let’s talk about anxiety.

anxiety. in technical terms, a nervous disorder characterized by a state of excessive uneasiness & apprehension, typically with compulsive behavior or panic attacks. in MY terms, living hell. 

this post isn’t easy to write. but, i know i need to write it. i have suffered from anxiety ever since i was a child. & from childhood to present day, i truly haven’t met many people who understand what it means to have anxiety. the few people i have met, suffer with anxiety themselves. & i want to change that. there’s always a barrier put up between people when we are uneducated. i have felt extremely distant from my closest of friends because of their unwillingness to learn or even plain misunderstanding of my struggles with anxiety. that being said, anxiety is difficult to understand. it is different for every individual. it affects people in different ways, physically as well as mentally. i think it is important for those of us who do struggle to no longer sit in silence. there is an overwhelming sense of shame & distaste that is pushed upon you when you open up about any sort of mental illness… & i hate it. so this is me, being as open as i can, about the particular aspects of my personal struggles with anxiety. for your education, not for your judgement. & if you’re inclined to judge? you have my permission to leave.

so here we go, answering questions about my personal struggles with anxiety::

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what does it feel like?

my anxiety is being constantly overwhelmed & constantly exhausted. it’s a feeling of being trapped & being unable to do what has to be done. it’s trying to mentally handle everything you’re going through & short circuiting. it’s feeling like life is just impossible. & when it all adds up, & you’re too overwhelmed physically, emotionally, & mentally, the only thing you can do is hide under your covers & hope the world resolves itself, because you sure as heck aren’t currently capable of doing anything yourself.

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are there different types of anxiety, & if so, what do you suffer from?

it’s important to note that there are also different types of anxiety. some people suffer from general anxiety disorder, some with obsessive compulsive disorder, some with panic disorder, & some have a combination. i mostly suffer from panic disorder, & have frequent panic attacks. panic attacks are lovely. racing heart, blurred vision, inability to breathe, uncontrollable crying, incredibly dizzy, weak all over then going numb… oh yeah, it’s great. & due to how amazing these panic attacks are, people with panic disorder frequently begin a lifestyle in which they avoid people, places, & things that have given them a panic attack in the past. the frustrating part for me is that pretty much any time i am in an uncomfortable setting & feel trapped in it, i will have a panic attack. when i was younger, that meant any time i was at a sleepover or a school field trip. these days, it’s anything from crowds to airplanes to being around people i don’t feel safe with to being without my “comfort items” or without the people in my life that i know will keep me safe.

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does your anxiety hold you back?

well if you can imagine, all that panicking makes it kinda of hard to push myself “out of my comfort zone” as they say. being uncomfortable is such a battle for me. & frankly, the life path i’ve chosen is very uncomfortable to me. being a full-time college student, living in a college c0-ed dorm, eating in a cafeteria, being in college classes… it’s all very difficult for me. i wake up every morning hoping school was canceled. i wake up every morning dreading what i’ll have to overcome next. & you know, it’s difficult to find the balance between a good amount of pushing yourself, & knowing your limits.  i’m still struggling to find that balance. it’s like i love pushing myself to discover new things, but in a safe, somewhat controlled environment. unfortunately, i think going to a public university might not have been the right choice for me. i’m still learning that i am allowed to ask for help, & i am allowed to say no when it’s getting too much. anxiety, & any mental illness really, takes time to navigate & understand & cope with. it’s a long, grueling process for everyone involved.

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doesn’t being anxious just mean that you worry all the time?

this actually ISN’T actually what i experience. some people who suffer from general anxiety disorder have constant thoughts of worry & questioning. i actually happen to be quite a positive person who tries to think the best & see the best in people, & thankfully am also a super rational person who can usually reason with myself beyond trivial worries. but i live in a constant state of fight-or-flight, or a constant state of panic. i definitely have my moments where i overthink or worry, but no more than anyone else.

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& one more thing! being anxious isn’t the same as having an anxiety disorder! as humans, we do all experience anxieties, but anxiety itself is a serious mental illness. it’s a huge difference!!! so be careful when throwing around the terms “anxiety” or even “panic attack”. it can be offensive to someone whose state of life is deteriorating due to a crippling mental illness, when you’re just stressed about an exam. just make sure you are using the words in the correct way.

 

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isn’t anxiety all in your head?

an important aspect of anxiety is the physical aspect. personally, my anxiety affects my whole body. any time that i am anxious, my body gets incredibly sore from head to toe, which in turn makes me very exhausted. my adrenal glands will begin causing me excruciating pain, often too extreme to move. my anxiety affects my stomach, causing me to develop abdominal & intestinal disorders & an eating disorder. my anxiety gives me chest pain & trouble breathing. my anxiety triggers my chronic migraines. basically, NO, my anxiety isn’t just “all in my head”. my anxiety affects my entire body, making it quite the feat just to get out of bed in the morning. it’s a stigma that anxiety or any mental illness is just all in your head & you just gotta think your way out of it & be positive. oh how we wish it were that simple! while this is a mental illness, people feel it physically as well, which makes it all the more difficult to participate in daily life. so if you know someone who struggles with a mental illness & still is a full-time student or works a 9-5, you better believe they are a rock star.

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how can i help someone who’s having a panic attack or bout of anxiety?

panicking::

firstly, don’t ask for an explanation. don’t pester. the last thing someone who is panicking needs are questions. the absolute best thing you can do is just be there & provide support. & for a lot of people, that just means sitting in silence & possibly being the shoulder to cry on. personally, i just need someone to get me to a safe place (somewhere away from people & somewhere i can sit down), & then just sit with me until i calm down. but it is probably different for each individual. do not be judgmental in the slightest, because while their reasons for panicking might seem trivial to you, it’s life or death to them. treat them with the utmost respect & love. & that’s the best you can do!

bouts of anxiety::

if it’s just general anxiety, it’s good to provide distraction. for example, get out a coloring book, put on the television, start telling a story, really get them engaged in something (without them really having to do much themselves). don’t try & start a conversation, because most likely since this person is anxious, they won’t have much rhyme or reason going on in their brain. engaging them in an activity where they can focus their attention elsewhere than their own thoughts is the best.

now, if their anxiety is toward a certain event or situation, it’s okay to start a conversation to try & simplify the situation. what part is making them anxious? how could we tackle this in the best way possible to limit anxiety? who can we ask for help? now, while some situations are easily solved, others have no solution. some situations or events are just going to be the most anxiety producing for that person, & there is nothing they can do about it. the best way to deal with this situation is to make sure they know that they will not be stuck. as i’ve stated before, i get extreme amounts of anxiety if i believe i can’t escape a situation. so, provide them a way out. let them know you are a phone call away & can pick them up from the event if things get too difficult. even better, offer to accompany them or make sure that someone who they trust is with them. & if it’s truly all too much, help them come up with a great excuse to cancel, & make plans for a self-care night instead.

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any last words? (about anxiety)

well, high five if you’re still reading.

i don’t really know if i’ve accurately portrayed this mental illness that encompasses the lives of many of us, but i hope i’ve at least shed some light on what it’s like. it’s not easy. it’s not fun. we didn’t ask for this nor do we want this. but we fight, every day, to participate in life. we fight against this illness & do our best to live to our fullest extent & not let this overwhelming struggle define us. i’m a person, not a illness. i’m defined by laughter & love, not by panic & disorder. but it is a part of who i am, & i do want to educate those around me about it.

know that if you are struggling, this space is a save haven for you. you will be met with words of love & prayers of support. my email, craftedfragments[at]gmail[dot]com, will always be open to those who need comfort. know that you are worthy, you are strong, & you are courageous.

i think that’s all that i’ll say for now.

all my love,

meredith.


 

all images taken from pinterest.com

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