What it’s like to live with an anxiety monster

Like most moms, my day usually start chaotic, but it’s how it always is. 

Wake up, get dressed, wake the kids, make lunches while stepping over the dog (14 times) who is laying on the kitchen floor, drink coffee while making sure kids are dressed, try to get them to eat breakfast with no luck, remind them of things they will probably forget they need today, drive one kid to school, drive back home to take the other kid to a separate school, then start a 45 minute bumper-to-bumper commute with drivers who don’t have nice driving skills. All before 7:45 am.

It may be a usual day but to someone with anxiety, this is not the way to start off a day.

Chaos drives anxiety. 

Most days, the chaos is semi-manageable but other days, not so much. Not all anxiety is the same. It can manifest itself in different ways in different people.

For me, living with anxiety is…

  • Multi-tasking all day long that I am completely mentally & physically exhausted at the end of the day, but I can’t sleep because I am thinking of all the stuff I didn’t get done. I can’t shut off my brain.
  • Caring too much about my job. Things that are “good enough” for others, are not for me. I don’t do ‘garbage in, garage out’ in my job. I agonized about the job I am doing.
  • Flipping out when I get over-whelmed and stressed. This includes, but not limited to, yelling, snapping at people, snide remarks, dropping the f-bomb, and crying.
  • Not being able to make a seemingly simple discussion, like what to eat for dinner. It’s kind of impossible. I say, “I don’t care.” Then I end up eating somewhere I hate because I just can’t deal with making a decision.
  • Not always knowing why I am anxious. Sometimes there’s not a clear reason.
  • Having everything on my mind. Always. I may say, “Nothing,” when you ask what I am thinking, when really I am thinking about everything or the worst case scenario. My teen hasn’t returned my text…I am thinking the worst. Under pressure at work….I am thinking, no obsessing, I set something up wrong. It’s exhausting.
  • Shutting down when things get too over-whelming. Not going to a party or event because I just can’t deal with a large crowd. I will get very quiet at work. Choosing to stay under the covers in bed instead. I feel like everyone is too close to me and I need a people-detox.
  • Using the same voice as when I am angry. I am not angry, I am having a anxiety attack. I may snap at you even if you are not the source of my anxiety.
  • Having a heightened sense of other’s mood. And if there is stress or aggravation in the room, I feel it too much. That makes my anxiety go through the roof.
  • Internalizing my pain and stress so that not to burden others. Hiding it and keeping it all bottled up just fuels the monster until I can’t contain it any more and I explode. It’s a vicious cycle.
  • Knowing my anxiety is irrational but not being able to shut off the feeling. Yes, I get it. My outburst doesn’t make sense to you but it’s over-whelming to me. No, I can’t “just relax.” And I don’t always realize I am having an anxiety attack in the moment.
  • Ignoring you, just a little. Because having anxiety isn’t enough fun, I also have sensory sensitivity. I get over-whelmed being around too much sound. The radio is on, the phone is ringing, co-workers are talking, my email is bingeing, digital machines are running, and I am trying to concentrate on that project that was due yesterday. I am ignoring you because, to quote The Grinch, “…all the noise, noise, noise, noise, noise.”

Everyone gets a little anxious but for 40 million people in America who live with severe anxiety—social phobia, panic disorder or generalized anxiety disorder—it’s more than occasional racing heartbeat and butterflies in the stomach. Anxiety disorder manifests itself in different ways; symptoms can be physical, mental or both. No two people are the same. Some people manage it with drugs, diet and exercise, meditation, yoga, acupuncture, and some don’t do anything at all.

If you have anxiety, I would like to tell you: you are not weak. You are worthy. You are kind and compassionate. You are sensitive, and that makes you strong. You are understanding and capable. Get professional help if you need it. That will make you stronger. Take a nap if you need it, too. You are not perfect so give yourself a break. Say kind words to yourself everyday.

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