I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression when I was 7 years old. That meaning, I've battled anxiety most of my life. When I was a child I would tell my mother "mama, I have the bad feeling again." I despised that feeling mostly because I was too young to understand what that feeling was, but unfortunately it was anxiety. However, this article isn't about me. I want to share what anxiety truly is and what it really means to have anxiety. For understanding, for no confusion, and for no misinterpretation.
WHAT ANXIETY ISN'T
I've seen people use anxiety as an excuse. Here's a scenario:
Your boyfriend hasn't texted you back in an hour while he's out with some friends. Resulting in you thinking he's lying to you or cheating. You text him five times and call three until he finally answers very confused. You accuse him and give him an ear full only to find out his phone was dead and charging all along. Then comes the "sorry babe anxiety got the best of me."
No. That is simply jumping to conclusions and overreacting. Not anxiety.
I also see people share and post images on social media with phrases such as "what if he", "what if I", "what if she", "thanks anxiety". Again, that is not anxiety. That is questioning and worrying. Everyone questions. Everyone worries.
(PS: those of us that have anxiety aren't very prone to sharing anything about it on social media.)
But isn't anxiety about worrying? Stop there and read this from Merriam Webster's Dictionary.
An abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physical signs such as tension, sweating, and increased pulse rate, by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about ones capacity to cope with it."
There's your definition of anxiety straight from the book itself. Yes. Anxiety does involve worrying but it's a lot bigger and deeper than you think.
WHAT ANXIETY IS:
You know that feeling where you're about to perform on a stage or go on a date with your crush for the first time? We call it nerves or butterflies. Multiply that feeling by 100. That is kind of what anxiety feels like.
Anxiety is a feeling of apprehension, fear, loss of control, panic, shame, and worry.
Along with the feeling of anxiety follows physical effects too.
Your hands will shake uncontrollably. You'll sweat like you ran a mile in 90 degree weather. Your ears will ring. You'll feel like you're going in slow motion but your heart rate is sky high. Parts of your body will tingle. You'll get dizzy. You'll lose your balance for no reason at all. You know if someone checks your blood pressure or pulse, both would be sky high. You'll get nauseated and sometimes physically get sick. And don't start crying. If you start crying, you won't stop.
I've had my anxiety so severe, I literally couldn't feel my feet or hands. I don't even know how I managed to walk or manage period, but I did.
The ONLY thing you're going to feel like doing is sleep. And hope when you wake up, it's gone.
But you can't do that. You've got to fight it. Because you know good and well if you go to sleep you'll wake up and it will be 10 times worse. Making yourself do anything with anxiety is extremely HARD. You don't want to do anything but escape, but the world doesn't stop so you can't either.
So then comes quiet time. Self-evaluation. Talking to someone about what you're feeling. Take medication if needed, (only if needed). And cope the best way you know how. Everyone that has truly been diagnosed with anxiety copes differently. Some do something different each time. Others have the same method of coping.
I cope in different ways. I'll color, write, and go to my dance studio and dance. I'll go to my church and pray. I'll schedule an appointment with my doctor to vent. Sometimes, I'll even clean.
No person with anxiety does things the exact same way. We're all different. We know we can't stop pushing. In the end, the storm will clear and rough waters will calm. And everything will be fine.
Yes, anxiety is a mental or mood disorder. But we are not "crazy people". You probably won't even know we have anxiety unless we tell you or questions are asked. We don't flaunt that we have anxiety. We're not ashamed, but then again it's nobody's business. You also wouldn't truly understand unless you've experienced it yourself or with a loved one.
Also, we're not "pill poppers", but we do have medications that to helps us. Anxiety isn't just a feeling either. There's more to it. The medicine we take doesn't help us "escape" or make us "numb". They help us.
Here's some science for you if you don't understand what that means.
There are four main neurotransmitters in the brain that effect our mood and behavior: Serotonin, Dopamine, Endorphins, and oxytocin. Do your research on each. Each one plays a different role in the body.
The main one is serotonin. Serotonin regulates much more in the body than just mood. It helps regulate sleep patterns, appetite, body temperature and memory. Then follows the other neurotransmitters. When serotonin becomes low, the brain almost acts in overdrive. Instead of releasing dopamine, endorphins, or oxytocin, it releases fear related neurotransmitters such as adrenaline. Causing anxiety and othermood disorders.
Have you ever heard of the medication Zoloft? Generic name Sertraline. This medication is an SSRI. Meaning Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor. So what do you think this medication does? Zoloft increases serotonin levels and helps the level stay balanced.
Each medication we take for anxiety has a specific role. The medications help us cope and help the chemicals that affect us stay stable.
Don't use anxiety as an excuse if you've never been diagnosed with it. You don't know you have anxiety unless a professional tells you otherwise.
If you feel as though you or someone you know may have anxiety, ask for help from a medical professional. If you do, you'll feel better. Be better. Learn more. And set up coping skills. It's not easy, but it is very much worth it.
Don't assume. Don't judge. Don't make your own assumptions. Don't misinterpret what it truly means to have anxiety.