In my eyes, it is the anticipation that is the toughest part about anxiety.
We build up the worries and stressors in our minds to the point that they become almost impossible to deal with. Most of anxiety is irrational in that we know these concerns are not as bad as we make them out to be, but that doesn’t prevent the process from happening.
I see anxiety as a cyclical process that we ought to strive to break free from. We may never fully break away from it, as everyone will always have a small degree of nerves. That is a good thing though because we need to be in touch with our feelings, but it is when anxiety becomes so overwhelming that it prevents us from doing the things we enjoy in life that it is a problem. My own experience has been one filled with nausea and more bizarre manifestations such as hair pulling.
As a child, I would be unable to prevent myself from getting sick if I was anxious about a social outing, an event I had to attend, or a presentation I had to give in school. The oddest part about the whole thing though, was that I hid this from most people. As the years went on, I began to find patterns in my anxiety and understand when it would bring me to the point of nausea. I took this information and used it to perfect my running around in secret. That was my immature approach to dealing with it – simply finding a way to make anxiety livable. There was a point in college however when it hit me that I had to find a more positive and longterm approach to it all.
I went to a counselor, started opening up about what I was going through, and began writing about my experiences. It is amazing how much starting a dialogue can change things for the better. Not only did sharing my own struggles help me, but also I believe it has helped others feel comfortable about coming forward themselves. We are all in it together. Anxiety has a tendency to make you forget that. It brings with it a sense of isolation if you let it overwhelm you. The upside though, is that all you need to do is take that first step towards dealing with it for things to change.
Anxiety might not go away for good, but a bit of practice along with trial and error can turn it into something that isn’t scary anymore. I’ve tried medication, meditation, counseling, journaling, exercise, and countless other various behavioral techniques over the years. Most of them work, some for a little while and others for good, but you find what works and try new helpers as they come up. The important thing is that you are taking a positive and active role in your anxiety. Doing so will quickly diminish the power it has over you. When I feel myself slipping back into old habits of hiding my anxiety and wanting to make myself sick, I look to my past. I see that I have overcome just about all of the things I was once anxious about. Looking back, I realize that despite my anxious thoughts and feelings, I in fact have succeeded in all of the areas that I’ve been anxious about.
Look to your successes when things become overwhelming. That is what I do, and if things take a poor turn in the future, I know that I have prepared myself to deal with such an instance. Prepare your mind, open up about your anxiety, and remember that we are all in it together.
Harry Floyd is a recent graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University. He is the author of PANIC: One Man’s Struggle with Anxiety. Beyond searching for a career he is passionate about, he enjoys writing from time to time and loves encouraging greater dialogue on topics we all encounter. Twitter: @floydhe
Anxiety is an added slap in the face to all of us who are already suffering. Your line “look to your successes when things become overwhelming” really resonated with me, and I want to thank you for sharing. I look forward to reading your other work!!
For those of us coping with anxiety, Harry’s words ring very true. Every day can be an uphill battle when dealing with the rest of the world. Personally, I have to plan ahead and try to imagine all of the different situations I might find myself in.
Great post! So very true. I hide my anxiety from others too.
You know what’s interesting? I fell into the opposite trap – talking to everyone about my anxiety so they could tell me my fears were irrational. When they did tell, of course, I never believed them, so as a coping mechanism it was completely futile! What it did do was give me one less thing to worry about – I didn’t have to fear those around me would discover I was anxious.
When I finally went through therapy – and eventually came to embrace anxiety as part of my identity – one of the most effective exercises I was given was to stop talking about my anxiety with everyone but my therapist. Talking about it gave it power and made me codependent. But the exercise wasn’t about hiding it from others – it was about tricking my own brain into believing my anxiety was a non-issue.
Great post, Harry. I myself struggle with social anxiety that can be pretty crippling at times. I have to force the good out of myself – the positive thinker in me. Looking to my successes is great advice. Thanks!
What a great post, Harry. I have experiencing a similar struggle with my anxiety since childhood. The first physical manifestation of my anxiety was a nail biting habit that then escalated to full-on obsessive skin picking. By age ten it was so obvious that people began to comment, so I turned inward. In attempts to hide my outward show of anxiety, I started to bite the ridges off of my tongue. I continue to struggle with these habits, along with several other self-harm anxiety-driven acts, to this day.
I felt (and to some extent, still do) that people were ashamed of me or angry with me for having nails bitten to the quick, or for being “overly-cautious”, “anti-social”, “introverted”. If I ever managed to halt or abate my chewing on myself, I rarely received much positive praise — at least not equal to the monumental effort it took to hurtle over the driving anxious gnawing at my brain while I kept my hands out of my mouth. If I bit the bullet and showed up at a party, I wasn’t necessary met with any positive reinforcement there, either. Thus, the fear behind the anxiety — or the “why freaking bother?” in some cases — retained their power.
I’m doing better recently, thanks in large part to better therapy, a better self-care plan, and this community. 🙂 Thank you for sharing your story. It gave me a lot to think about.