Sometimes, we experience anxiety because of an anxiety trigger. People can be diagnosed with different types of anxiety disorders, each with specific symptoms and causes. Additionally, people can experience situational anxiety where something in particular causes anxiety symptoms to flare. A student might experience test anxiety severe enough to negatively impact performance or a parent's anxiety might become heightened and nearly debilitating when he/she thinks about the various harm that could come to the child. The anxiety that is triggered by something can be painful, limiting, and downright awful, especially when one can't avoid anxiety triggers. Equally painful, limiting, and downright awful is when anxiety strikes without a cause whatsoever.
There are many people in my life who understand the difference between being afraid and having a panic or anxiety attack. They are educated enough to know there is a big difference between fear and anxiety and for that I am very thankful. However, I also have people in my life who think both are created equal. They believe, and often strongly, that both those feelings are just different levels of the same base emotion – fear. Here is how I explain to people that I’m not afraid; I have anxiety.
You've just had yet another stressful day and you're anxious. Your mind is reeling as it ruminates over the myriad of blunders, problems, and challenging interactions. Anxiety rages, and "what-ifs" and worries are spinning out of control. Your stomach churns; your head pounds. You throw your things onto a table or couch and head right for the kitchen. Do you rummage for healthy food or do you do what a vast majority of us do--seek out the junk food? Is your food making your anxious?
Obviously, a blog about my lived experience with anxiety cannot reflect experiences I’m incapable of having: postpartum psychosis and anxiety after childbirth, for example. Thankfully, I speak with a lot of people and recently had the pleasure of meeting Jennifer Hentz Moyer. She was kind enough to share some of her story about dealing with anxiety and postpartum psychosis with us.
Living with generalized anxiety disorder or social anxiety disorder can be frustrating. (And isn't that the understatement of the century?) We work hard to rid ourselves of anxiety, reading articles and books, participating in conversations, learning techniques to fill our anxiety toolboxes, seeing therapists, and more. Take heart: these things work and anxiety can disappear. It's a process, though, and not a quick one. What can we do to get by while we are working on diminishing our anxiety?
Anxiety is debilitating and sometimes we feel stuck in anxiety but it doesn’t prevent a person from knowing what they want to do. I liken this to a car being stuck in the mud. The car is legitimately stuck, but the driver doesn’t want it to be. The driver is doing everything possible to free the car, so it can move again. Anxiety is a lot like that – trying to free ourselves from being stuck in anxiety – but the wheels keep spinning.
“Life must be lived and curiosity kept alive. One must never, for whatever reason, turn his back on life.” – Eleanor Roosevelt. Eleanor Roosevelt is one of my heroes for her wisdom and for her deep humanity. I take her words to heart. When anxiety barges into our lives, however, it can be difficult to refrain from turning our back on life. Indeed, anxiety often forces us not only to turn our back but to run and hide safely away. But what we might remember is that curiosity kills anxiety.
For all the success I have had recovering from mental illness, the one thing I haven’t gotten over is my deep hatred for myself. Perhaps “hate” is a strong word; maybe “severely dislike” is a more fitting phrase, but I am not in the business of sugar coating my writing. When I lie awake at night and think about who I am, my anxiety makes me hate myself and that’s okay.
Anxiety can be difficult to live with; indeed, some might argue that is a huge understatement. There are different types of anxiety disorders, and each comes with its unique challenges and obstacles. All of them fall under the umbrella of anxiety because they share certain commonalities, such as excessive worry and fear, disruptive thought patterns, and a host of physical and emotional anxiety symptoms. Anxiety disorders share another trait: anxiety, in general, has two sides.
Regardless of any mental illness I have, I am still a regular person with fears and doubts common to everyone. But because I also have an anxiety disorder, I’m able to use anxiety as an excuse when I doubt myself or am afraid of something. And I often do.