The Ugliness of Anxiety
I have had anxiety for as long as I can remember.
I was a nervous kid who worried about everything. There was definitely some circumstances in my life that added to my worry and stress, but mostly, it was self-created and perpetuated. Looking back, I recognize certain obsessions, compulsions and rituals I carried out as characteristic of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I eventually grew out of some of the compulsive behavior, but the anxiety was always there.
I experienced my first full-blown anxiety attack when I was in college. I was a psychology major and recognized what I was experiencing, but did not know how to deal with it. I simply went through it and eventually it got better. This happened a few more times through my early 20s.
My anxiety has had peaks and valleys throughout my life and there are lapses of time when it does not even seem to be present. I have been managing it very well the past few years and the last time it was truly out of control was around the time my dad was killed. His death brought about a huge turning point in my anxiety. I was always scared of something BAD happening. Then, something bad, very, very bad, in fact, did happen. My dad was shot and killed and no amount of my own rituals, compulsions, positive thoughts or worries could have prevented that. No amount of freaking out, crying, blaming or falling apart afterwards could change what had happened. I was outwardly broken and weak and somehow, this was freeing.
One of the most difficult parts of my anxiety has been trying to hide it from others. I try to appear outwardly strong at all times. I am perfectionist who wants to have it all together. I want to be an amazing counselor who helps others and a zen yoga teacher who brings about peace and comfort. I want to be the best wife, step-mom, daughter, sister, cousin, friend and citizen that I can be. I feel sometimes that I fail miserably at absolutely everything and I can barely keep myself together.
Usually, I can control this. Usually, I deal with the racing thoughts, the worries, stressors and inner arguments my brain experiences through meditation, yoga, counting my mala beads, inhaling my lavender oil, journaling, returning to gratitude, talking to my husband or close friend, running, singing or hiking.
My anxiety expresses itself in the forms of tension, migraines, cold sores and skin rashes. These are my warning signs that I need to be more mindful about my stress levels and get ahold of myself. In it’s ugliest form, my anxiety blows up to crying spells, tightness in my chest, hyperventilating and a complete inability to function. This does not happen very often, but it happened this weekend and I am so embarrassed.
I should have seen this coming, but I let myself get too busy to deal with it properly. I started a new job two weeks ago. I absolutely love it, but am still adjusting and learning. My schedule for this month and next is jam-packed. I have little down time on the weekends and this has caused my anxiety to jump exponentially. I am someone who really needs sacred time to myself to re-charge, re-focus and rejuvenate.
When it comes down to it though, it’s not the fault of my new job, new shifts or busy schedule that is causing my anxiety. It’s me. It’s how I deal with stress, busyness and things outside of my control. I think this is what bothers me most. I feel that I am broken, defective and unable to cope. I feel like I have no right to feel this way or fall apart.
I have a wonderful life and a gratitude list miles long. My “problems” are truly first world in nature and my list of worries are enough to be grateful for, when I list them I realize I truly don’t have much to complain about.
However, I do recognize how dangerous this thought process can be. Feelings need to be felt and it does not matter what I outwardly want to present as or be, I have issues just like everyone else and this why I am finally talking about them. It was difficult for me to share about this ugliness on this space, but I know I am not the only one and I want you to know you are not either, even though it can certainly feel that way at times.
I am taking this week one day at a time. I am finding solace in opening up about my anxiety to you, organizing my tasks into smaller chunks (with colored pens and my pink planner. It’s a proven fact that colored pens help with anxiety) using Bach’s Resuce Remedy as needed and simply being OK, with not being OK (you can read about this on my other blog).
Talk to me. Please share in the comments what you do to deal with anxiety or how you deal with those portions of your life you feel embarrassed or ashamed of?