My life has been severely impacted by anxiety for as long as I can remember. It has taken almost everything from me, and I feel like I have had no other choice than to just sit there and watch while it has ravaged my existence. One of my biggest regrets in life was that I wasn’t able to finish high school or college. This was because I wasn’t able to sit in class without constant worry flooding my brain and persistent panic attacks that had me leaving classes sometimes before they even started. I was always consumed with how I was feeling and hyper vigilant to the physical sensations that my anxiety produced.
Fast heart rate, clammy hands, difficulty concentrating, dizziness, and depersonalization were my top 5 symptoms and I was focused on them instead of whatever was being taught in class. I have never been able to travel because of the crippling fear that I will have a severe panic attack or depersonalization episode far from the comfort and solace of my home. I have held and lost many jobs, and I suffered financially at times because I was unable to work. I have spent my entire life watching others living their lives with ease, able to do normal everyday things without a second thought. I would often find myself wishing I could switch places with someone, anyone, I at times even would wish that I had something physically wrong with me instead. Anxiety has taken my sense of peace from me and replaced it with a constant feeling of restlessness, as if a ping pong machine with a time bomb attached to it is under my chest plate.
Anxiety has also taken a toll on another huge part of my life, my relationships with others. I have always been the friend that opted out of group gatherings, called and cancelled plans last minute, the one that missed birthdays and major events. When I would attend functions, there was always a 50/50 chance I would leave early. Most of the times my friends would understand, but there were times when frustration was voiced. And I get it, I really do. I have never wanted to be the friend who inconveniences the rest of the group, the one that makes everyone leave early because they are anxious, the one who bails last minute and ruins plans. I get that it can be annoying for others, and I don’t just know it, I can feel it .
I feel embarrassed that I had to leave, I feel discouraged that I got all dressed up to go out but only could stay 20 minutes because the place was crowded and the music was too loud, I feel defeat deep down in my gut when I send a text saying I wont be able to make it. And as much as my friends understand, eventually the invites stop coming, the texts slow down, the hangouts cease because sitting on my couch all the time isn’t exactly a blast. And I get it, I do. Thankfully I have friends that have stuck through it with me, that don’t mind watching Australian reality TV with me on a Saturday night if I’m not feeling up to going out.
I often find myself switching between not wanting to talk about it with others and bringing it up in jest to make light of it. I have never been a “poor me , feel bad for me” type of person, I have been quite the opposite. I usually keep mum about my disorder, unless I am in a situation where it becomes apparent and I feel someone may need to know. There have been many times where I have been absolutely crumbling apart inside, yet no one would have been the wiser. I have panicked through an entire waitressing shift and somehow mustered the strength to push through to the end of the night, I have felt completely detached at events and just tried to carry on without mentioning it to anyone, all because I don’t want how I feel to define me.
Friendships aren’t the only relationships that have been affected by my anxiety, romantic ones have suffered as well. In the past I have been made to feel inadequate, weak and unworthy. My downfalls were highlighted and brought to the forefront and not only did I have to deal with feeling how I felt, I had to constantly hear how annoying it was to someone else. Thankfully I am now in a relationship where I am understood and compassion rather than criticism is at the forefront. It really helps to have a partner who is willing to work with you and be for you no matter how unstable you may be at times.
I am hoping that I won’t have to worry about any of this one day, that I will be able to function like a “normal” person would, that one day I can just live in the moment instead of analyzing every single second of it. That day will come, but it’s going to take a lot of hard work, and I’m willing to do it. I have always held my friendships with others, near and dear to my heart and I have never wanted to take advantage of them. I have never meant to push anyone away, I have never meant to hurt anyone by my absence, yet when this happens during a rough episode, I find myself ruminating and obsessing about how it is damaging my relationships. It’s an awful feeling when something that is out of your control begins to take over your life. It almost feels like I’m composed of two entities, one that believes they can do anything and one that constantly says “no , you can’t and you won’t.”
So, when a friend cancels on you last minute, or has to miss important events, don’t assume that it’s because they want to. A compassionate approach means the absolute world to someone suffering from intense anxiety, and it makes life a little bit easier.
-Article written by Missy M for Healing Broken Hearts Project