I started feeling anxious when I was 5-years-old. I remember it quite vividly actually. My mom invited tons of kids from my kindergarten class to my 5th birthday party and I remember looking around at everyone and feeling….on edge. I, of course, didn’t know what it was at the time (I was only 5!) but something felt off and it’s a feeling I’ve felt ever since. It was not until my twenties that I was actually able to match the word to the feelings I felt. Anxiety. A word that our country deems as dirty or annoying, a hush-hush issue that we should never talk about. Well, I’m here to talk about it, I’m here to shed light on it, and I’m here to get down to the nitty-gritty details of anxiety, aka. Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I hate that term by the way. I started seeing my therapist this past April when things got really out of control. I was having flashbacks, nightmares, night sweats, I could barely get through my day without having a panic attack. Things started to get so bad that I considered taking medication which is never something I opt for many reasons. I have always been an anxious person and my therapist tells me this is a “learned behavior” from the environment I grew up in. Both my parents are anxious people, but I remember my mom having anxiety really bad when I was growing up. She would even leave the house in the middle of the night and just walk around in the park near our house until 5 in the morning because of panic attacks. My aunt had an anxiety disorder for a while that was so crippling that she couldn’t leave her house for six months. So yeah, to say it’s a family affair is the truth.
My anxiety is like a dark coat that takes over and envelopes me in a murky cloud. When it hits, it hits hard and it can be paralyzing. Now, I’ve learned to recognize the symptoms when it starts to happen and I do everything I can to control it or it will control me. Some weeks are better than others. Some days it doesn’t even affect me, but most of the time I have an underlying feeling of anxiousness. I use to be terrified of my anxiety and a panic attack would send me over the edge. I use to let it lock me in own prison of fear and angst. I use to let it keep me from doing daily tasks and from going out with friends. Use to being the operative words here.
After months of therapy, books, essential oils, salt lamps, long runs, therapy bills, and long conversations (many, many, long conversations) I don’t let my anxiety prison me or pigeon hold me anymore. I now look at my anxiety through my own prism from a more practical standpoint. I do not fear my anxiety anymore and I do not let it take over (well not always.) Some weeks it does tend to plot itself front and center in my brain and those are the weeks I have to work my strength muscles the hardest. It would seem there is an endless battle of Call Of Duty happening in my brain 99 % of the time, but I hide it well. When people meet me, they are usually shocked to hear I have generalized anxiety disorder and wonder how someone so vibrant and lively could ever be anxious. Most days I’m fighting my anxiety with shields and swords and telling it no. Walking away from it, moving on from the suffocating thoughts that consume and consciously putting my anxiety on the back burner, rather than letting it boil front and center. It’s always there though on a low simmer, but I cannot let it take over. Some days it takes every fiber of my being to ignore it. My anxiety is dark and twisted and it mixed in with fierce hypochondria where every little “thing” sets me into a tailspin.
I love my life and I have learned through countless trial and error how to control my anxiety. Running has helped me tremendously. In fact, the days where I’m mostly outside in nature are the days where I feel the least anxious. Long, tough, conversations with friends have also helped. I have a close friend whom I can call on anytime I can feel a panic attack coming on and it’s amazing how fast she is able to set me straight. We live in different states! Thank goodness for Instagram or I would never have met her. My husband is also my anchor. He’s able to set my sails in the proper direction and knows ways to bring me back to reality when I start going down the anxiety rabbit hole. Meditation and lifting weights also helped. Moving, and learning when to not let the anxiety take over. Some days it does, and some days I feel as if I can’t breathe but those days are becoming less and less now.
Soon enough, I know my anxiety disorder will be a distant memory locked away in a box with a key that only I can open if I so choose. This journey has not been easy and it is far from over, but with each passing day, I’m better able to control my fears and look at my anxiety disorder through a different prism. Not one from shame or bias, but one from strength and perspective. It’s all about how we approach things and how we control our every winding thoughts.