Anxiety is kind of Depression’s first cousin. They often go hand in hand. And they feed each other, but anxiety is somewhat different. Whereas depression makes me want to cocoon and pull away, anxiety makes me feel like I need to do something. I’m just not sure what. In my early 20s, anxiety manifested itself as panic attacks that were often triggered by being in large social situations. I felt pressure to act normal, but I felt invisible and had no desire to be chatty. It was a push pull. I was pushing myself to be social while really wanting to be alone. For some reason being in big groups of people made me flashback to funerals, and my mind would go to places I didn’t want it to.
I didn’t really understand it as anxiety then. I was more like, “Get it together, Beth!” I have and will probably continue to be super hard on myself. Isn’t it funny how hard we find it to be kind to ourselves? It’s something I still wrestle with, but I’m much better than I was in the past.
But anxiety is still part of my life. It’s not something easy to explain even if you have awareness. Yet it’s something I think is important for those to understand who don’t suffer from it. I’m blessed to have an amazing man in my life who accepts all my flaws and wants to genuinely understand what I go through. Recently, I was able to explain it to him.
Something happened (a trigger) a few months ago that really spiked my anxiety. Our HOA sent us a letter claiming that someone had reported that one of our dogs attacked another dog. I got the letter after work so there was no way I could respond or find out more information. Logically, I knew the accusation was false. Our dogs don’t run wild. They are always with us. To our knowledge, nothing like this had occurred.
But anxiety doesn’t mesh well with logic. Suddenly, I was thrust into fear and panic. My dogs are my children. I love them more than just about anything or anyone. This letter made my mind race thinking someone was watching us or deliberately making false accusations. I felt as though my dogs were in danger. I was really upset. I couldn’t eat dinner or focus. It may seem like an inconsequential event but for me it was much more. So I took the time to explain it to my significant other.
I told him that when something irritating or upsetting happens to you, it’s just this one thing. You can be mad or frustrated but still think clearly toward a resolution. He’s a super chill kind of guy (I’ve heard him yell once in three years) so not much ruffles his feathers. I then told him that when something like this happens to me, I’m not just contemplating this one incident. It’s like a wave of every trauma I’ve ever had sweeping over me. It makes me feel like I can’t breathe, like there’s something stomping on my chest. For him, it would be like standing under a waterfall and there’s one tiny drip. For me, the levee just broke, and the water is furious.
My therapist gave me props for being able to take him through my experience. It was one of the first times, I could step outside myself and express the feelings and thoughts I had. I think it gave him a greater appreciation of my struggles. Anxiety affects millions of people. It can be debilitating, and lots carry around shame on top of it. Our brains are highly complex and often because of trauma we’ve experienced or chemistry, it can’t always look at a situation clearly. And that’s okay. There are ways to get through it. Deep breaths and focusing on ways to manage or resolve the situation work for me. But I’ll be honest, I also take medication. You can find something to help, just don’t suffer in silence.
After I wrote this and before I posted it, I thought maybe I shouldn’t. Maybe someone might judge me or not want to hire me. Then I remembered that I must live what I say. I can’t be scared. I can’t control what other people think. I am taking this opportunity to be honest so that maybe it might help someone else be able to accept their own struggles. That’s all and to admit I’m human. I think most of us are all doing the best we can every day. I’ve always believed that life will rarely turn out as expected but that doesn’t mean it can’t be great.
P.S. The HOA sent the letter to the wrong unit. Our dogs were cleared of any allegations. Deep breath; crisis averted