What it feels like to have anxiety

I don’t remember ‘getting’ anxiety. I just know that I used to love talking to people and doing stuff by myself and now I sometimes can’t physically get the words out. The shitty thing is, I’m not a shy person. I just have anxiety. I want to talk to you, but I can’t. It gets lonely. It feels like there is a tape across my mouth and I can’t talk, no matter how hard I try to get the words out.


There’s so many things I’d like to do that I can’t. People say, ‘oh, just try, it’s your fault,  you just need to tackle it, you are letting it control you…’ but I can’t. Try telling a brain thats almost nearly permanently stuck in fight or flight mode to do opposite action thoughts, or lungs that know they are on the edge of a panic attack that they need to take deep breaths. Sometimes, it might work. If I’m feeling slightly anxious. But full, top notch anxiety for me is feeling like I am going to die. Ask someone who is being chased by a polar bear to ‘just do some mindfulness’. That’s how my brain feels. 

I don’t want to feel like this. I am not ‘feeling sorry for myself’. I am nearly 20 and I can’t send my drink back in costa when they make it wrong, or send a reply to my tutor when he emails me. Or join a society. Or have a wide circle of friends. Or keep in touch with the friends I have. I would do anything not to be like this. 

I know I’m not alone in feeling like this. I know so many of my friends who manage to put an an incredible show of bravery when they feel like there is a thousand worms in their stomaches. People who went to school every single day even though they felt sick, or got on the bus, or stood up in front of a group of people. Or even just managed to say hi to somebody despite feeling like they were free falling out of a plane with no training or a parachute. 

The hardest thing about having anxiety is people not understanding what it’s like having anxiety. Anxiety can feel the same as when you’re home alone and you’ve just watched a terrifying film and you think you hear someone upstairs, except you’re just returning clothes to a shop, or asking a stranger the time. Anxiety disorders make your world shrink, but people understanding can make the difference between leaving your house and staying in. 

If you have anxiety, tell people. tell your friends, tell your teachers, tell your tutor (if you’re in college). Trust me, it will help. If they don’t understand, have your GP write a letter explain. (obviously not your friends, that would be kind of weird). Mental illness is just as debilitating and valid as physical illness. Never ever apologise for it. We all know what the stigma around mental illness is like, especially in Ireland, but it is changing and most people simply don’t understand. Having the support of friends and family in everyday life, and your college, school or work can be the difference between being able to cope and not, and while you think that you might be able to get by without it, having help and being around people who understand can be a huge stress reliever and really make a huge difference to your quality of life. 

Anxiety is shit, but it can be managed. I got a bus today and I didn’t feel like I was going to die. Or vomit anywhere. So if that isn’t managing, I have no idea what is.  

2 thoughts on “What it feels like to have anxiety

  1. Geraldine says:

    What a terrific insight to such a debilitating condition. I think it is particularly difficult for people to understand that fun loving extroverts can experience an anxiety, which appears to be the opposite of how they present themselves to the world.
    I remember hearing someone say that she often felt inferior, but then she was comparing her “insides” to everyone's “outsides”. Do we have any idea of what people struggle with on the inside? If only more people could be as open and as articulate as you are, about what is going on in our insides, I am sure that our daily lives would be transformed- conversation by conversation.

    Like

  2. Geraldine says:

    What a terrific insight to such a debilitating condition. I think it is particularly difficult for people to understand that fun loving extroverts can experience an anxiety, which appears to be the opposite of how they present themselves to the world.
    I remember hearing someone say that she often felt inferior, but then she was comparing her “insides” to everyone's “outsides”. Do we have any idea of what people struggle with on the inside? If only more people could be as open and as articulate as you are, about what is going on in our insides, I am sure that our daily lives would be transformed- conversation by conversation.

    Like

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