Anxiety is a tough illness to live with, and I don’t think people fully understand the weight of the thoughts and emotions that surge through the mind of someone who lives with this often debilitating disorder. This is your brain on anxiety.
I was properly diagnosed with anxiety and panic disorder in my early twenties, and even though my diagnosis has allowed me to take steps to understand my illness, it doesn’t make dealing with the sudden waves of spiraling any easier.
Nowadays, I’ve gotten good at managing my illness and spells, which used to last several months. They now only plague me for a few weeks or a month at the most. That being said, I have to battle really f*cking hard to pull myself out of an anxiety hole, as I like to call it.
That’s just it — it’s a hole, one I can escape if I dig hard enough. I have anxiety and this is how my mind works.
Having anxiety is waking up with nothing but fear in my mind, though I can’t pinpoint exactly what I’m afraid of because there are about a thousand thoughts racing through my head as soon as I open my eyes. Will I make it through this day? Is my heart rate OK? What do I need to get done today? Is there enough time? Will I let someone down? Maybe I should just stay in bed. I’m afraid of today.
Having anxiety is shaking as I get ready for work because as tired as my body is, I need to try and fight to live another day. What will people think of me if I don’t show up to work again? What will my manager think of me if I cry to them in their office again, choking on my tears as I tell them how badly I’m struggling just to make it out of my front door, if I even make it at all?
Having anxiety is getting a headache for no apparent reason and convincing myself that I have a brain tumor, because it must always be the absolute worst possible outcome, and never just the stress of the anxiety causing me a normal stress or tension headache. It must certainly always be something more.
Having anxiety is going into the office some mornings and not wanting to answer the innocent good morning wishes of my colleagues. It’s going to the bathroom more frequently — not because I drank too much water, but because I need space away, space to myself, space to get my sh*t together.
Above all, anxiety wants to seclude me in my own nightmare, to let the thoughts swirl and take over in my day to day living. It blankets my mind in a way that even the devil would be proud.
Having anxiety is staring blankly at my computer screen as I struggle to make sense of my life. Why can’t I do this? Why am I spacing out? I read a series of positive quotes, listen to meditation music, message a friend, call a loved one. Anything I can to distract myself from the disaster that is swirling through my brain.
Having anxiety is forcing myself through a workday even if every fiber in my body wants to give up. I need to sleep. I just want to be alone. Why can’t I just take a break for a while? I need to be a functioning adult but my brain just won’t get on board with my hopes. I just want to feel normal again.
Having anxiety is driving my car and allowing adrenaline to guide me to my destination safely. It’s pulling over to the side of the road to catch a breather or playing the same soothing song on repeat to ease my mind temporarily as I journey to safety.
Having anxiety is giving up caffeine and changing my diet completely so that everything in my body is fueling my recovery. No bad substances allowed. No stimulants allowed. I must meditate nightly. Additionally, I can’t skip my workouts. It is also important that I need to make that hot yoga class at 4:30. I need to do everything and anything I can to give my body hope again. These are the things I do because I need to put my mind at ease.
Having anxiety is walking past a group of people laughing and thinking it’s automatically about me. They hate me. Or, they think this outfit makes me look fat. They think I’m a failure in life. It’s getting an email from my manager and assuming that I’m fired. It’s living in a state of constant fear that everything on the horizon is nothing short of catastrophic.
Having anxiety is telling a stranger about my life. It’s crying in a chair while I pay by the hour to unload my biggest fears and defects. I have anxiety. I’m struggling. How do I live though the days? When will this end? I just want the horror to f*cking end. Please. Help me.
Having anxiety is laying my head down at night eager to sleep because the day has drained me of all of my energies, but for some reason, as soon as I lay down, the thoughts get heavier. The thoughts get thicker. The voice of anxiety gets louder. I can’t sleep. My body is tired but my mind isn’t done yet.
Having anxiety is manifesting physical symptoms. I have a headache. Or, I have to go to the bathroom urgently. Even, I can’t breathe. This room is too small. My chest hurts. My legs are tingling. I’m sweating. Why am I so hot? Why am I so cold? What’s happening to me? I’m going crazy.
Having anxiety is crying uncontrollably from the sheer horror of every fear rushing through my brain all at once like a tsunami of skeletons of the former me: the me that was happy; the me that was beaming; the me that felt normal. Where has she gone? I miss her. I want nothing more than to be her again.
Having an anxious brain is no cake walk, and I commend anyone who faces and battles this illness each day with every working fiber in their body that can. It’s not something I would ever wish upon my greatest enemy.
However, I suppose there’s also a silver lining.
Having anxiety is finding the willingness to fight with every f*cking thing that I have to demolish this demon that lives within my head. It’s forcing myself into better, life-saving habits and becoming less ignorant to the things most people take for granted.
Having anxiety is opening my mind to compassion, to empathy, to self-love, to self-care. Most importantly, it’s knowing that even though things may be hard right now, this is not where I’ll live.
Having anxiety is knowing that this too shall pass.
Furthermore, I’ll never be rid of my illness, and my mind will always be challenged at times. Although anxiety is truly the hardest thing I have faced in my life, it’s also something that has made me infinitely stronger than I ever thought I could be.
And so, having anxiety is knowing that even though the storms are coming, they will pass like all the rest. Having a brain with anxiety is having the willingness to brave and survive the setbacks.
I have anxiety and this is how my mind works.