What It Feels Like When Your Anxiety Takes Over

There are some feelings that we just don’t have words for, like an anxiety attack.

I want my emotions to make sense; the kind of sense where I can tell myself what I’m feeling quickly and adequately before I get there. I’m just wanting a pause button, so I can take breaks in between the gasps of air I’m trying to swallow and the tension I feel in my neck. I want to tame my anxiety.

I know I should keep a lid on my emotions, so they don’t manifest into something I can’t manage, but I need it all to slow down just enough  that I can make life seem OK. I need my mind to stop racing and my heart to stop charging along to its careless tune. But I can’t. I’ve started a sequence of events that simply need to play out.

I can’t rationalize how I got here because the words might run too long or stretch out in a way that puts too much pressure on a consonant, emphasizing all the wrong parts. Too many exclamation points and not enough periods punctuate my thoughts. I could express my emotions in a tone that either dismisses how I feel, or maybe comes out right but makes you think that I’m being overzealous.

Anxiety is a chemical thing.  A simple doubt or tiny thought, releases  problematic levels of epinephrine and norepinephrine. Mostly, though, I know how anxiety feels for me.

Anxiety feels like I need to unravel the rope I’ve laced through all the holes in the story; tear down the web I’ve tried to spin to hold everything I’m feeling and thinking in place. It’s like elastic my mind has stretched and wrapped too far; my emotions are bound to break as the tension is so tight.

Snap. All the pieces fall to the ground, and I’ll soon follow.

In the aftermath of an anxiety attack, I’m staring into a mirror, unable to recognize myself, yet it’s a face I’ve seen too often lately.  I’m two dimensional. My expressions are expressionless; they’re half-painted pictures, trying too hard to convey an emotion but still falling flat. They’re a depiction of something that isn’t true, a facade so complex, with hundreds of different pieces of thoughts compiled into  one portrait, that it almost makes my anxiety look simple.

I’m heaving; trying to get rid of the poisonous thoughts in my head, the ones I’m too afraid to speak and too worried to hear. The words are viscous, popping as they hit the air. They’re filled with shock and anguish. I’m wishing I could curl into myself to stop myself from shaking, so I hold my knees close to my chest until the cries turn into hiccups.

A wave of heat flashes over me, and then I feel so cold that I have goosebumps. After I’ve felt it all so intensely, I’m stuck in a state where everything just feels numb. My adrenaline has run out, and I can’t bring myself  any sort of comfort. The moments after an anxiety attack are like feeling adrift while trying to find your way to the shore. There is no energy left to exert so I can return to where I was before the tides of my emotions began to rein in and the heavy roar of panic washed over me.

I can’t carry on with what I was doing any longer. Everything feels so heavy under the weight of what I just went through.

With fists clenched tightly, my nails hold on to the palms of my hands as if they are clinging to a lifeline that was never even there. The pain and pressure distracts from the flood of thoughts drowning my consciousness.

I can hear my heart still ringing like bells in my ears; there are alerts in my head of the running list of things I still need to do. Yet the resonant chiming is so powerful that it almost ceases to exist. There is nothing but a heaviness in my stomach and a tightness wrapped around my throat.

My upper lip stiffens. I blink, and my eyes remain dry and tight. I’ll do it again, keeping my eyes closed and trying to regain the thoughts I had before the edges of my vision began to fade to black and I lost control.

Leftover emotion and a tinge of distress  lingers. I’m lightheaded, and I need to remember how to control my breathing and how to stop crying. My anxiety is physically and mentally draining, so much so that I could fall asleep right where I fell apart.

I’ll wake up in the rubble, but maybe this time, I’ll find a way to make it work. I’ll find a way to shore and comfort before the waves get pull me into another anxiety attack.

Photo by Carolina Heza on Unsplash.


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