So for my first proper post in my Mind Journal, I figured I would start with a little background on my anxiety. I will save the PTSD and Depression introductions for another day as this is the biggest of the three disorders that I suffer from. *cue quirky intro music*
I have always been a pretty anxious person. It’s in my nature just as another person may be inherently happy or temperamental. There are also multiple facets that make up my anxiety.
First of all there is the good old GAD. This stands for Generalised Anxiety Disorder and it is paralysing. Some days I will wake up to find that my entire body has seized up in the night so that I feel like I have been hit by a truck in the morning. I am still working on what exactly causes my GAD. It isn’t quite like the Social Anxiety or the Panic Disorder which I will touch upon later in this post. No, this is probably the most difficult side of my Anxiety to explain. So I will put it like this.
Imagine your body was encased in a skin tight suit. That suit had a mind of its own and for most people, it lives and breathes exactly as they do. You want to eat, it makes room for that, you want to move or go to a party or climb a mountain, it wants that as well. It works in perfect harmony with your body.
Now imagine that skin tight suit starts to glitch. One day you want to eat food but for some reason the suit freezes. Suddenly you can’t move and you don’t know why. So you don’t eat. Instead you decide to go for a walk but the suit decides nope, you can’t do that either. It then decides you also can’t go cook or clean or do any of the other things you usually do and you have no idea what is causing it. After a whole day of fighting against this suit to do the smallest thing, you finally decide its time to go to bed and rest. You lie there, sinking into your nice warm bed when you feel the suit start to constrict around you. It freezes your limbs, tightens your chest, presses against your head making you panic as you feel trapped, suffocated and alone. Eventually you might relax enough to know its not going to kill you, but some nights you will lay there all night, with no way of really doing anything except think of all the scary things that go bump in your own mental night.
The next day, the suit has relaxed a bit but the adrenalin hangover causes all of your muscles to ache. A simple brush against your shoulder causes agonising pain and you feel the suit respond again. Everything feels brighter, louder, more suffocating until you want to scream at it all to stop. Just for a moment. You make it to the bathroom just in time, retching and gagging. Alone in the bathroom you take a few minutes to think. Just calm yourself down, the suit responds. For now…
It probably isn’t the best analogy of GAD and I actively encourage each of you that wants to, to use this space to share what it can be like for you but this is how it feels for me every day. Some days it gets so bad that I physically cannot leave the house. Other people don’t quite get it when I tell them I need a sick day to recover. They think it is just an excuse but I can assure you, the headaches, muscle pain, exhaustion and mind fog that comes with this is as real as any other physical illness.
Now lets imagine that within this suit there is a particularly malicious glitch. Imagine that you are on a train or at a party and suddenly out of nowhere the suit constricts so tightly you can’t breathe. You are paralysed in the open, vulnerable. It clogs your ears, blurs your eyes and you lose sight of where you are. That is Panic Disorder. You feel like you are going to die even though the small rational part of your brain keeps telling you that you won’t. I am lucky in that I am just about able to hold it together so as not to cause a scene when an attack like this strikes but the need to run away or lash out is so powerful it can and will raise its head from time to time. When you lash out, it isn’t because of anything anyone has done. It is your suit malfunctioning and you need something or someone to focus your fight or flight on.
Finally, imagine you have all of this, at random times. And yet imagine you go to a party or a concert and the second you see the crowd, your suit starts pulling at you to get away. It tells you to run but your sense of self tells you to stay for a bit. So the suit starts to punish you. Your breath starts getting shallower, your brain gets too foggy to hold a conversation and all you can see are people who may or may not be looking at you funny. Someone asks you if you are ok but you are frozen. No words come out. You slowly curl up, your arms cross, you walk close to a wall, making yourself as small as possible until you can escape. At first you pin it to the fact you are an introvert but finally you see it for what it is. Social Anxiety.
There are so many other facets to anxiety and I cannot even begin to explain most of it. Not in one post anyway! So this is me doing my best to better explain the mental landscape to those few that will listen, hoping that this particular area can become a safe-haven where people can come and talk about their own disorders and learn about what it is like to live with mental health disorders every day. Be it for yourself, for a loved one or just out of curiosity.
The human mind works in mysterious ways my friends.