The Truth About My Anxiety

The Truth About My Anxiety

Anxiety isn't easy to deal with, but you can get through it.
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Trigger Warning: descriptions of everyday anxiety and panic attacks.

I have always been a pretty anxious person. When I was younger, it would show itself through tapping feet, fiddling with pencils and obsessively stroking a single piece of hair. I was – and still am – overly emotional and would get stressed if I had trouble understanding something or had a lot on my plate.

About once a year I had what I would then call my “big breakdown.” Something really stressful would happen in my life – maybe I did badly on a test or had a big argument with a friend – and I would completely break down and cry for hours.

Around this time I had another one of my “big breakdowns” after my then-boyfriend broke up with me. It was very sudden to me and it was the first time I had gone through a breakup away from home. I expected to be upset about it but I did not expect for it to go as far as it did. I went into a deep depression. It became hard to get out of bed every day or pay attention in my classes. I broke down crying at least once a day to the point of shaking and hyperventilating. My friends were worried about me and my parents were concerned they would have to pull me out of school.

One day I was listening to music while I took a shower and the song “I Wanna Get Better” by the Bleachers came on and suddenly I was bawling. It wasn’t as if it was an emotional song, but the words “I wanna get better” made me realize that I did want to get better. What I was feeling wasn’t normal and I couldn’t continue to let myself live this way.

That was the beginning of taking ownership of what was going on in my life. I asked a friend to go with me to the counseling center where was asked me to fill out a form rating my feelings a scale of one to ten. After explaining my situation to the doctor, she finally put a name to these feelings: generalized anxiety disorder and a mild panic disorder. She explained to me that my “big breakdowns” were actually panic attacks and recommended that I start taking medication to help with my symptoms. I’ve been taking medication for more than a year now and it has made a huge difference.

Living with anxiety is not easy. Anxiety is being afraid of being the first person to be done with a test because you don’t want people to look at you when you go to turn it in. Anxiety is when you have to have things a certain way because it makes you feel more comfortable that way, and if anything gets messed up, you can’t focus until it’s fixed or you might go insane.

Anxiety is the constant worry that you’re being too loud, too quiet, too messy, too annoying, talking too much, talking too little, not working hard enough, working too hard, feeling like a failure, fearing that you’ve forgotten something.

Anxiety is filled with constant questioning: Do my friends really like me? Does anyone really like me? Are my parents proud of me? Am I ever going to make anything of myself? Will I be enough for someone? Is anyone ever going to love me? Am I going to be alone forever? And you experience this every day, it’s not an “every-now-and-then” kind of thing.

Sometimes all of the feelings and questions become too much, or maybe something didn’t go the way you planned, and then the world starts to feel like it’s crashing down around you and you feel a panic attack coming on. You feel like you’re drowning and you start to gasp for air, but it feels like someone is standing on your chest. And, if you’re like me, you might start to cry.

You feel uncomfortable in your own skin; you want to rip it all off. You curl up as tightly as you can so that you can protect yourself from everything outside of yourself until you start to tremble. And when it’s all over you are left physically and emotionally drained. You have to pick up all of the pieces of yourself and attempt to put them back together again.

Anxiety isn’t a cry for attention or simply being over-dramatic. It’s real, and it’s something that millions of people have to live with every day. Everyone deals with their anxiety in their own way.

What I find helps me deal with everyday anxiety is to write things down in a journal. Whenever I feel particularly anxious or nervous, I write down four things: the situation, my thoughts about it, something positive that happened that day, and then I rate my anxiety on a scale of 1-10 at the top of the page. I feel that putting my feelings down on paper pulls it out of my head and puts it out into the world.

I’ve also learned how to calm myself down from a panic attack using a “grounding” technique where I list facts about my life. For example, I repeat to myself “my name is Morgan, I am 20-years-old, I’m from Alabama…” and so on. It’s not a perfect remedy but it is working for me, for now.

Anxiety can be a scary thing, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t manageable -- and it certainly doesn’t have to control your life (or mine). If you are feeling anxious, reach out for help and then accept it. Take it one day at a time. Talk about it. Share your struggles and your triumphs with others. And, hopefully, all this talking and sharing will lead each of us to be a little less anxious and a little more educated on the topic.

Cover Image Credit: http://allisonseto.tumblr.com/post/99936753499

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To The Parent Who Chose Addiction

Thank you for giving me a stronger bond with our family.

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When I was younger I resented you, I hated every ounce of you, and I used to question why God would give me a parent like you. Not now. Now I see the beauty and the blessings behind having an addict for a parent. If you're reading this, it isn't meant to hurt you, but rather to thank you.

Thank you for choosing your addiction over me.

Throughout my life, you have always chosen the addiction over my programs, my swim meets or even a simple movie night. You joke about it now or act as if I never questioned if you would wake up the next morning from your pill and alcohol-induced sleep, but I thank you for this. I thank you because I gained a relationship with God. The amount of time I spent praying for you strengthened our relationship in ways I could never explain.

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Thank you for giving me a stronger bond with our family.

The amount of hurt and disappointment our family has gone through has brought us closer together. I have a relationship with Nanny and Pop that would never be as strong as it is today if you had been in the picture from day one. That in itself is a blessing.

Thank you for showing me how to love.

From your absence, I have learned how to love unconditionally. I want you to know that even though you weren't here, I love you most of all. No matter the amount of heartbreak, tears, and pain I've felt, you will always be my greatest love.

Thank you for making me strong.

Thank you for leaving and for showing me how to be independent. From you, I have learned that I do not need anyone else to prove to me that I am worthy of being loved. From you, I have learned that life is always hard, but you shouldn't give into the things that make you feel good for a short while, but should search for the real happiness in life.

Most of all, thank you for showing me how to turn my hurt into motivation.

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Thank you for choosing the addiction over me because you've made me stronger, wiser, and loving than I ever could've been before.

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Dear Anxiety, Thank You For Everything You Do And What You Make Me Do

My anxiety definitely isn't an easy thing to handle, but I wouldn't give it up for the world.

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I've always been a worrier. As long as I can remember, I've spent hours upon hours overthinking even the simplest of things, like whether or not something I mentioned in passing twelve years ago could have upset someone. Even ask my mom, she'll tell you all about the times I used to worry about silly little things since I was able to really worry about things at all. Now, worrying about literally everything that crosses my mind may seem like a hassle, and it is, but I truly don't think I would be where I am today without it.

Anxiety is a bitch. There, I said it. Short and sweet. It sucks, in all honesty, and is one of the hardest things to overcome that I have ever experienced in my lifetime (Not that it's been all that long, but you get what I mean here, right?) I spend so much time worrying that I barely take the time to sit back and look at how much I have accomplished rather than how much I have left to do. For example, I have four assignments and exams standing between me and summer but am I focusing on how little that is to do? Nope. I am spending every waking hour panicking about when and how I'm going to finish that work when I know full well that I have more than enough time to do so.

Yes, my anxiety keeps me from seeing the positives sometimes, but it really does motivate me. I mean, why else would I be up at three in the morning writing a paper that's due in a week when I work at 7 a.m. and have more than enough time in the next week to do it? Thanks to anxiety, I'll be exhausted for the next 24 hours, but hey, that work that doesn't need to be done for a long time is done and I can sleep later. Or so I think right now. I'm sure some little assignment or task will pop up that I have to finish by June that I feel the need to cram for right now.

So I guess this is my thank you to my anxiety. Thanks for motivating me by causing daily breakdowns over dropping a bobby pin behind my mini fridge or a page long paper that I have to turn in in two months. Thank you for keeping me on my toes constantly and pushing me so hard that I somehow ended up so far ahead in my classes. Where would I be without you? Probably a lot calmer, but with piles of assignments to finish at an appropriate time.

Thanks for everything you do - and make me do.

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