Anxiety is a funny thing. I've dealt with it for as long as I can remember and any time I think I've figured it out or 'grown out of it,' I'm reminded that won't ever fully be the case. And I need to come to terms with that. Earlier in the summer, I hadn't been experiencing much anxiety—beyond the normal being nervous-about-an-impending-deal kind of thing or feeling a little frantic about getting everything tied up before a trip. But recently, more and more situations have been contributing to an overall feeling in my stomach; kind of this dull, aching pain that arrives anytime I'm feeling particularly anxious. Most interestingly though, these symptoms of anxiety look very different than how they have my whole life.
For anyone who's ever experienced a full-blown panic attack, you know it's easily one of the scariest things, ever. My friend and I once concluded that it doesn't even feel like you may be dying, but you become convinced with 100% certainty that your life is, in fact, about to end. For me, my pulse would quicken, I'd get hot and sweaty (one time on a snowy New York night, I ran outside from a bustling party in only a strapless dress and wasn't even phased by the arctic temperature), I'd feel light-headed, and get a terrible stomach ache. And while these feelings never got more pleasant, after so many years of experiencing them, I began to understand the signs and at least find solace in the fact that it would eventually pass.
However, in recent months, the symptoms have gotten progressively harder to define. Instead of a full-blown panic attack, I get dizzy spells, ranging from feeling ever-so-slightly off-balance to nights when I lie in bed with the room spinning around me (sans any alcohol). With breathing exercises though, I'm able to calm down and steady myself fairly quickly. But of course I assumed the worst in both situations, only to have my doctor tell me that controlled breathing wouldn't make a difference if I was actually sick. After a particularly harrowing night, I vehemently told G how anxiety is like an insidious, tricky monster. And that's really how it feels. No matter how many times I tell myself not to worry or dwell on things, those scary thoughts slip through the cracks, stealthily moving in and out of my mind in the dark.
I've spoken about my struggles with anxiety over the years and while it's somewhat nerve-racking to share these more vulnerable moments, I do it for two reasons:
1. To de-stigmatize mental health issues
2. To remind others that you're not alone. Anxiety can be a cripplingly solitary struggle and I find that talking about it actually helps.
I wish I could say that I'm now in the clear and completely anxiety-free, but I think there's something important about checking in while in the midst of a particularly tough stretch. And that's how it's typically worked for me. It comes in waves and right now, given some recent health scares, lots of exciting but daunting opportunities on the horizon, and some internal shifts within the company, I'm simply more anxious than usual. So I'll fall back on the tried-and-true coping mechanisms that always seem to help: moving every day (even if it's just for a short walk), eating better, drinking less caffeine and more water, spending time with friends and family, taking breaks from my phone, and the reminder that this too, shall pass.
Do you experience anxiety? If so, what does it look like for you?