A Bundle Of Nerves

A Bundle Of Nerves

Vague thoughts on anxiety

It’s happening again, the same way it happened before. That creeping dread, the audiovisual over-stimulation coming from nowhere but your own head. It creates invisible barriers between you and the rest of the world. Friends, family, classes and hobbies all end up feeling vague and distant. If this sounds familiar to you, then you likely suffer from one of the myriad forms of anxiety. Anxiety is far from an uncommon occurrence, whether it be a passing feeling or a consistent diagnosis. Most everyone has had to deal with anxiety's strange internal tensions at some point. It can manifest itself in a variety of ways, ranging from a simple reaction to stress to a protracted struggle between yourself and your own brain.

My particular strain of anxiety is hypochondria: a constant fear of something out of my control going wrong with my body or health. More often than not, it is extremely illogical. Aches become tumours, floaters and specks become possible blindness and even when there is nothing in particular for my brain to obsess over, I tend to be left with a foggy sense of impending doom. Even when it feels like the logical side of my mind has won out, and I am able to go about my day and enjoy myself, there will oftentimes be a small corner of my brain declaring fire and brimstone like some sort of drug-fueled street preacher. Some days it seems to come out of nowhere, others it mutates out of latent stress, but each time it feels like trying to walk through a tar pit. Grotesque strands of black ooze cling and drag, impeding any sort of progress or productivity.

One of the most consistent “symptoms” of prolonged anxiety spikes tends to be fatigue. A general sense of immobility overtakes you, draining your energy whilst simultaneously refilling your mind with dread. Mustering the willpower to go to classes or the library and dedicate yourself to work can feel like an uphill battle against a nigh impossible foe, while observers at the fringes of the war zone may simply tut and snigger some nonsense about laziness. This is all too common, obnoxiously familiar territory to many people, myself included. Even in class, there is no guarantee of a constructive use of time seeing as, more often than not, your attention span is completely shot. I either find myself catching floaters and sparks in my vision, nerves getting the better of me as my line of sight darts around like a madman, or wrapped in a miasma of gloom and fear.

The best things to remember in times like these, when it feels like your entire mental infrastructure is collapsing in on itself, is that your problems are not unique. You are not alone in your nervous throes. Though, at times, it can be among the most isolating feelings you may ever experience, someone -- somewhere -- is going through the same thing. I know that won’t return your energy, nor will it magically soothe your worries, but it is the first strike of the chisel into the stone. Without an understanding of what triggers you, without the knowledge that others struggle alongside you, in essence you are dooming yourself to wallow in a lonely smog, toxic and draining.

If you don't accept it you are just going to make it worse.

Suggested reading: Anxiety is an Invalid Excuse

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What It Is Like To Be A College Student With Anxiety

In the United States alone, 40 million people over the age of 18 struggle with an anxiety disorder.

College is a stressful time for everyone. It's a new environment that everyone adjusts to in different ways. There are classes that require a conscious effort to attend, laundry that won't do itself, and the concept of making a whole new group of friends can also be stressful for some people.

But college is especially hard going into if you have an anxiety disorder. Multiple studies have shown that, in the United States alone, 40 million people ages 18 and older struggle with at least one form of an anxiety disorder.

In all, there are six types of major anxiety disorders. These include generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, phobia, social anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. In addition to that, everyone handles their anxiety differently and the list of things that can trigger anxiety can seem endless.

Often, people that don't struggle with clinically diagnosed anxiety think that it's just something that people can talk themselves out of. This is understandable. Like depression, it's hard to understand and fully grasp what goes on in someone else's body if you don't struggle with it yourself. Also, because mental illnesses affect everyone differently, sometimes one person's anxiety can affect them differently than it affects others. This makes treating anxiety tricky.

I'm not talking about regular anxiety and stress like when you have a major test and you're worried about your grade or what's going to happen to your social status in college if you're an introvert that has a hard time talking to people. Those are things that many people worry about and it's not what constitutes an anxiety disorder. Don't get me wrong, those fears are completely valid and could certainly be included in an anxiety disorder, but odds are if your worries stick to practical things like that, you probably don't have an anxiety order, but rather just anxiety produced from stress.

Having an anxiety disorder while in college can be interesting. Some days are good and others you wake up and you just feel on edge or depleted even though you just woke up. And sometimes even talking about it doesn't bring much of a change.

Going through college with an anxiety disorder can be difficult, but anxiety doesn't have to define your college experience. I've had anxiety since I was a child, anxiety that has taken different forms in different stages of my life. But surrounding myself with people who encourage me was a necessity. Maybe they can't completely relate, but they have helped to lighten my mood when I'm having a bad day internally.

It is normal for someone who struggles with anxiety to wonder when life will get better, but maybe we're taking the wrong approach. Maybe instead of wondering when our anxiety will end completely, we need to think about the good days in between and embrace those so much that, when we have a bad or an anxious day, we can draw strength from the good memories.

Cover Image Credit: Unsplash - Gerome Viavant

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If You Fear Any Of These 5 Things, You're Not Alone

This goes well beyond being afraid of spiders or clowns.

We're all familiar with phobias. We all likely have one or two of our own.

Fear of spiders (arachnophobia) comes to mind, along with fear of heights (acrophobia). These are among the most common, but oddly enough, neither of these plague me. In fact, I'm not scared of many of the things most people fear, save for death--but that's a whole big thing I can get into (and likely will) in a future post.

My fears are a bit random and extreme. And though phobias, by definition, are irrational in nature, my fears surround things that teeter on the line of absurdity.

I don't talk about them much for that very reason. I feel like if I bring them up, not only will I be laughed out of the conversation, and not only will I still be afraid of the thing, I'll also be more embarrassed than I already am.

You ever have that professor that constantly encourages your class to ask questions, even if they might seem dumb to you because chances are someone else in the class has the same question but is too afraid to speak up?

I'm kind of starting to see my fears that way. Though I've rarely found others I know personally who have the same weird fears as me, the internet is this wonderful place where you can ask any question in the world and find some sort of answer.

So here are a few of my fears that I've come to find are shared by others. And if you have any of these fears, you can now rest assured that you're not alone. We can rejoice in our shared awkwardness!

To those of you who don't have these fears, well, I'm sorry. Read at your own discretion. I don't want to be held responsible for instilling a newfound fear in strangers on the internet.

1. Fear of elevators...and I don't mean getting trapped in one

The fear of getting trapped in an elevator is fairly common. There doesn't seem to be a specific name for this fear, though it's attributed to claustrophobia (fear of enclosed spaces) and agoraphobia (fear of being trapped in situations with no easy escape).

My fear isn't either of these things. My fear is the actual threshold of the elevator, and being scared that one day, as I'm stepping out, the elevator will somehow malfunction or the cable will snap, the elevator will fall, and I will be cut in half as I'm exiting.

Gruesome, right? But it's a legitimate fear. Not only has this actually happened, but there are others on the internet who have the same worry as I do.

2. Fear of being pushed in front of a train

I take Denver's light rail (commuter train) to work every day, and that comes with its own list of joys, but beyond the worrisome behavior of my fellow commuters, I have, since childhood, had a strange fear of being pushed in front of an oncoming train or bus when waiting at my stop.

I get really worried any time a completely innocent person walks by me at the station because for some reason I am convinced someone would do this. I plant my feet in a way wherein the highly unlikely event someone does try to push me, I'll be able to hold my ground and not fall.

It's completely ridiculous, but again, this has actually happened to people before, and I'm not alone in this fear.

3. Fear my friends don't actually like me

Of all my fears I'm listing here, this is likely the most common one. Though I haven't found an actual name for it, if you just Google "my friends don't actually like me," there are hundreds of hits.

To me, it's very similar to imposter syndrome where I sort of convince myself that despite all of my merits, I'm in this position I'm not qualified for or good enough to have been given, but instead of work, it's with my friends, family, and loved ones.

Like this person, I know it's rooted in my anxiety (as probably all of my irrational fears are), and so when I'm having my moments of feeling like no one actually likes me and only keep me around because they feel bad for me or whatever, I have an easier time talking myself out of those feelings, reasoning with my own brain, and getting over it.

4. Fear of heights

I mentioned acrophobia, the fear of heights, at the beginning of this post, but I am not actually afraid of heights for the mere fact that they are...well, high. I'm not afraid of falling because unlike the guy in the gif, I'm not a daredevil and the only high places I go are places that are designed to have people in or on them, like the top floor of a skyscraper or a Ferris wheel.

What scares me about heights is this weird sensation I get to want to jump.

No, I'm not actively suicidal and I really don't want to go out like that, but every time I've been up high somewhere, I am struck by an urge to jump.

And wouldn't you know it? This is a real, legitimate fear with a name and everything! Catapedaphobia: a fear of wanting to jump from high places, and it can come alongside acrophobia, or just be a fear all its own.

Our brains are weird, man.

5. Fear of pregnant women

Okay, please hear me out on this one. I hesitated about including this fear because it can so easily be misconstrued as me thinking pregnancy is gross or that big, pregnant bellies are scary. That's not what my fear is about.

Ever since I was a kid, I have been afraid of being around pregnant women for fear that I, being the clumsy person I am, might do something accidentally to hurt them or the baby. I'm afraid that, for no reason whatsoever, I'll trip and fall into them, or turn around without realizing they're behind me and hit them in the stomach with my elbow.

I'm going to be honest: I can't find a single other person on the internet who has this fear without it being predicated on thinking pregnant women are gross or being literally afraid of pregnancy, childbirth, or babies (Tokophobia).

That is not at all my fear. Though I don't have or currently want kids of my own, I don't think women who do have kids are bad or that pregnancy and babies are gross (though I do have a fear about holding babies--which, again, will be an article for another day).

The reason I decided to include this one is twofold: 1. If I admit this fear, maybe someone out there who feels the same will read this and know they aren't alone, and 2. I have actually met another person who knows what I'm talking about and feels it too, so I already know I'm not by myself in this.

I'm sorry. My brain can be a dark place.

So that's all, folks! Let me know if you've got some crazy fears of your own, or if my list here helped you realize that you've got other people out there you can relate to.

Once again, if you're a completely normal human being who doesn't fear anything but have found a new thing to worry about after reading this, I sincerely apologize.

Cover Image Credit: Tim Tra

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