By BETH ANDERSON
It’s Friday, mid-morning, and for the first time this week I can almost breathe. For the first time since my feet hit the floor on Monday morning, the finish line is in sight and that thought alone is sustaining my weary body and foggy head through the day.
My right eye is twitching. It’s been doing that for over a week now, despite my best efforts to add extra magnesium to my daily vitamins and getting into bed early. This morning I’ve been asked by 3 separate co-workers if I am okay. I say ‘yes, why?’.
‘You look really tired.’
I sigh and nod.
Wednesday was the worst. I was travelling ok on Monday and Tuesday and then I got to my desk on Wednesday morning and suddenly my heart was pounding, and the vortex opened in my chest. I was overrun by panic. I don’t know why, I never do. It just happens. Every little thing made me feel completely and totally overwhelmed and out of my depth as a human being. The space in the front of my mind feels like a clogged lint filter, and suddenly everything is too hard, or too much. My mind screams a muffled ‘NONONONONONO NO NO NO NO NO!!!’ to every task. All I can see is my immense panic, my need to escape. My need to climb away into a safe, dark space and be horizontal til it passes.
I think the worst thing aside from the physical feeling is the stigma attached to having anxiety at all. It affects my every moment, even the ones where I am deeply asleep. My dreams betray my subconscious anxieties, even when my consciousness is absent. There is no escape.
To other people, I’m just a handful of adjectives and stereotypes: a control freak, a worrier, a complainer, a highly-strung individual. OCD. Aggressive. Impatient, incapable, ungracious, even frightening in my ferocity. I’ve heard them all. And every single one of them hurts, every single time. I assure you, I am probably none of those things if not for anxiety and I don’t need a daily reminder of how my way of coping differs from yours.
I also don’t need to be reminded of how tired I look, or told to just relax. Anxiety is its own master, it does not respond to my commands. So while you are sitting enjoying your relaxed approach to high stress situations, do not judge me for being bogged down in my own, regardless of how wrong it might seem to you.
There was no point in my life where I woke up one day and just suddenly decided to be anxious. In fact every day is a constant battle to beat back the monster in my chest, to stem the flood of anxious thoughts, feelings and situations I have to face. It could be argued that I am a white 30 year old woman with a decent set of pins and a happy, prosperous life, so why be worried? It could be argued that in comparison to my third world counterparts, my life is indescribably sweet and privileged.
I know this. Not for one second am I so spoiled or ungrateful that I don’t recognize the huge blessings in my world. I have a wonderful family, a beautiful husband who loves me very deeply and God bless his cotton socks, helps bring me down from every tree I find myself stuck in when anxiety strikes. I have a job. I have access to healthcare. I live in one of the luckiest countries in the world. But don’t for one second believe that this has anything to do with my anxiety disorder.