How do you write a post about these sorts of things? Do you start with a definition? Do you start by explaining why you don’t like the title, because you don’t like labels on these things? Or do you explain that the title just rolled around in your head for minutes, or hours, or however long you spent lying there. Over and over it rolled, while you tried to pinpoint the exact cause and reason of the heartbeat spike you’ve experienced this week. Do you start by explaining, how you think lots of things in this medical field are misdiagnosed or over-diagnosed— but really that’s opinion over fact— because maybe we’re all somewhat anxious and maybe some are just more anxious than others. Maybe no one actually has disorders, maybe we’re all just different… but then again, maybe sometimes you can or should label these things, because sometimes symptoms are chronic enough to affect your whole life, or major points in your life…. or maybe not your life, but someones life. Maybe your best friends life, or your child’s, life, or a strangers life— and without the person saying anything, you would never really know. Is there a beginning or a middle of even an end to a post with a title like this? Or will this ramble on like all other random thought posts on this blog. Listed question and after question, with no purpose and no answer.
I just thought, “maybe I should open up.” About every symptom of anxiety is running through my veins right now, and yesterday, and maybe slightly the day before. To be honest, I don’t remember when I started this post, but it’s been a day or two now, and as I open up this white box to type again, my heart races, still.
Am I anxious and tense everyday? Not anymore, but I was, for a long time. It’s gotten better. Or, I’ve gotten better. And now, it’s usually a situational trigger (if it happens at all). I think my over-shyness, my social uneasiness, my whatever you want to call it—- is (or was) a lot worse than even my closest friends or family know (or knew) about. Sure, my family and close friends all know I’ve suffered from anxiety, some of my dearest friends have seen me in full on panic attacks (a never occurrence anymore, thank god), but I don’t think many know hard I’ve really struggled…. or that I still sometimes struggle now. I’ve struggled to get to this point… to a mostly, almost completely, worry-free day to day life. But I can’t help and wonder does anyone know that even now I struggle? I do. I am strained and nervous, but always composed.
Ask my friends and they tell you, I’m social. I like to go out. I meet people all the time. I do things, often. And it’s true, but never, not for a second, does it come easy. In between the nerves, I’m easygoing, but when a new situation strikes, the tension hits. I’m laid back in my self established comfort zones, but comfort zones can only get you so far. With everything else, I push on, because I know I can’t move forward by standing still or stepping back.
There was a full good year in college where I struggled to even leave my home. Not because I didn’t love class, because I did. Most of the courses I took were amazing, but regardless, there were days where I found it near impossible to step out of the house, into my car, drive to school, and walk into a classroom by myself. The very thought of it made my whole heart want to beat out of my chest. Even now, ten years later, my heart pounds. It’s one of those things… a superficial appearing, a seemingly silly—in however inoffensive way you can use the word ‘silly’ to describe a serious problem– thing to think someone might actually suffer from some condition enough to feel paralyzed and unable to leave their own home. I think most people assumed I as uninterested in school, but in reality, I tore myself up each day with panic, wanting (and needing) to be there— unable. If I could, I’d ask or offer a ride to ease the trip. I’d take classes with friends as often as I could. &Sometimes, no matter how hard I tried, or how many deep breaths I took, I could’t make it. It took a toll on me in every part of my life. Silly.
I grew up like this. Not that I was raised like this, but you can say, this is who I am. Maybe not the full blown panic attacks, those came in my late teens, but I grew up shy and nervous. I remember being as young as seven years old and needing my younger brother to speak to people for me. Phone calls, couldn’t happen. Strangers, forget it. Pictures, no way. I never, still to this day, want the spotlight on me. I’ve mentioned this before, don’t sing me happy birthday.
I’ve come along with my anxiety. I’ve gone from weekly (sometimes daily) panic attacks and being unable to leave the house by myself, to…. well… this. Whatever you want to call this. No medication, no self medicating, and no halting panic. I’ve just been able to get to this place where I can manage and live happily without it. Changes, one day at a time. If you remove the bad and lessen the stress, it’s much easier to find a calm. I’ve built my own world around what is positive, what makes me happy, and what I can handle.
It’s strange finally writing about this, three years into this open and public blog. Not that I haven’t mentioned anxiety and other worries, because I have, but it’s weird, finally coming out, publicly labeling, and saying, “I have this, it is real, it affects me.”
I rarely post things straightaway, it’s usually a few day process. I like to start and finish things, start something else, go around again, come back to things…. okay, maybe I don’t always like to, but that’s what works for me. Life, mothering, husband time, friends, it all comes first, and this space comes next. Live first, blog later. I’m four days into this post now, though I probably could have written it all in one shot if I had tried. Today I feel better, not that I felt bad before, because I didn’t, but I’m not anxious anymore. It’s like I went to bed and woke up with a calm over me once again.
The thing that started this thought was walking into a room full of mostly strangers. A party. Jump out of a plane to try to overcome a fear of flying? I did it. Move across the country twice, to places where I’ve known no one, a scary adventure. Travel across the united states on three planes, 6,000 miles, a 24 hour trip, by myself with a toddler in my arms to a place I’ve never gone? Did that, it was awesome. Have and raise a baby by myself? I think that one turned out pretty well. But a party filled with people I don’t really know? And my heart races in panic the whole way there, and during, and after, even days later. Silly.
It’s not that I was surprised to feel myself anxious again, I just really haven’t in a while. I don’t fall into the normal definition of social anxiety. I can now (almost easily) leave the house without a second thought. I can talk to strangers. And apprehensively be in front of a camera. And when the moment hits, and if I have prepared mentally enough to go, I’m ready and out the door in minutes, without second guessing how I look or what I’ll wear and I don’t worry about the room closing in on me feeling in social situations. I’m just nervous and I’m tense, there, in the moment… and before… and after. I’m (very obviously) not closed off person, I’m not a hermit, and I’m not a bad speaker. I don’t think I’m better than anyone. I’m not trying to be short or impolite. I’m not angry or unhappy. I do want to meet everyone everywhere, have small talk and big talk. Chances are I have a great time wherever I am, I just struggle to show it because I have very cautious anxiety, and high anxiety socially, especially outside of my experienced comfort zone.
Anyway, that’s my story. I am finally the happiest I’ve ever been. And finally, after 28 years, I’ve surrounded myself with enough good and I’ve placed enough pieces down to build my world in a way that I could thrive, with anxiety. And now you know.
Happy Wednesday, friends.