A pain in the arse! Fine, I’ll be more specific: anxiety is a pain in my arse.
If you wrangle and tussle with anxiety, you’ll have likely had to explain it to somebody at least once, be it to a friend, a family member, a stranger, or even a medical professional. I hate explaining anxiety! I do not like going through the details, because just doing that gets me anxious.
In which ways does anxiety affect me?
Anxiety comes in many different forms, but for me, it’s through social anxiety and health anxiety, the latter of which is also known as hypochondria. Various things trigger my anxiety, such as being around people or my obsessive compulsive disorder—an entirely different yet commonly-linked subject.
I experience a number of physical symptoms, such as:
- Heart palpitations
- Rapid or slurred speech
- Inability to concentrate
- Agitation, frustration, and discomfort
- Unable to remain still
- Muscle tightness and spasms
Then there are the mental symptoms, those of which often exasperate the anxiety, such as negative and critical thinking. You also have to take into account that anxiety itself triggers other issues.
Being all in a tizzy allows for more susceptibility to compulsions and obsessions, which is likely why so many people with OCD also have issues with anxiety. Tension often interferes with one’s ability to have a decent night’s sleep—I’ve always struggled with sleeping, and I suspect it’s largely a result of my issues with anxiety. Being stressed out also naturally makes it very difficult to physically, as well as mentally calm down, and therefore sleep.
Can I give you an example?
It’s amazing what we take for granted. I feel that so many people don’t realise how lucky they are to be able to do simple things like go into a Chinese takeaway establishment, despite there already being three people sat there in the waiting section for their meal(s) to arrive, which this just so happens to be what transpired mere moments ago.
I went out with the explicit intention to go and buy some delicious hot chips for a nice evening meal. First, I headed to one of the entrances into the small Co-Op, in order to grab a tenner from the ATM. Cash now in my wallet, and the anxiety rising from simply being outside; the ever-rising risk of a possible human interaction.
I got close to the old, paned door of the nearby Chinese takeout shop, excited but also preparing myself for brief interaction, and the painful sit-down on the sofa as I await the food to be ready, fiddling with my phone is I always do. Then, through the window, I noticed three dimly lit people sat down on the nice red and black sofas.
‘Screw that!’ I thought to myself, as I somewhat-subtly walked off towards the nearby Co-Op, grabbing a basket as I entered the shop. I proceeded to nervously wander around, now rather anxious from the awkwardness of before. Chances are, nobody gave a flying faeces, but in my head, it felt almost like they were looking at me, judging and ridiculing me—I became overly conscious of my every action, as I often am, when dealing with people.
That’s on a good day, but stands as just one of the great many sort of things that happen to someone like me, and they honestly can really clog up your day, dragging you down, sucking away at your energy, and ultimately leave you feeling rather useless. Perhaps one day I’ll blog about the harsher experiences I’ve had in the past as a result of anxiety going through the roof.
But I can still lead an ordinary life, right?
You done goofed! Unless your idea of ‘ordinary’ is biding in supported housing, being unable to work properly, often having physically and mentally draining symptoms, living off and relying on government financial support, having a constrained social life, and finding friendships and relationships particularly challenging to cultivate and sustain.
In all fairness, it is possible to reach some sort of level at which you do insignificantly manage, but, in my experience, this is with years of hard work and turbulence. It took me several years just to have the doctors really take notice. It’s just so much easier to ignore the severity of a situation if you can’t see it, eh? I once went through a very dark time that spanned a number of years, during which I was fairly self-destructive; despite this being bloody apparent to my GP, little effort was made to see that I would get the support I sorely needed.
News flash, those of you in the psych field: a smiley, jokey person does not always mean they are a happy person! You’d think they would grasp this rather simple concept, one that even I can figure out with absolutely zero qualifications in psychology. Looky here and let me edumucate y’all doctors who overlooked so many of us: it’s called a defense mechanism; a damn guise with which we learned to suppress and shroud the trials and tribulations we go through within, from ourselves and from you!
So, how do I cope?
I tend to preach two things: distraction and relaxation—I’ll do things such as light incense sticks, listen to happy or relaxing music, take a soothing shower, get physically active, do something educational, or work on something like this here weblog for a few hours!
I underwent cognitive behavioral therapy some time ago, and that gave me some of the tools with which I could battle anxiety, but it was by far no cure. I had arrived at the conclusion long, long before I ever sought help, that I wouldn’t be cured, so I was prepared and did not go into therapy with any grand expectations.
Alright, what’s the bottom line?
Anxiety is tough and sometimes lonely, but it’s not the end of the world, despite the great many times I’ve felt as though it were! I was once told by a GP and was then further reminded by my therapist that I “will never be cured,” but that I can still “live a better quality of life.” So I suppose this is my better quality of life?