The End…just kidding…read on.
Most of you have probably felt anxious at some point in your life. You know that feeling of butterflies in your tummy or wringing of hands before a job interview, medical procedure or other stressful situation? We’ve all had those feelings and they are valid and normal feelings.
For those of us who suffer with frequent anxiety attacks, however, it’s much more than what I described above. For us, it’s an almost constant state of those feelings, coupled with an overload of adrenaline and much, much more.
In my case, my ears start to ring, I experience dizziness, my right hand shakes uncontrollably, I feel like my throat is closing not allowing much needed air into my lungs, heart palpitations and an overwhelming feeling of doom and gloom (oh, my Lord, I’m about to die).
When an anxiety attack hits, and they can come on for no apparent reason, it is crippling to live with. It’s also extremely difficult to explain to someone who doesn’t suffer with this condition.
Anxiety sufferers experience illogical fear. Most of us recognize the feelings aren’t real, but our bodies do not and they react accordingly. Therein lies the crux of the problem.
One of my biggest fears is driving long distances by myself. Just thinking of getting in my car and traveling a distance greater than 15-20 miles from my home sets off alarm bells. I’m so afraid I’ll have an anxiety attack while driving that I’ll pass out causing an accident, killing myself or, God forbid, someone else.
When I try to explain my anxiety to people who don’t have anxiety they can’t really understand and that’s okay. I get it. There’s no way they can truly understand because they don’t live in my body or mind.
I would love to NOT have anxiety. Then I could jump in my car and drive four or five hours to bury my feet in the sand and soak up some rays on the beach, but I can’t. Even driving 30-45 minutes without stopping is almost more than I can handle right now.
Why my anxiety manifests this way I’m not sure. It just does. It causes other irrational fears as well, but driving is by far the biggest. I envy those who can jump in their cars and drive without feeling overwhelmed.
I’ve begun to venture a little further from my driving comfort zone with the help of pep talks (you’re fine, you can do this, blah, blah). The fear is always worse than the reality and when I drive a longer than comfortable distance I feel a sense of accomplishment as I did yesterday when I drove 45 minutes to meet friends for lunch.
Those who don’t understand true anxiety attacks have no clue of the suffering we go through. They say things to us to try and help, but it only ends up making it worse.
With that said, here are a few things not to say to anxiety sufferers:
- Nothing is going to happen if you do x, y or z.
- Just breath.
- Get over it.
- You’re getting yourself worked up for nothing.
- Try harder.
No! Don’t do this to us. You’re not helping. I’m being blunt about this because what we need is patience and for you to try and understand we aren’t able to do certain things at times.
We have to work hard to overcome our anxiety and you telling us to “just try” or attempting to push us out of our comfort zone causes us to become even more anxious.
I’m feeling a bit anxious just writing this post. I know, however, I’ll be fine as soon as I hit the publish button.
If you are a loved one or friend of someone with anxiety disorder, here are a few things you can do to help:
- Be patient
- Understand we are not being dramatic
- Do not push us too hard
- Do not judge us
- Understand some days are better than others in regards to anxiety
If you struggle with severe anxiety be gentle with yourself. Do not beat yourself up because you can’t do something. If you try and fail, it’s okay. When you’re ready you will try again.
I take one baby step at a time and through therapy and medication, I’m making progress and doing my best. No one has the right to ask more of me than to do my best.
Blessings, Peace and Love,
(All information on this blog is based on my personal struggle with depression and anxiety. I am not a mental health professional and nothing written here is intended to replace care by a licensed professional.)