For the A-to-Z Challenge 2017 I’m writing all about myself. Every post will be some random fact or bit of information about me that you may or may not have already known. Maybe you’ll learn something! Feel free to let me know! ^_^
Well hell! I went and told you guys that I was going to make these posts all about ME, and then I go and pick a topic like this for the very first post? Well, come on, it’s not my fault that “anxiety” happens to start with the first letter of the alphabet, and it also happens that the affliction is a bit of an important part of my life.
People aren’t readily willing to diagnose children with mental disorders like anxiety and depression because there’s a stigma that children have no good reason to feel those sorts of things. Kids (or, at least, I guess I should say kids with relatively “good” lives) don’t have “real” troubles and worries, so why should they have troubled minds? It’s a poor mindset that has done many, many children absolutely no favors.
I’m not blaming anyone or anything – I just wanted to start off by pointing this issue out, because I doubt anyone throughout my childhood would have ever guessed that I was suffering from anxiety, even though it’s very obvious in retrospect – at least to me. I was the kind of kid who threw up on the first day of school every year. Whenever we went on a family trip I’d give myself headaches and stomachaches, and need to go to the bathroom ten times more often than was normally necessary. I’d panic before tests, even if I knew the material like the back of my hand, and then panic after the tests even if I’d felt confident that I was doing well during them. All of that might seem totally normal and benign to anyone who has never felt truly “anxious”, but a few years ago, when I finally realized that I do, in fact, suffer from anxiety problems, all those childhood moments came rushing back and it finally sank in that the intensity of those feelings was not normal.
I didn’t really realize that anxiety was a real problem for me until a job I had a few years ago. This particular job involved living on a work camp and busing to and from the site every day. That was the kind of thing I’d been doing for a while, but this site was different in two key aspects. One: the bus ride was an hour long each way. Two: the extraordinarily cheap company we worked for wouldn’t spring for an actual coach bus, and instead crammed us all onto a refurbished school bus with no toilet. At first it didn’t bother me too much, because I’d mostly lean back and try to catch a few z’s on those bus rides, but sooner or later it was bound to happen that my stomach had a bad day. That evening, on the bus ride back to camp, I was practically crying as I watched the seconds tick by on my watch, knowing that I had literally no way to escape and no options besides waiting. Our bus ride was through wilderness in the middle-of-nowhere, so it wasn’t like I could just ask the bus driver to pull into a gas station or something. I just had to wait and suffer.
After that day, I developed an anxiety toward the bus rides that I can’t even describe. Every day, as we neared time to get on the vehicle, I’d completely lose it. My heart would race, my skin would burn. I’d run to the bathroom three, four, five times just to make sure that I’d be okay, but the anxiety itself would cause my stomach to twist, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. For the weeks that followed, nearly every day was worse than the one before, to the point that I’d be staring toward the bus stop, willing myself not to burst into tears in front of my coworkers. A few times I even delayed our departure by sprinting off the bus at the last second to run to the bathroom one last time.
Now, I had great coworkers. They knew what I was dealing with. I’d explained to them how I felt. Some of them even experienced it themselves (come on, fifty people on a bus two hours a day with NO TOILET?). And I knew that I had nothing to worry about with them. If the absolute worst happened, it would be mortifying, for sure, but it certainly wouldn’t be the end of the world.
And yet, that’s the thing with anxiety. The logic is there, on one side of your mind, telling you that even the worst possible outcome isn’t really that big a deal. You know that you’re being unreasonable and that there’s no need of getting so worked up. But you can’t stop it anyway. That’s the thing that a lot of people don’t understand; you can’t just turn it off. You can’t just say, “This is dumb,” and stop feeling that way. There is no kill-switch.
I explained it to one particularly cheery, not-a-problem-in-the-world coworker like this:
Imagine that you’re trapped in your car, on a bridge that’s collapsing. Your car is surrounded by other cars, such that there’s no way you can open any of the doors, and no matter how hard you kick and punch you can’t break any of the windows. You’re trapped, and you can see the collapse working it’s way toward you. There’s a hundred-foot drop and you know that this is it – you’re going to die, and there’s nothing you can do about it. You’re screaming inside, terrified, heart racing so hard you think you’re going to pass out. You feel like the world is coming to an end.
Now imagine that feeling…but it crops into your mind and body for the most ridiculous reasons even though you know the reaction doesn’t suit the situation. That’s what anxiety feels like. Or, at least, that’s how it feels to me.
I’ve been able to work through my anxiety in recent years through facing it (via YouTube) and calming it (via meditation), but it’s something that will always be there, waiting to pop up at the worst possible moments. I wanted to share that fact for my first “All About Me” A-to-Z post, because I know there are plenty of people out there dealing with the same or similar issues, and it’s important to know that you’re not alone, not by a long shot. There are a lot of anxiety-sufferers out there, and even if the closest people in your life don’t understand what you’re going through, they do, so seek them out. It helps a great deal.
Have you ever had to deal with anxiety? Was there a defining moment that made it become a major issue in your life? Please feel free to share in the comments below.