Living With Anxiety: I Do Not Think it Means What You Think it Means
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Four years ago I wrote about my anxiety in a post entitled, The Secret Life of a Girl With Anxiety. I talked a lot about what anxiety is and how it has affected me even as a child. But it’s been years since I’ve really come out and talk about it and now I feel like it’s something I need to write about more. I need to write about it for myself and for the others who are suffering like I am. Living with anxiety is not easy and it is very misunderstood.
When most people hear the word “anxiety” they think of things like test anxiety, worrying about the little every day things, or just something that people use as an excuse. However, those who suffer from it know that anxiety is much much more intense then what people think it means and living with it is very hard.
I was once asked why I couldn’t just do yoga? Why couldn’t I just do breathing exercises? Why is living with anxiety such a big deal? Due to having two special needs kids and the amount of stress and trauma I have been under since I was a child, these types of things may or may not help treat the symptoms. I love yoga and it does relax me. I do breathing exercises, but sometimes it makes my anxiety worse. Sometimes depending on the severity of one’s anxiety they may need medicated help. That is me and I am not ashamed to medicate.
Even on medication, I still have bad days and bad weeks. This past week was one of those bad weeks and I struggled for control of my symptoms. I was thinking of how best I could explain what I go through with my anxiety and I thought of several different ways to describe what happens to me.
What Living With Anxiety is Like…
1. How Anxiety Feels in the Moment.
A wave of electricity flows throughout my entire body. My senses are heightened. The surge both energizes and exhausts me. I feel extreme panic and at this moment anything could startle me. My breathing quickens and I am on high alert. Everything feels like a crisis or emergency.
I tell myself to breathe.
Breathe in, breathe out. Deep Breath and hold. Do it again. You are getting enough air. You are okay. God is with you. Breathe.
A million thoughts and fears are rushing through my head. Most of them don’t even make sense. I look okay on the outside, but on the inside I can barely function. I am unable to comprehend or even listen to what is going on around me.
As the anxiety “high” ends, I am exhausted. My head is cleared and all I can think about is sleep. The exhaustion may last hours or days depending on how bad this bout of anxiety has been. The anxiety is not necessarily gone, but the exhaustion pushes it to the back. I sleep and sleep and hope that when I wake up I can function and think clearly again.
2. How Little Things Can Set my Anxiety Off.
Something as small as a glass of milk being spilled or a child coughing can set me off on an anxiety “high.” Other times I have no idea why I feel the way I do and I lay in bed wondering why I feel such intense fear.
A cup of milk spills and immediately my heart starts to race. I remember as a child that such a simple accident would get me in big trouble. My father would yell and scream at me and the fear I felt then is the same fear I feel washing over me now.
The emergency feeling is set off and I go into crisis mode (fight or flight). As I clean up the floor where it spilled, my breathing starts to quicken. I feel extremely stressed out and I don’t even know why. This both angers and annoys me. I hate that I can’t control these feelings.
I lash out at my husband because of it and we fight. This makes me even more anxious and I start to panic. I hear pounding in my ears. I feel the need to get away, to escape, but there is nowhere to escape the anxiety and panic in my head.
3. How It’s Hard to Fight Anxiety Even as a Christian.
For the Christians who believe that living with anxiety is when you are not trusting God enough or for those that think I and others use it as an excuse, here’s a description of what I fight through every day. I fight every day to overcome anxiety, but it’s a disorder and it’s not just going to go away.
I am in a deep, dark pit. I want to get out, but the darkness is thick. I see Jesus reaching down to me. I want to grab ahold of Him, but the wolves (anxiety) below me are pulling me further and further down. I try harder and harder to climb out, calling out to Jesus, “Save me! Help me!” But I struggle still against the wolves (anxiety) that pull me down. I continue reaching for Jesus knowing that He can save me, but part of me wants to let go. Part of me wants to give into the wolves (anxiety) because I know that’s the easier choice. Because having those wolves (anxiety) around me is a more welcoming. They are almost comforting, but not as comforting as the peace that I know Jesus can give me. I strain and give more effort to reach His hand, and suddenly He’s got me. The wolves (anxiety) are still there, but with Jesus holding onto me, I know I can face another day. He is with me even when the wolves (anxiety) pull me back down again.
Living with anxiety is not just something to get over. It’s not just something that will go away if I do yoga or breathing exercises or even counseling. I can pray, I can know God is with me, but in the moment when I wrapped up deep in anxiety, it’s hard to see Him. It’s hard to get up and grasp His hand. I know He’s there, but my mind has trouble getting past the anxiety.
If you are suffering with anxiety there is help. If you think you may have anxiety, talk with someone about it. Below is a video and more resources for you to read about anxiety. To truly understand what it’s like and how it affects others, we need to bring about more awareness about what it’s like to live with anxiety.
Things About Anxiety Nobody Talks About“The fear of anxiety can also cause it.”
Posted by The Mighty on Tuesday, March 29, 2016
You can also check out my two-part series where I talk about PTSD and how severe anxiety can overlap into PTSD.
What about YOU? Do you or someone you know suffer from anxiety? How does living with anxiety affect your Christian walk?
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I recently sought treatment again for my anxiety. I can best describe anxiety as an overwhelming and persistent feeling of dread for no immediate reason.
another great post. thank you
So nice to read. I’ve struggled with postpartum depression for over a year as well as ptsd and it’s incredibly hard to talk about when people misunderstand what mental illness entails. It can be so discouraging. Thanks so much for sharing.
Oh sweetie, I almost cried reading this, because I know exactly how that feels, even the Christian part (I’m Catholic), and it was like seeing myself in a mirror. Often, depression adds to it, making it all worse. I tell myself to not worry, because Jesus is there even when I don’t feel Him, that He’s there with me even more, because every crisis is like a cross I carry myself. I tell Jesus that we’ll carry that cross together until we can release it. That’s so comforting and often I cry it all out; even though it will take a long time for the crisis to pass, and even though the Devil tries to make me feel God abandoned me and I’m junk, I know I’m NOT, and that I’m not alone, neither through anxiety nor through depression or sensory overwhelm (which is an anxiety trigger for me).
Sending lot of love, dear. May God bless you immensely!
Thank you for sharing your story <3
great article which should help people understand anxiety and its impact on the quality of life
As a fellow anxiety sufferer, I know exactly what you say in your points. U can relate to every single one of them! A lot of people can’t and don’t want to understand mental health so well done for sharing. Great post!
Thank you so much and glad it was helpful to you!
Thank you Kathryn! I go through all of this. Some days are ok and other days are just awful and there is a lot of crying done. I have buried all my problems and fears since childhood, and have ignored everything by being a workaholic. Working 7 days and week and sometimes into the night just kept me from having to think about anything but the matter at hand. Last year I broke my leg and then a plethora of other medical conditions cropped up which includes a lot of joint pain. Not being able to work has put my head in the “real world” and boy oh boy has my life taken a huge downward spiral! About 3 months ago, I started therapy which has helped and started going to church, but the fear, anxiety & panic never go away. I look forward to reading your Singing Through the Rain. I’m glad I’m not alone! Hugs!
Wow thank you for your comment and I am so glad you are getting help and found this helpful. I have been in counseling for years and it’s still a work in progress. I think it is that way for some people. I hope that you find encouragement here and that things start to get better for you.
Thank you Kathryn! Positive thoughts are always appreciated. I look forward to reading and learning from you!
I’ve suffered from anxiety for years. I found meditation and thinking positive helped my anxiety. When I feel it coming I find a quiet place and focus on my breathing and think everything is okay until it slowly goes away. Exercise and yoga helps it too. Hope you find peace with your anxiety too! Enjoy the rest of your week.
Thank you for sharing this, I relate to most of the points you make.
I’m not a Christian, but I understand how prayer can be helpful, it’s like meditation and it helps me a lot when anxiety hits.
Also, “Anxiety is feeling the need to escape, but knowing there is nowhere to escape to.” This is best description of Anxiety I saw.
Yes, exactly!! And meditation helps too. I go to my happy place on a beach a lot. 🙂
Awesome post! I recently discover peppermint tea helps calms me, maybe you could give that a try next time. I suffer from panic attacks-and the breathing exercises didn’t really help me much. Praying for you that everything will be alright!
Thank you so much for sharing. I did not know much about anxiety and now I’m really interested in learning so much more. And to be able to support those in my life to be able to open up with me.
Great article! I always struggle trying to explain what anxiety feels like and you explained it perfectly. Deep breathing sometimes makes me more anxious too.
So glad that it was helpful! Anxiety is definitely not fun!