Anxiety is a funny thing. Well not really. Not at all actually, it kind of really sucks – a lot. It comes with all these nifty little add-ons, like worrying about every single little thing, rather than seeing the big picture, and sleeplessness, and sometimes, if you’re super lucky, you even get to become rather antisocial. It’s like a cluster fuck bouquet. It makes me very different from who I normally am – it takes the sunshiny, happy, and very social girl that is me, and turns me into someone who doesn’t want to talk to the people she normally talks to, or do the things that she normally loves to do. One of my all-time favourite accessories that comes along with this disorder is the propensity to be insanely hyper aware of anything and everything that goes on in my body.
To you, its gas pain, to me its unexplainable, excruciating pressure, that immediately brings on nausea, overreaction, and the need to be left alone to calm my mind and prevent myself from spiraling.
My body and mind are very literally incapable of coping with, what they perceive, as multiple negative stimuli.
Take an Advil for that headache and keep on chugging? Yeah, I wish – I have to calm myself down long enough to be able to down the Advil, and then I need some time to calm myself after taking the Advil to ensure I keep it down, and hell if I know how to be a functioning human being while I’m trying to remind my grown-ass-self that it’s not the end of the world. That every little twinge, feeling, emotion, isn’t a sign of me beginning to spiral, it isn’t my body shutting down or failing me, it isn’t an intense pain that’ll never go away.
Someone without anxiety may not even notice these small physical changes in their body that come with, let say, eating too much. But me? I’m so hyper aware of my body, that my brain catches these changes from my usual state of ‘normal’ or stasis, and immediately goes into overdrive wondering how I can stop them, fix them, change them, so I can be back in my regular state.
I have to remind myself that it’s okay, I just over ate, I need to go for a walk, or take a minute and wait – because that over-full feeling will pass, it’s not a permanent state of discomfort, it’s not a permanent state of nausea – it is temporary. I’m good at explaining that to myself now, but a few years ago the simple anticipation of feeling too full would literally make me lose my appetite before I’d even eaten. Needless to say, I lost a LOT of weight during that bought of intense anxiety.
I remember refusing to eat, then feeling sick because I hadn’t eaten, then being anxious because I was sick as a result of not eating, then eating to quell the nausea, only to feel nauseous because I overate. It was a vicious cycle, and it was one I had a lot of trouble pulling myself out of. I had to work on my anxiety, and my ability to cope with the anxiety, before I was in a place of comfort and confidence and was able to handle my food issues.
I still sometimes struggle to eat a full meal when I’m away from the comforts of home, for fear of having to deal with my over-active, hyper-aware, mind. I find myself sometimes eating less, to ensure I never make it to that feeling of being too full – just in case. I figure for those times of heightened anxiety this is a happy medium, I’m still eating regularly, I’m not starving and then binging. What can I tell you? I’m a work in progress.
Why am I writing all this down? Because I think it’s important for the people who don’t know what it’s like to struggle with this disorder, to know that we’re not weak, we’re not weird, we’re not completely incapable of handling our own bodies and minds. We simply experience things a little differently than you do. You may not notice your stomach turning, but when it happens to me, I feel an immediate rush of adrenalin, my body starts to wonder why I’m no longer feeling the way I did a moment before, and before I can stop myself – I go into Fight or Flight mode. I immediately start to figure out how I can fix something that, to a ‘normal’ person doesn’t even cross their minds as needing to be fixed.
I’ve gotten good at handling it, I’ve gotten good at hiding it, for the most part I’ve gotten good at no longer complaining about it (or even mentioning it), but that doesn’t mean that I’m not still experiencing it. Constantly. So, your anxious loved one seems off, give us a second to find equilibrium, our minds are literally racing a million miles a minute – it takes a second to slow that shit down.