mental wellness

Anxiety: when you feel everything [interview]

Anxiety def.: A chronic condition characterized by an excessive and persistent sense of apprehension, with physical symptoms

Q: How would you define Anxiety? (in layman’s terms)

A: Anxiety is constantly fearing the worst, and worrying about everything. Having anxiety is like being fearful of everything, from people, to dying and everything inbetween. It’s being nervous all the time, and not knowing why, just fearing and feeling stressed about every situation you go into. It’s black and white thinking, catastrophizing, being negative, feeling irritable, impatient. It’s the need to be busy all the time, to constantly be making lists, and always feeling like a failure. It’s feeling insecure, doubt, feeling like you’re never enough. It’s feeling overwhelmed, but scared to ask for help. And it also manifests physically so there are a number of physical symptoms, like problems with your gut, sweating, headaches, carpal tunnel. And yes, a lot of people may feel nervous about speaking in front of a group of people, or going to a party alone, or fearing losing their loved ones, but it’s when these concerns start affecting your life in a negative way, and become so overwhelming and overarching, that you are no longer living your life optimally, that you need to seek help. Also, there are different types of anxiety. I have Generalised Anxiety disorder, with a propensity towards social anxiety. But you could suffer with panic attacks, have a phobia, only have social anxiety. There’s also adjustment anxiety (which is what happens with major life changes).

Q: What are the symptoms? (as you know or experience them)

A: Anxiety can manifest with thoughts, feelings, behaviours, and physically. For me, I experience feelings of self-doubt, I get overwhelmed quite easily. I struggle to build relationships with people because I fear that they are going to abandon me so a lot of the time I don’t put effort into relationships, or I push people away. I suffer with insomnia. I fear both the future and the past. I beat myself up for things that I said 5 years ago, or even, 5 minutes ago. Everything I say and do is wrong. I am terrible at decision-making because I’m fearful of the outcome of every decision I make. I procrastinate because I’m scared of doing things the wrong way. I get easily distracted by stimuli, and then struggle to concentrate. I suffer with headaches, and problems with my gut, and excessive sweating. I say inappropriate things to people that make me nervous, or people in authority, or I say nothing at all, and then beat myself up about it. I have very negative thought patterns, always expecting the worst. I never want to admit that I am happy, because I am fearful that the feeling will be taken away. Depending on the type of anxiety, it manifests in different ways, and then it would have different symptoms. Some people experience mostly physical symptoms, like tight chest, difficulty breathing.

Q: How does it feel to have Anxiety?

A: Having anxiety for me, feels like I have too many train tracks running in my mind at any given time, and it never stops. A friend gave me the analogy of having 1000 internet tabs open, and they are all flashing at the same time. A million thoughts constantly running through my head, fears, things I should say, things I said, things I need to do, analyzing my environment, things I should be doing, things I should be saying, everything that I am, everything that I’m not. Having anxiety is like always having that feeling of nervousness before an interview, or speaking to a big crowd of people. And it’s like being afraid all the time. And like always being busy. Always having things to do. All the time. It’s like being on, always. There is no rest, no off switch, because then I convince myself I’ve forgotten something. I always feel like I’ve failed. I’m fearful of trying new things and then I feel like a failure because I’m not living my best life. It’s like always being in fight or flight mode.

Q: What are the treatment options for Anxiety?

A: For me, I’m in talk therapy, and I use medication to treat my anxiety. I know people who use mindfulness and meditation to treat their anxiety. Depending on the type of anxiety disorder, CBT (behavioural therapy) can work. My personal opinion is that it’s important to find the root cause of the anxiety. Mine is quite complex, so I’ve been in therapy for a number of years, and we’re still uncovering things. For some people a few sessions of CBT helps them develop practical steps to manage their anxiety.

Q: Do you have to take medication if you have Anxiety?

A: Not everyone requires medication. For me, the medication helps slow down the train tracks so that I can find a space to breathe, and concentrate on one thought process at a time. The decision on whether or not to use medication should be made with your therapist/psychiatrist though. Everyone is different. And some people are able to combat their anxiety with only talk therapy or CBT, or mindfulness techniques. Some of us might have to be on medication for most of our lives.

Q: Is it genetic?

A: From what I’ve read, and the psycho-education that I’ve done with my therapist, you do have a predisposition to get anxiety. If you suffer childhood trauma, the chances of getting anxiety are pretty high, even if your parents don’t suffer. There is also a theory I’ve been reading a lot about, on generational trauma, and just like many illnesses pass down through the generations, so does trauma, in the wiring of our brains, and our neurochemicals. But what I love about this theory is that they are proving that yes, trauma is transferred from one generation to the next, but so is healing. So even if you have a predisposition, or you are suffering from generational trauma, you can be the one to start passing down generational healing.

Q: Anything else you would like to add

A: Living with anxiety is hard. It’s like feeling everything all of the time. But it’s not a life sentence. You can get help, and with treatment, you can be healed. It is possible to recover. It’s not immediate, but healing is possible. I feel like I’m proof of that. I am definitely not the same person I was a year ago. And I definitely feel like I’m passing down generational healing in my family.

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