Tuesday, January 19, 2016

What Does Anxiety Feel Like?

For the average person with the average level of anxiety, I'm sure it feels a way I can't imagine. The same is true for someone with an anxiety disorder - an average person cannot imagine what it feels like.

It is a state of fear, of constant adrenaline, of fight or flight.
It is heart pounding, face twitching, gulping air, heightened senses, no peripheral vision.
It is loud and silent at the same time.
It is a thousand ugly voices screaming at you, contradicting each other and all demanding attention.
It is shame.
It is finding a place to hide, and telling yourself that no one wants to find you anyway.
It is a feeling of wishing it would hurry up and kill you because the waiting is worse than dying.
It is waiting to fail.
It is an empty, echoing hole where you sit at the bottom and know that no one is coming for you.
It is screaming silence.
It is numbing, piercing pain.

I have had a therapist tell me that my Anxiety Level 3 (on a scale of 1-10) is probably like most people's Level 7. I have had a therapist tell me that the fact that I am able to function shows how strong I am.
I don't feel strong.
Sometimes I feel like I am dying. My heart races, my thoughts are loud and jumbled, and I am intensely fearful of an enemy that is not there. How do you fight an enemy that you can't identify? It doesn't have a face. It speaks, but it doesn't have a voice. It robs me of my present, and doesn't allow me to picture my future. It stabs me in the chest with my past, over and over until, finally, it releases for a little while. But the worst part is - it comes back whenever it wants, without warning. There are things I can do to help minimize it - limiting caffeine intake, getting enough sleep, exercising, meditation, down time, talking about it. Some of those are much more difficult than others. The last one in particular. Anxiety is like an abusive partner - it isolates you and makes you think you're defective, that there is no one else in the world that struggles this way.
In my lowest moments, I believe it.

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