My Anxiety and Me
Anxiety is something that has been a part of my life for years. It isn’t something that I ever really discuss with anyone, apart from my big sister. As ironic as it may sound, I get anxious even talking anxiety.
Anxiety is unique to everyone; for me, my anxiety has become a lot worse over the years – it can be there but I can function, then sometimes it is so intense my heart feels like it is going to pump out my chest.
In hindsight, I definitely suffered from anxiety as a teenager; but I didn’t understand myself enough to verbalise these feelings. I remember dreading social events especially when there were a large group of girls who would ask a lot of questions, so I would just hang out with my male friends, as they were a lot more chilled out and I would behave like the ‘funny friend’, as this would distract people from having any conversations with me about something genuine like feelings or emotions.
When I was in school and probably most of my adult life, even in my personal relationships I was very much a people pleaser and a bit of a pushover. I had some friends who I knew deep down weren’t good for me and weren’t really my friends at all. However, at the time, the thought of standing up to some of these people and ending up with no friends at all brought about horrible anxiety attacks and I just grew to get used to being taken advantage of. Even in my first adult relationship, I wanted to please him, going to any lengths, I look back now with my more rational mind and think how could I of done those things. This eventually led to a pattern of thinking of friendships were only ever there because they wanted something from me, which resulted in horrific self-esteem issues.
I ignored my anxiety for a long time as I truly believed that unhappiness was something I deserved. A lot of different things would trigger my attacks; stepping out of my comfort zone, carrying out an activity which wasn’t in my normal routine. It completely changed my personality and controlled my thoughts. In the past few years, I have completely changed my life, I quit my job, I returned to university, I’m accomplishing what I’ve always wanted to do and met some amazing new friends, and every day I push myself outside my comfort zones.
At the beginning of this journey I truly believed I wasn’t capable of achieving what I wanted, I literally spent hours telling myself I can’t do it. But, do you know what? I did it! Yes, on this journey I met some people who weren’t kind or tried to knock my confidence. I hid from the world for a long time, it was only because of my big sister and a good friend, with their understanding I dusted myself off and went back out.
Following an accident involving a lorry driving into me, I took a whole year off from teaching, when I returned the first few days my anxiety was so intense I thought I would pass out, I couldn’t catch my breath, but slowly this feeling is fading day by day.
So, what is anxiety? Generalised anxiety disorders (GAD) are defined for mental health professionals in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition or the DSM-5 for short. This manual allows all behavioural and mental health providers to use the same criteria when they are assessing and enables them to make a relevant diagnosis
Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder from the DSM-5
The DSM-5 criteria that are used to diagnose GAD are as follows:
- The presence of excessive anxiety and worry about a variety of topics, events, or activities. Worry occurs more often than not for at least 6 months and is clearly excessive. Excessive worry means worrying even when there is nothing wrong or in a manner that is disproportionate to the actual risk. This typically involves spending a high percentage of waking hours worrying about something. The worry may be accompanied by reassurance-seeking from others.
In adults, the worry can be about job responsibilities or performance, one’s own health or the health of family members, financial matters, and other everyday, typical life circumstances. Of note, in children, the worry is more likely to be about their abilities or the quality of their performance (for example, in school).
- The worry is experienced as very challenging to control. The worry in both adults and children may shift from one topic to another.
- The anxiety and worry are associated with at least three of the following physical or cognitive symptoms (In children, only one symptom is necessary for a diagnosis of GAD):
- Edginess or restlessness
- Tiring easily; more fatigued than usual
- Impaired concentration or feeling as though the mind goes blank
- Irritability (which may or may not be observable to others)
- Increased muscle aches or soreness
- Difficulty sleeping (due to trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, restlessness at night, or unsatisfying sleep)
Many individuals with GAD also experience symptoms such as sweating, nausea, or diarrhoea.
- The anxiety, worry, or associated symptoms make it hard to carry out day-to-day activities and responsibilities. They may cause problems in relationships, at work, or in other important areas.
- These symptoms are unrelated to any other medical conditions and cannot be explained by the effect of substances including a prescription medication, alcohol, or recreational drugs.
These symptoms are not better explained by a different mental disorder.
If you think you may suffer from anxiety or another mental health issue, talk about it, talk to friends or family, visit your GP, I can guarantee you will feel better just by talking about it
Still, there are so many things that I would love to do but my own anxiety holds me back. But what I know for sure is I will overcome this, day by day and challenge by challenge.
This is my story about how anxiety can control me, what are your experiences and I would love to hear about your coping methods for anxiety.