"You have anxiety. You vibrate with it."
When I first heard those words it felt like coming home. That might sound odd considering that anxiety isn't typically a warm, comforting place to rest, but it's been my norm for as long as I can remember, waxing and waning at various points in my life, but always there.
I originally started therapy to cope with the grief of my brothers death, however, once we started talking it quickly became apparent that many of my tendencies - disordered eating, perfectionism, desire for absolute control and of course, grief, were/are firmly rooted in anxiety.
The clinical definition of anxiety is this, "a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome." To me, it's overthinking, overanalysing and over-expecting when it comes to just about everything. Being hyperaware of all possible variables and fielding every infinitesimal thought or feeling as it fills my brain. In a word, it's exhausting. Constantly, I find myself obsessing over the smallest of possibilities, wanting to control all extraneous factors. I play out every possible scenario, only to end up disappointed when it doesn't go exactly according to plan (my plan, mind you, not anybody else's). I've even found myself getting anxious about my anxiety. If you've ever felt your heart begin to race and your face begin to flush only to take your pulse and proceed to freak out even more as your heart thumps more intently against your ribcage, you and I would get along.
But you see, while all of this is going on, you (the onlooker) have no idea. To you I appear cool, calm and collected, perhaps even detached or disinterested. Because anxiety is a battle within. Between me and my thoughts.
And I'm not alone. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States, almost 20% of the population! And while anxiety disorders are highly treatable, only 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment.
Living with anxiety is hard. It doesn't just go away. You can't "just stop thinking about it" (saying this is a sure fire way to aggravate someone struggling with anxiety). In certain situations medication is helpful. Other strategies for coping with anxiety include therapy, being aware of your triggers (for me, having a packed schedule with zero "me" time is a major trigger), taking time to care for both brain and body (because that "flight or fight" response affects the whole system) and of course, connecting with others.
KNOW THIS: Anxiety is not something that needs to be cured or fixed, but know that it can be managed. If you're like me and struggle with anxiety, reach out, connect and seek help. If you're someone who can't quite relate, be patient with those of us who can, please don't take offense if we're needing to veer from the status quo, be patient and most of all, show that you care.
"Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light." - Brene Brown
Eat Well. Live Well. Be Well.