Anxiety can be all-consuming, overwhelming and completely paralysing. At its peak it renders me incapable of even the smallest tasks and I find myself wanting to run and hide, hoping to avoid anything and everything. When it’s really on fire and in control, it brings it’s two best friends along for the ride; self-doubt and depression. The three of them together can really mess with my head and my ability to enjoy life.
I have lived with anxiety all of my life. Some of my earliest memories of anxiety are of me standing at the back window of our house at about the age of 3 or 4, screaming hysterically while everybody else was having fun swinging on my Hills swing set. Why? Because if they went really high on the swings, the front legs of the frame would lift slightly out of the soil. It terrified me.
I was always scared.
I had an overwhelming fear of being abducted from my bed when I was sleeping. Of being abducted by strangers in cars. Illness, injuries, accidents and death terrified me. Drunk people were scary as hell to little me. Fears too many to mention in just one blog post.
Fear has always been there in some form or another.
I have rarely admitted it to anyone.
Raising my kids was the most beautiful experience of my life, but also the most anxiety producing. I can’t even begin to explain the fears that went along with motherhood, the terrifying intrusive thoughts I experienced every single day, and the rehashing I go through on a regular basis. Maybe I will write about that another day.
At the moment my biggest fear is ageing and facing my own mortality. It absolutely terrifies me, and I don’t have the words to express the feelings it gives me.
Anxiety presents itself to me in a very physical way. I have fortunately never had a panic attack, but the feelings are just awful. My anxiety sits in two main places in my body. A massive lump in my throat and an aching sensation of dread deep in the pit of my stomach. Think of how it feels when you are really distressed about something or incredibly scared, or have just had an argument with someone, or have been given some awful news. Yeah that, add a big bunch of queasiness as if you have eaten something not quite right on top and you are getting close. Now multiply it by 10, no, 20.
That unsettling, gut wrenching empty yet full, gnawing feeling in the belly – that’s how I feel my anxiety. I also get dizzy spells and extreme fatigue when it all gets too much, but fortunately these are less common for me.
It took me until two years ago to actually admit that anxiety was a part of my life. Very few people know about it as I am yet to really speak openly about it, until now. This is the first time I have ever written about it, but I know from experience that if I feel this way, that perhaps someone else can know that they are not alone.
The best thing I did for myself was to accept it, then seek help and learn how to manage it. There are some great professional options out there for people and I highly recommend anybody who feels as if they are experiencing it to speak with their doctor in the first instance.
I have always known the importance of self care and in fact I teach it for a living, but I have not been so great at following my own advice or walking my talk in this area. There is a saying that we teach what we most need to learn, and I feel that it is very true for me.
I expect anxiety will always be part of my life, but I am learning to live with it and manage it, so it won’t always be the life sucking beast it has been.