I have chewed my fingernails for as long as I can remember. I don’t mean cute little “Aw, I’m nervous, let me give my nail a little nibble.” I mean, imagine my nails were bunny rabbits and my mouth a cheetah. I annihilate them. I mean, I really destroy them. I chew and chew until they are non-existent. I do this when I get nervous, and since I am nervous virtually every second of the day, they are horrendous to look at. Why am I telling you this disgusting fact about myself? Because this is one example of many, of how my anxiety manifests itself daily.
Many people don’t know that I suffer from anxiety, except those closest to me. In fact, I take medicine to keep my crippling anxiety at bay. I don’t advertise this part of me because it is actually a very dark place for me to be. I believe the stigma attached to these types of personality disorders has caused many people to sweep their issues under the rug, not seeking the proper treatment. This can be a very dangerous thing.
This is why I have chosen to put the ugly truth about my generalized anxiety disorder here for…well, anyone to see….
Many people close to me have a hard time understanding why I react to things the way I do. It is difficult to make someone understand something, they have never felt. If you were to have a ball thrown at your face, you would throw your hands up and most likely try to duck. That would probably be your knee-jerk reaction to that situation. My knee-jerk reaction to almost every situation, is to stress, worry, and imagine the worst case scenario possible. It’s automatic, and out of my control.
After reading this you will probably think I’m nuts. I’m prepared for that. You will most likely think I am overreacting and unreasonable, that’s ok too. The truth is however, that your potential reaction to my way of thinking, is the main reason a lot of people keep quiet, and suffer silently. I am hoping to shed some light on this subject so that anyone else who may be dealing with this, can know they are not alone, I’m right there with you, and there is help available.
This is what it is like inside my anxious mind…….
My sister asks if she can take my son, her nephew to the park– I say no, because if she were to get into a car accident with him, and he died, I could never forgive her.
My bonus daughter asks if she can go in our backyard, 2 feet from the back door, to play on our playground by herself– I say no, because if someone were to come kidnap her when I looked away, I would never be able to live with myself.
My husband wants to give our baby a banana to try– I say no because I don’t want her to choke and die, we will just stick to baby food until she’s 15.
I leave my house 45 minutes early to pick my bonus daughter up for school- because being late to places kicks my anxiety into overdrive, so to avoid that feeling, I make sure I am 30 minutes early…….everywhere I go.
My mother in law wants to take my son for a sleep over– I say no because he is not used to her bed and may fall off in his sleep, breaking his neck and becoming paralyzed.
If I have a stomach pain –I convince myself that my appendix just burst and I currently have poison filling my insides and am going to die within the hour.
If more than 2 people are talking at once –I feel like I am a soda bottle that has been shaken, and I am on the verge of exploding.
If you invite me somewhere –I will smile and excitedly say yes. When the day comes, I wake up dreading it, because it requires me to get myself ready and have conversations with people. I will spend the entire night absorbing other peoples energy and entertaining small talk, and by the time I get home, I am utterly exhausted.
If I leave the house feeling self conscious about my hair –I will spend the entire day watching every single person I walk past, to see if they look at my hair, then when they do, I will convince myself that they are thinking about how hideous it looks today, and that I never should have left the house looking like that.
If I tell my sister to call me later, and she doesn’t –I will call her. If she doesn’t answer, I automatically assume she has been kidnapped and murdered. I even envision my reaction when the police will call to confirm my suspicions.
If someone asks to hold my baby– I will stare at them the entire time so that when they drop her, I will be prepared to catch her.
If someone I don’t recognize knocks on my door– I grab a weapon with one hand and have 911 on speed dial with the other.
If I am lying in bed and hear a noise–I envision a robber coming to kill us all. I visually locate a weapon and mentally plan my sneak attack for when he comes in the room.
This probably sounds CRAZY to you right? I know. Trust me, it feels crazy. Who the hell would want to live like that? I don’t think anyone would. Yet, many people do. Some people may have it easier than me, some, probably worse. There are so many variations of anxiety disorders, each of them equally as difficult to live with.
The excessive, relentless, unrealistic fear that at any moment, terrible things are going to happen. Most people can enjoy a day at the beach with their children, I will spend the entire day rolling them around in sunscreen and searching the water with binoculars for sharks.
The exact cause of generalized anxiety is not fully known, but a number of factors — including genetics, brain chemistry, and environmental stresses — appear to contribute to its development. I have been this way for as long as I can remember, and I’m certain that a lot of it has to do with the fact that I have lost both my parents, and all but one grandparent. Part of me recognizes that a loved one can be taken away in an instant, therefore I go to extreme and illogical measures, to keep my loved ones safe.
This is the first time I have ever shared this with anyone other than those closest to me. Reading back to myself what I have written, and seeing my thought processes in black and white has been quite eye opening. I see how unreasonable my thought process is. I see how insane it must seem to outsiders. I have laid my deepest fears and imperfections at the feet of anyone who chooses to read this, in hopes it will make someone realize they are not alone, and help others realize that we aren’t just being “worry warts” who need to “relax” and “calm down”, trust me, if we could, we would.
I have started meditating and praying and it has helped tremendously. The problem stems from my need to control, and in reality, nothing is in control….I cannot control the wind, the time, the flow of traffic, gravity, the weather or anyone other than myself. I need to recognize this, and let. it. go.
In the meantime, I need people to understand that we are not faking it, it is very, very real. We need less criticism and judgement, and more love and support. If you know someone who suffers from anxiety (and I really do mean “suffers”) don’t downplay it, don’t make them feel foolish, or crazy. Ask how you can help and let them know you are there for them. It is very difficult to live this way, but having a strong support system makes all the difference in the world.