Living life as an anxiety fighter, I’ve often felt like a secret agent with a secret mission that no one knows about! I’m vigilant, I’m well-prepared, I’ve thought it all through! I’ve obsessed over every scenario and possible outcome and I’m so educated about potential disaster that I’m too scared to leave the house!
And when you’re a secret agent who can’t leave the house you get a bit lonely! You’re spending your life inside your head and no one understands the never ending battle you rage against the anxiety machine every day just to exist normally. Doing life, it’s hard for people like us. So, if you don’t have anxiety here are 6 things you may not have realized about us and if you do, you get me, right?
Panic: RUN AWAY!!!
As I mentioned above, those of us with panic attacks and anxiety often live our lives trying to protect ourselves from panic by being vigilant against any threat of an attack or any situation where an attack might occur. I’m making it sound like we’re FBI agents and we’ve had a credible tip come in about a huge terrorist attack. And actually, living with anxiety is a lot like that. As the seasoned FBI agent, I know there’ll be loss of lives! I’ve trained on this scenario before and there are protocols that must be followed! Yup, that means…RUN AWAY or AVOID like the WIND!!
And when I finally track down that evil terrorist (my anxiety), it’s actually my own mind and body dropping anxiety bombs on ME, the FBI agent! It’d make a pretty good thriller with a twist, amiright! I’m both the good guy who wants to avoid/end/destroy all terrorist anxiety activity and the bad guy making it happen! How can I get Denzel or Nick Cage for the film version?! I can see them now, running in terror from my anxiety bombs!
So as you can see, being vigilant means that I’ve studied every potential situation and know every single social scenario that’s likely to be a trigger, so when I encounter even the barest hint of a trigger situation, I set off my own hair-trigger panic bomb due to my ultra-researched, obsessed-over, self-fulfilling prophesy. My mantra:
Always be prepared! Be so prepared that you cause your own anxiety!!
It’s like I’ve spent a lot of time with me, haven’t I? Because now all my greatest fears are known by my greatest enemy and yes they will and do come true. I’ve customized them just for me! Lucky me! I feel like both James Bond and his most worthy adversary who just got his personnel file in the mail! EEK!!
Career or Lack Thereof
With anxiety, I haven’t exactly landed my dream job. Most people with anxiety are actually under-employed, which means we accept “safe” jobs where we can be relatively sure we won’t panic. Our dream job may be something we’d absolutely love to do and would excel at, but we’d find it too distressing to actually do on a daily basis. As you can guess this leaves us pretty bitter, frustrated and upset. I know I’m capable of so much more, I just can’t reach that more because I’m too scared!
If your anxiety is a secret in your daily life, like my James Bond status, many people won’t know that this is why you have the job you do. People in my life assume that it’s the best I can do, which of course leads to even more stress and unhappiness on my part. If only people knew that I’m secretly fighting the good fight daily, they’d have some respect!
When you’ve got anxiety, you’ll meet a fair share of doctors who, when they find out you have anxiety, will attribute every other ailment you experience to your anxiety. Oh, you think you might have a serious disease with XYZ symptoms? Your doc says, well, you have anxiety, so that’s probably causing it. End of story, we’re done here.
You can imagine how frustrating it is not to be taken seriously. You can explain to them all day that you know your own anxiety and how your anxiety typically makes you feel (we’ve been best friends for years! I know all her evil manipulative ways!) and that this new thing is different, but they’ll always take the easy road and blame your anxiety. Because what symptom can’t be attributed to anxiety? Yeah, there’s so many different ways that anxiety can manifest itself that it can always be your doctor’s easy scapegoat.
Life of the Party: What party?
You know how your friends have that annoying habit of actually wanting to do things with you? They’re such jerks! This is literally how I think of the people I like best in life because I’ve tied many of my fears and anxieties to normal things like travel, social events and meeting new people.
So when my friends call, wanting to hang out, go to dinner, see a movie, travel together in a car, my first response isn’t, “Gee, that sounds fun! Golly! Sign me up! Let’s go!!” It’s more likely to be: “Oh no, how can I handle this? Will I panic? I know I can’t do that! I’m going to lose it and embarrass myself!! I kind of hate you right now friend! Leave me the alone to battle my anxiety in peace! I’m a one-woman show! I work alone!”
Needless to say, you aren’t likely to have a lot of satisfied friend customers with panic attacks and anxiety. More likely than not, they’ll be calling your customer service and unfortunately it’s a lot like Comcast. Nor are you likely to be a happy little Comcast phone operator. You’ll be thinking: I want to hang out with my friends and it actually does sound like fun and I hate the idea of missing out but I’m just not sure I can handle it. And if I go and the proverbial anxiety shit hits the fan…it’ll just make things even moire weird!
You can imagine the frustration that ensues.
Let’s get Physical, Physical
As nice as it would be if panic attacks were only in your mind, unfortunately they’re terrifyingly real and extremely physical. My typical symptoms involve increased heart rate, shortness of breathe, hot flashes, sense of unreality/blurred vision, terror/fear, shivering, shaking, churning stomach, nausea, diarrhea or vomiting.
Once it happens, it’s all I can think about. I’m suddenly obsessed with making sure that the all consuming terror and bodily agony which leads directly down the rocky path of social death doesn’t happen again. It’s like having food poisoning. I don’t want to eat that food again, but what if that’s the only food available? You can starve or you can be sick. Those are your options. But…you really can’t avoid your entire life, can you?
Normal, what’s normal?
For some wacky reason society expects people to act in socially normal ways. Weirdos! Apparently, I “should” be able to handle all kinds of things that “normal” people can handle. I should be able to ride in cars with other people. I should be able to go out to dinner. I should be able to stand in the grocery store line without thoughts of terror and fear. I should be able to get my hair cut and stay in the chair until they’re finished, shouldn’t I? I don’t want to look like a freak with only half a hair cut, do I? DO I?!
I should be able to go to meetings and sit without fidgeting or walking out or freaking out, right? I should be able to use public transportation. I should be able to wait in a waiting room without wanting to escape with every passing second or feeling the need to constantly use the restroom. I do want to actually see the doctor, right? Because, newsflash, I may have something wrong that isn’t caused by my anxiety! WHOA!
So many “shoulds” and so much anxiety with each one! It’s hard as hell to be a normal person with anxiety! Even the smallest life tasks can feel like the biggest challenges and when you struggle to do the small stuff, how can you enjoy the larger stuff in life and be happy and satisfied?
As you can see, Anxiety is a worthy and dastardly foe who tests us secret anxiety agents day in and day out. We’re fighting the good fight, in secret, inside our heads, so as you can imagine we’re pretty damn busy trying to get through the day!
The most important thing I can tell you about us is that we crave your empathy, your compassion and your understanding. It’s the only way we can make life bearable and find happiness and a satisfying life. And for you anxiety fighters out there, I’ll follow this post up with some tips and tricks to defeating your foe! All is not lost friends cause the bad guy never wins!
photo credit: porsche brosseau
Have you got your own anxiety story? Submit it to me so we can keep the conversation going.
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