or a building away from windows, my anxiety overrides my reason. I can tell myself a million times that I'm perfectly safe and that the odds of being struck by lightning in a year are somewhere around 1 in 1,900,000 and the odds of being struck in your lifetime are 1 in 12,000 (I don't like these odds), but my anxiety always wins.

     There are a million and one things I could bring up that give me anxiety, but the point is, it's nearly everything. Not that everything gives me anxiety all the time, but sometimes the smallest things can make me freak out. Sometimes it's just being home alone, sometimes it's remembering something bad that's happened to me, sometimes it's driving while it's raining, sometimes I don't even know what it is. The point is that a lot of people don't understand that it's not just being a little nervous once in a while. Picture being so anxious that you're short of breath, your hands and arms are shaking, you feel like you might throw up any second, and you're lightheaded.

     The best way I can describe it is like the brief moments right before a car accident, when you know something is about to happen and you know it won't be good, but it hasn't happened yet. It's like that few seconds that go in slow motion right before the collision when you're just waiting for the impact and hoping it doesn't do too much damage, except it doesn't last just a few seconds. Sometimes that feeling lasts a few minutes and sometimes it lasts all day.

     I've figured out ways to manage it and make it a lot easier to go through my day when I'm anxious without having to take medication. There was a point when I thought I needed it, but I've learned otherwise. I don't want to be dependent on any sort of pills to make it through each day, so I've figured out that if I listen to relaxing music and visualize it that it calms me down and makes my mind a lot quieter. I've learned that if I take deep breaths and focus on one sound around me that it helps calm my nerves. Meditating helps too and I'm sure there are a million other things I could do. Anxiety isn't always debilitating but it isn't fun, especially when it progresses into an panic attack, but I sometimes have to just let myself freak out and let it out before I can feel better. In a way, I have to let go of the feeling of the few moments before the collision and let it happen.

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