What is Anxiety?
I could dedicate a whole book to all the things that my anxiety disorder and the aftermath of a panic attack have taken from me. But the subject of what has it given me, other than being a wallflower, is a hard one. I have always tried to look for the good in the bad. Maybe it is a way of survival or just plain denial that something is wrong. Not necessarily saying that it is a good thing after all the suffering it causes. Or that the anxiety symptoms are easy to deal with.
But I wonder, is there something it has given me, other than the endless doubt and shaking from the fear. Is there something that I have learned from it? Have I grown stronger, or have I become weaker? From denying myself many things I wanted to do in life.
Maybe it is the time to self-reflect and perhaps in the process of writing this post. I, myself, too. Will have more insights into the cause and the effect it has had on my life. And perhaps, someone will feel consolation in the knowledge that they are not alone.
But First, a Song to go with the post
If I had to pick a song to introduce my whole being in someone else’s words. It would be Jinjer – Wallflower. I think the whole video and the song are something I strongly feel connected to.
It is a feeling I have felt since I was a little girl.
My whole life, I have thriven in solitude. Rather than playing with others in the playgrounds, I would stay on my own. Chatting away with my imaginary friends or judging the atmosphere. If, or not – I wanted to connect with these people. From a very young age, I learned that you can not rely on the intentions of people being good. I was a little weird and out of place as a kid, and I still feel that way. And it did not help that I was relentlessly bullied by my peers.
So I would spend my time reading books in the library. Oh, I was always into the fantasy world more than into the things going on around me. Perhaps this too was something to protect me from reality’s pain and chaos. The stories that I read, and the ones that reside inside of me. They became my solace and kept me going. I also had headphones stuck on me, noise would and still does, set me off.
But I was living a life of a hermit. Not only because I enjoyed the silence and the solitude. I was talking to imaginary friends for God’s sake. It was the fear of people. I think the social anxiety part is one of the cruelest. There is nothing more that I wanted, as a human being, than to connect with people. Find people that understood, did not judge, and with whom I could be myself. But finding those people was made hard. Because I feared people as if all of them were carrying daggers around with them.
Anxiety Symptoms, the Ugly Truth
Whenever you Google the symptoms of anxiety. It tells you it is the unexplained pains, restlessness, irritability, inability to sleep, or sweaty palms. We all have experienced anxiety to an extent in our lives. But the ugly truth about anxiety is that it is not the symptoms, it is the way we deal with them that is destructive.
Be it chain-smoking to the point of puking before an important interview. Or withdrawing yourself from the things that cause you to feel that way. Often leading you to not do things that you want to, or are expected from as a functioning human being. I still fear phone calls for example. Finding myself unable to call doctors or job offers, and just not calling is the easier way to deal with it.
It is the withdrawal part that is the most painful
Just because you feel better in solitary confinement doesn’t mean that you don’t want to connect with others. It gets lonely with the feeling of not fitting in. And the cruelest part is the way you sabotage your dreams. It is not as much as being left out but it is leaving yourself out. Not taking part in life, because you don’t want to be hurt.
Constant Need For Sleep
Sometimes the no-sleep cycle makes you work and live a life of constant deprivation. When I was a kid I was afraid of sleep because of sleep paralysis. As a grown woman I am afraid that I have to go to work having no sleep at all. Sometimes I toss and turn in bed being angry with myself because of my inability to shut off the broken record that is my thoughts.
I think that the hardest part about dealing with anxiety is not the panic attacks or anxiety itself. It is when the realization hits, that you have taken away from yourself.
Getting irritated with yourself because you realize how stupid and irrational your fear of a given situation is. Not writing that book or singing at that live show because of something in your head. It makes you feel helpless and quite literally hate yourself. It was not because my chances of a better life were ripped from me, it is because I took them away from myself. With not taking the initiative or actions needed to fulfill my dreams.
What is Anxiety to Me?
To me, it is not the feeling or the symptoms. Not even the consequences of the actions that follow. It is the constant fight with yourself. A fight to survive despite wanting to shut off and lock up. It is re-learning to live in a way that is productive and not depriving. It is telling yourself that if you do this small step, it will be easier the next time.
For example, going to Zumba for the first time. I thought I will puke when I first went to the fitness center. Already two days before my stomach was in knots and wouldn’t keep the food in. I couldn’t sleep or eat. Every particle of my body was telling me to just cancel – it will be easier. Or no one will know if I won’t show up and take a walk instead.
I remember sitting in the dressing room and pondering if it is too late to flee. Why did I even come here? I was frustrated with myself and feeling this way. Even if I told myself over and over again that it will be okay. I messaged my bf and my sister continuously because I thought my knees will just give in and I will break a leg. And I couldn’t speak coherently, only in a very low voice and stuttering.
What Has Anxiety Given Me
a Sense of Accomplishment
Whenever I have done something, that causes me tremendous dread (like going to that Zumba class), I feel proud of myself for a moment. Surely the workout was more hard on my mind than my body. And you could see from a mile away that I was trembling and avoiding any contact unless addressed directly.
The sense of accomplishment is like coming out of a war, victorious. The fact that the war did take place, is sad and traumatizing, but you survived.
Skills to Manipulate
In time you learn to manipulate yourself into doing things that you thought you never will. It is a constant battle, it is tiring. But damn is it rewarding. In a weird sense, it has made me proud of every little step toward my dreams that I have taken. To some people, they might not be enough. But to me, they are crossing mountains bare-handed.
I Know What I Want in a Companion
I can tell when something is off. It is as if I have a radar. And not only because I fear, but because of how it makes me feel. I relish people that I can feel free around, like my boyfriend for example. I can tell if I am compatible with someone or not. From all the years of staying in the back, I have begun to think that I read people pretty well.
It is not in a sense that this is a bad person. It’s just that there are so many different values in the world that not all of us get along. And it is completely fine. I recognize my people, and I cherish them.
I Never Half-Ass Anything
This has two sides, like most of the things in this world. But the fear of failure has made me a hard worker, someone that people can count on. If only the boss knew how hard it is for me to go out there and do what I do, I would get a raise. If I do something, it better be done well. Sometimes I think that I ask too much of myself.
I have a nickname at work: insane. Because of all the things I can get done. But it has a price, I am constantly overworking and causing myself stress. I can not accept the fact that I am disabled. And I don’t let myself make mistakes. I am still in the process of letting myself be a human, not a machine. It doesn’t happen overnight. But I am working on it.
I am also very reliable as I hate changing jobs. Only if I feel being taken advantage of by any of my coworkers in a sense “she will do it” or “she will take all extra shifts”. Even then I endure to the point that my boyfriend tells me that hey, you don’t have to do this. Truly, I can be mad as a bull and swallow it and continue working.
I Am Not Clingy or Have Expectations
If there is someone who understands a person’s need for space and time alone. It is me. It is not that I don’t adore my other half or so. But as weird as it is, as someone with anxiety like me, I have a blind trust in people. In people that I have let close enough to be considered family. I even like being alone from time to time.
What is better than being an introvert?
Two introverts in complete symbiosis.
I Am Not Judgmental
I am very choosy in people that I let near and if I do, they have complete freedom to be themselves. As long as they are not deliberately hurting me, all is fine. We all have a darkness within us or a weirdness. It doesn’t mean that we are not deserve of being accepted. I don’t want to be the reason why a person feels insecure about something. It is not my right to judge anyone.
I Am Not Too Demanding
My job requires me to teach new requits from time to time. I have done that job in the past too and I have often been told that I am easy to get along with. As ironic as it is, I ease the stress and anxiety of other people who have the first day at work. But the reason for that is simple. I don’t want to be the cause of someone’s fear. And I know what it feels like to be on the first day and not know anything. It is not my job to make them feel worse, but to make it easier on them.
My Appreciation For Art
I don’t think that I would write or love reading/music as much as I do if it wasn’t for the solitude. The loneliness was caused by my withdrawing from any interaction possible.