“Anxiety is a feeling of fear, dread, and uneasiness. It might cause you to sweat, feel restless, tense, and have a rapid heartbeat. It can be a normal reaction to stress." That’s what a Google definition of anxiety tells me. For me, however, anxiety is a little bit different. In my experience anxiety is something that feels as if the life in me is getting squeezed out. It’s weight that is choking me, preventing quality air from entering my body. It’s relentless panic that comes out of nowhere. It’s terror of letting not only my loved ones down, but letting myself down. It’s the panic attack that results in feelings of depressing embarrassment, shame, and confusion. Many times times after an episode of panic, I ask myself, "Why is this happening?"
This being an issue for my entire life. I recall being a little kid, watching the sun set and thinking that the sky was turning black because a storm was coming. That fear, for me, is anxiety. As I got older, I looked for relief in the form of substances that altered my fearful thinking, and alcohol soon became the shield that protected me from my fear. Other sedatives mixed with alcohol became a concoction which was my answer. It was the answer to help ease the discomforts of social interactions, to celebrate the good times, to help me through the bad times, and to escape from the terror that was inside of my head.
As the years went by, more questions started attacking my mind:
“What am I doing?”
“Am I going to die?”
“Why is this happening to me?”
Others were telling me to “man up,” and “get over it.” Little did I know at the time that my self medicating was actually making the state I was in worse. As days passed, I was getting more disassociated with reality. I was starting to believe the lies the I was telling my family, and putting up a façade to my friends to make it look as if everything was “fine” in my life.
It took nearly a full year for me to get help after losing job after job, an apartment, and contact with family and friends. I had officially fallen off the map when the day help arrived at my front door. It seems like it has taken a while to re-route the wires in my brain. Anxiety is still there for me at times. Now, though, I rely on something else to help ease the tension. I have learned that substances are not my answers anymore, and that I need connection rather than to disconnect. Anxiety can be debilitating, I know that to be true, but there is a way to manage to live with it. It doesn’t have to own me anymore. I recognize it, own it, and roll with it. There are those out there who can identify with such aspects of anxiety, and there are those who are willing to help. I now am grateful that I can be that help at someone’s front door.