Anxiety is such an interesting little demon. It never ceases to amaze me how something as simple as not having enough water after drinking coffee can throw me into a panic.
I have talked a few times about this in my blog, but I am at a point in my life where my anxiety has evolved into something so incredibly different than when it started. I thought I would share my journey since there are so many people on the internet who fight the same issues.
When I first realized I had a problem, I was very manic. I couldn’t control any of my feelings, I couldn’t sleep and I would have states of not eating anything at all to eating everything in sight.
Everything I felt was so intense, and when I felt like I wasn’t in control of my emotions, my anxiety worsened.
I am so ashamed at some of the things I did and said during this period of my life.
I think it’s important to realize dealing with things like this is a personal journey, and it takes many shapes and forms. I think for people on the outside, it is hard for them to understand that you know how ridiculous you sound, but the realization of this doesn’t make it any easier, and it definitely doesn’t make it stop.
I categorize my anxiety journey so far in four phases: The Manic Period; Self-Loathing; Fearful of the Crowd; and Stress, Sleep and Distrust.
THE MANIC PERIOD
I think the beginning of any journey is always the hardest. The Manic Period was the longest leg for me.
The Manic Period lasted from elementary school throughout high school. I would like to attribute puberty and small town living to why this was so hard for me as well.
For most of this period, I lacked the maturity and knowledge on how to properly deal with these intense emotions flowing through me.
I think the first time I realized I felt things more intensely than my friends was when I found out they didn’t stay up all night the day before a sleepover from excitement. I know it is so simple, but looking back, it was the first time I ever realized I might need to tone down my feelings in front of others.
It only evolved from there.
The worst part for me was that I couldn’t hide my feelings and put up a thick skin attitude. I hated it when I was bullied, and I was so transparently upset.
I wanted to act like I didn’t care, but instead I sat there ugly crying in front of everyone in middle school.
As you can imagine, this didn’t exactly make my anxiety any better.
Halfway through high school, the ugly crying turned into pure rage. I was probably one of the angriest teenagers you had ever met.
I think I was fed up of being something people kicked around, and I wasn’t going to be the victim anymore. I just wanted to tell everyone who ever hurt me to fuck off.
However, the rage and anger subdued the anxiety somehow. I still meticulously planned my future and couldn’t be late to anything, but those were more of the OCD symptoms of anxiety. The symptoms I could handle at the time.
I think I hated everyone around me so much that at the end of the day, I didn’t have it in me anymore to pick myself apart. Yeah, I still thought I was huge and wished my hair would curl better – but that’s normal teenage stuff.
I began to transition out of the Manic Period my senior year of high school. I wasn’t angry all the time, and I was very focused.
I started exclusively hanging out with my college friends, and it was so refreshing to get out of that little, suffocating town. I think it is fair to say I was put on ice.
All I did was work – I had three jobs. I worked at the local television station as a PA and a master control operator, I worked at a gas station and I cleaned churches on Saturdays.
This is when I realized the busier I was, the less anxious I felt. I used this coping mechanism up until the day I got my wonderful dog, Schmidt.
I know at this point in the phase, you are probably wondering why this is called the self-loathing period of my life. It seems like I am getting myself together.
The self-loathing phase lasted from my senior year of high school to the middle of my sophomore year in college.
I know people tell you to fake it til you make it, and I think that is what I was doing. I think I made the mistake when I looked closely at myself and realized I was a fraud.
My “confidence” was just a way for people to pay attention to me, so I would feel valued. It wasn’t really confidence at all, as much as it was attention-seeking. I put so much weight into what people thought about me, but played the part of someone who didn’t care.
I also had additional things happening in the background of my life that I was desperately trying to act like didn’t exist.
I was surrounded by people, but I felt so incredibly alone. I was jealous of everyone around me, to the point I eventually had to shut everyone out.
I went from hanging out with tons of different people every day, to the same three all week. I didn’t want to be around people anymore. I was gaining weight, and I was ashamed to be seen by anyone.
I hated everything about myself. The persona that I had built to hide under was collapsing. I felt like an actor that realized I didn’t have any talent in the first place.
Things only got worse when I began to work for a woman who called me stupid and incompetent on a daily basis – especially when her claims were invalid. My emotions might have been a rollercoaster, but my ambition and hard work have never been things I falter on.
I finally consulted a doctor for help as a hit rock bottom. I averaged about two hours a sleep a night, and I literally spent 4 hours crying my eyes out from hating myself so much daily.
I made the decision to get a dog, and he literally guided me out of the darkness. Focusing on something other than myself turned my world right side up again.
Things took a turn for the better halfway through my sophomore year. I began an intense vegetarian diet, and I lost 40 pounds (all of which I had gained in the past year).
FEARING THE CROWD
The self-loathing had ended. The intense emotions had ended. The sun had risen, and the rain had stopped.
However, a new obstacle emerged in my new body confidence and self-assurance.
I finally loved who I was! I loved what I loved, and I didn’t need anyone to validate my feelings. I did not care what you thought of me. I felt even and in control.
I started this little blog to make myself even happier.
But now I was in constant fear of going back, and a new anxiety came forward – social anxiety.
I felt like a fragile deer in groups. I didn’t want to talk to new people, and I didn’t want to make small talk. I just wanted to stay with my little group who I trusted.
I wish I could say that the above paragraph is no longer true in the present, but I still sometimes feel the same way – but we will get to that.
The first thing that happened when I represented myself at my normal weight and happy, I had people I barely knew coming up to me, commenting on my weight loss.
I had such mixed feelings about it. Here’s a little brief look into all the thoughts that ran in my head when people commented on my weight:
- Thanks, I definitely deserve compliments. I did this all on my own without any weird supplements.
- Well, shit. I guess I really was big if you cant stop talking about how much weight I lost.
- Okay, you can really quit looking at me all wide-eyed… I hate small talk. You literally have never talked to me before.
I think to sum up this period, I was very happy. I just wasn’t used to my new social-anxiety. As long as I was with people I trusted, there were no issues.
STRESS, SLEEP AND DISTRUST
My new anxiety form has only existed in the last year, and I am still learning the ins and outs of it.
When I graduated college, I hit the ground running. If you know anything about me, it comes to no surprise that I had a job lined up, and I was making the big move to Alabama.
Alabama only helped me grow as a person. I was all out on my own, and I really began to love doing simple things by myself. Little things like going to Starbucks with my dog would put me in a good mood for the whole day.
Sure, I have things that trigger my emotion anxiety, but I am not just living in this world where I feel like a rock is going to fall on top of me.
My social anxiety has gotten slightly better. I can talk to new people and feel safe. However, I gained a new little quirk.
A year ago, I started to have a very mild case of Tourettes. Sure, I can go up to a person and talk to them. I will have a great conversation, and I will have a great time.
But, the minute I am alone in my car I will begin to analyze everything I did while socializing. No matter how short or how normal the conversation is, I will begin to say one word over and over again until I start to feel comfortable.
Compared to my past obstacles, this is nothing. I have control to where I can step aside to have this moment of clarity.
I still don’t trust people to completely let them in. I have met many people who are great, non-toxic relatable people, but I only let people in surface level. I still feel like I have to hide myself, but at the same time, I don’t really know what I am hiding.
I also am advancing my career, and I love my job. I am building my own team, but sometimes I feel so stretched thin – which is why my stress levels are very high.
Whenever I am sick (which is not very often), I have panic attacks. While I haven’t been having any panic attacks during this stress period, I am sleeping 12-14 hours a day. I am not having any abnormally intense emotions, I am just sleeping like a hibernating bear.
I am trying to combat this with working out and staying hydrated. Getting the energy to workout has been difficult, but I am still trying to get the motivation every day.
I hope this also explains why I have been posting maybe once or twice a week compared to my old schedule of 7-9 times a week.
SO WHY ARE YOU TELLING ME THIS?
When I was living in the first two phases of my anxiety, I wish I had met people with the same monsters who have it under control for the most part.
I can’t say for certain it would have sped up my journey, but I do think it would had help to know there was another side to this coin.
Roughly 18 percent of people in the United States deal with some form of anxiety disorder, and I strongly feel like the stigma should be eliminated.
There are so many strategies to deal with anxiety, and I have tried many, and these have just been what work for me.
Anxiety is a weight. And while it might take you a while to find the best way to carry it, you are strong enough to lift it.