I have struggled with anxiety for as long as I can remember. I didn’t always have a name for it, but looking back there is no mistaking all of the signs that were there. See, anxiety is a word that gets thrown around a lot and everyone always has advice on how to handle it. The thing is, sometimes anxiety isn’t just simply something to handle.
Anxiety creeps in. I’ve never just out of the blue begun to feel anxious. It builds. This is where anxiety is different from stress. For me, I’m stressed when I need to do something and haven’t. I’m stressed when I am trying to figure out how to balance all of the tasks I need to complete. I was stressed a lot in college but the nice thing about stress is that is goes away. When the tasks are all complete, when the week is over, when I get to sleep in and wake up naturally, the stress dissipates and takes with it all of its nasty symptoms.
Anxiety, on the other hand, is often irrational. It is gradual. Anxiety preys on fears and deeper insecurities. Stress gets me to get my butt in gear and apply for a job that closes tomorrow but anxiety lies right underneath and whispers lies. Anxiety tells me that I am not good enough, that if I don’t get an interview there is something wrong with me. It tells me that I will never get a job, that I am worthless in the working field, and that everyone is disappointed in me because I don’t have a job. Anxiety keeps me up at night by just ever so slightly raising my heart rate and making my thoughts run wild. My body starts pumping out adrenaline and it becomes harder to breathe and everything starts to feel uncomfortably heavy and nothing feels right anymore.
It becomes an itch you just can’t scratch, a knot in your shoulder you just can’t loosen, and a weight that drags you into a tailspin.
Anxiety is every bit physiological as it is psychological. It is a weight in my stomach that makes it hard to eat. I get headaches when I’m anxious and it hurts to keep my eyes open. Anxiety keeps me in bed in the morning. It cripples me and holds me down telling me that I’m not going to be able to get anything done, I’m not going to get a call for an interview, I’m not going to read a book, and in the end I’m going to be a failure.
See, in my rational mind I can look at all of those things and say “oh, that’s just silly,” but anxiety thrives in what is irrational. It is a beast that stalks its victim all through their life. It looks for any chance to break through. It discourages breathing techniques, tells me that self care is overrated and useless, insists that I am ultimately alone and if I share what I’m going through I’ll be labeled a drama queen and a cry baby. It tries to convince me that everything I know about psychology, about God, and about life is completely wrong.
In a lot of ways the Devil is in anxiety.
So I fight it. I cope with it. I wrestle with it. I sit and breathe and count my breaths and check my pulse to see if I’m making any headway in soothing the physiological aspect. I tense and relax various parts of my body to try and trick myself into being calm. I have a beer, watch a funny TV show, and try to convince myself that it will all be okay. I let my rational brain take the reins.
But that’s anxiety, at least for me. Not a cop out, not anything terribly dramatic, just anxiety.