Living with Anxiety

Anxiety, for me, is both a weakness and a strength.

I feel weak when it hits because it ravages my mind and body. I know I’m strong when I prepare for it, do things despite it or get through it.

Anxiety is more common than people may think. This is why I’m writing about it.

The Shame

Living with Anxiety - anxiety shadowI have resisted writing a post about anxiety until now. I thought this was odd as I’ve been vocal about depression. Then I realised it took me a long time to feel able to tell people I get depression, let alone write about it.

I confess I have felt ashamed about having anxiety. I now know why that is.

Anxiety is an underlying thing I’ve always had. Depression comes in episodes. With depression I am more likely to call it an illness because it happens and then thankfully goes. That’s not to say it’s easy. I’d take managing anxiety over having depression any time.

My shame has been in having anxiety bubbling away every day of my life for as long as I can remember.

I have to cut myself some slack. Just like depression it’s an illness, an affliction I did not choose and nothing I’ve done or not done has made it happen.

Publishing this post is a big step for me in shattering the shame and hopefully helping others to do so too. I refuse to allow this to make me feel guilty anymore.

The Worry

I am a worrier. I don’t like it and I wish I could eradicate it. Instead, I’ve learnt that it’s something I do and have devised strategies for dealing with it.

I am the world’s biggest organiser. If something can be planned in advance you can bet I’ll be doing it months in advance.

I need to feel like I’m on top of things. I know it drives my husband nuts but he’s very understanding of it, even when I’m nagging him for the umpteenth time for doing something when I want it done.

My main problem is worrying about and for others. I have a huge empathic heart. This is a good thing for others but not always great for me.

I want to look after those I love and care about. I want to make sure people are okay.

I despise writing this as it’s an uncomfortable truth but I want to be seen as someone who is likeable and nurturing. That may be selfish but my intentions are honourable.

Don’t we all, even secretly, want to be liked? It’s the human condition but sometimes it consumes me.

Give me something to worry about and sometimes my natural disposition will take me there.

Getting older and life experience has helped. I reflect back on the worst things that have ever happened to me when I feel overburdened with worry.

If I can get through the worst of times I know I can make it through piffling matters.

The Control

Living with Anxiety - anxieteaMy need to control myself and my life is exhausting.

I feel secure in knowing I have everything covered. I’ve realised that cannot happen all the time and if I try to organise every last part of my life I will burn out. It has happened. It often leads to depression.

When things are going wrong around me, I try to seize control in other areas. Developing an awareness of this has helped so much.

My husband is great at spotting the signs too. He can hardly ignore them when I’m trying to sort out everything in his life too. I sound like a horrible wife. I’m not. At least I don’t think I am.

When I try to control my life with my husband it’s doing things for good reasons. I am not a naggy wife who henpecks her spouse.

When my anxiety becomes controlling I step up doing tasks for my husband and trying to make his life easier. I think I’m helping. I think I’m winning. I’m not. I’m probably being annoying but also I’m running myself ragged.

When I realise I’m being controlling I know something is distressing me. After spending days making appointments for everything, cleaning everything, making sure everything is pristine, I recognise what’s happening.

I ask myself what’s going wrong in my life, what I feel powerless about, and I know I need to address it. I try my best.

The Fear

When full-on anxiety hits, my mind and body spiral out of control.

I have fears. My main fear is of dying. It may sound like a normal fear but it is huge.

I’ve had it since I was a child. I will lie in bed at night and think about how dying means I will no longer exist. I am scared of the darkness and nothingness of no longer being on this planet.

As I type this, the familiar anxious feelings of a shortness of breath and the fist-like grip upon my heart are consuming me.

I know we will all die. I have never been okay with that. My mind struggles with the shift from living to death.

I worry about my death, I worry about the deaths of my loved ones. I guess this is understandable after the deaths of my mum and brother.

I have learnt to be honest about it and tell my husband when that moment comes.

He’s the first person I ever told about this fear of death. I was so embarrassed about it before. Now I’m sharing it with you because we all have fears, some that might seem irrational, and I know writing about this may help someone else who harbours a fear they may feel embarrassed about.

The Judgement

I hate how anxiety is seen by some as flaky and a defect. I have a dark sense of humour and I can joke about it but I will not be judged for it.

Living with Anxiety - anxiety thoughtsI know I’m opening myself up to judgement by sharing this post but as with all my posts about mental illness, I do this to be strong. I refuse to let it hold me back by being a dirty secret.

I’m not always anxious. I manage anxiety well most of the time. Sometimes I don’t and the breathlessness, whooshing sound in my ears, tense muscles, repetitive actions, grinding teeth, sweating, headache, and being frozen by fear take over.

People with anxiety are not drama queens. When they’re having a panic attack, crying or cannot move, they’re not doing it for attention. In fact, being noticed in the grip of anxiety is the last thing we want. It adds fuel to the anxiety fire.

Everyone has worries and fears. We all deal with them differently. Who is to say if suppressing them and being stoic or letting them out and getting it over with is better for one person than another?

We all have anxieties but some of us have anxiety. We are not lesser human beings. In fact we are amazing.

We feel emotions intensely. We think deeply. We fight against our bodies and minds threatening to close down on us.

We sometimes even put ourselves in positions that make us feel anxious. We give presentations, tslk to strangers, let go of control, allow others to organise things, and try to be patient.

Thank You

Thank you for reading this.

Thank you for being part of a process where I am waging war against anxiety by not allowing it to be a secret. I confess I’m still scared that people will now view me as lesser or lacking.

I know some people may view me as a fragile flower now. Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s because of anxiety and how I kick its arse every day that I’m strong.

I am putting myself out there by blogging every week. I became a full-time writer knowing some people would judge the shift in direction. I have a novel that will be published and open to criticism. I regularly run knowing I am not skinny or fast but I do it for me.

To all of you who are reading this and have anxiety, you are amazing. Don’t let an illness or idiots tell you you’re not.

To those reading this that don’t have anxiety, I hope you’ve learnt something from this post.

Place yourself in other’s anxious shoes. We are all carrying around a rucksack on our backs of worries, fears, and concerns. Help those who are struggling with the weight of it. Grab a handle and help them carry it or just sit with us while we lighten the load.

Over to You

Do you have anxiety? How does it feel for you? What are your strategies? How have others reacted to it?

Do you know someone with anxiety? How do you react to it and support them?

About Lisa Sell

Lisa Sell is a fiction writer and blogger. When not wrestling with words she can be found showing the love for chocolate, cheese, coffee, the cat, and the Husband. Not particularly in that order.

8 comments on “Living with Anxiety

  1. Thank you for having the courage to write this. I share a lot of your anxieties – control, fear, and worry. I often have a panic attack out of the blue thinking exactly the same thoughts as you about death. It helps to know I’m not alone.

    1. Thanks so much for commenting because since I published this I’ve been questioning whether it was wise to leave myself vulnerable like this. Knowing there’s someone else out there that understands gives me courage.

  2. Great post, Lisa. I recently attended some courses and read a really good book about anxiety in children and teens, because two of my children were struggling. The help we received was brilliant and I’m happy to say that both of them are so much better now and have actually amazed me lately with how they’ve dealt with various issues. I think anxiety is on the rise, particularly with young people, but I also think so many of us older ones have lived with it for so long too, we sort of get used to it. I have a really stupid fear. Yours is understandable! I don’t worry about death much, I sometimes think I will look forward to the long rest lol!!! But my fears and anxieties are all based around driving. I can feel utterly sick thinking about parking and getting lost and being watched etc. And I find myself predicting what could go wrong to the extent I then think I can’t concentrate safely on driving and want to pull over! I actually wish we could go back to the horse and cart! But I had to think about and face these fears and worries on some of these courses and I found it all really interesting. I generally have less fears and worries than I did as a young person, when my main cause of anxiety was my weight and my body. I do have moments now when it gets to me, but I fight back. Anyway, I just wanted to share and say thank you for such an informative and brave post that I think a lot of people are going to relate to.

    1. Thank you for being so open about yours and your children’s experiences.

      I agree that anxiety is more more prevalent in young people. Whether it’s because we’re more aware of it or we’re living in a high pressure world, I don’t know. I have a feeling it’s probably both.

      I get the fears around driving too. I can get worried about parking, especially when going to new places. I can also feel anxious about other drivers when I’m in a vulnerable place.

      Thank you for showing me that writing this post was worth it.

  3. Thanks for this. It’s always good to remember that there are a million people going through the same thing as you – makes you feel less alone. Please never feel ashamed of your problems.

    Honestly, there’s no shame in having an illness esp as you’re being upfront about it. I think there’s a great strength in candidness and honesty. I also think a good way to deal with it is to accept it. Let it be rather than fight against it and accept that you are powerless over the things you are anxious about, such as how people see you. Just be yourself and accept yourself as you are – hard as it can be, once you do you become less bothered about what others think and less afraid of things!

    Still, anxiety is horrible. I have panic disorder and while it’s been improving this year, it still sucks. But there’s comfort in knowing I’m not alone. I wrote a blog post on it too:

    1. Thank you, Zarina, for your advice and sharing your experience.

      I am ‘owning’ it a little more every day. This post is a big part of that.

      I wish you well and will certainly check out your post. Thanks a lot.

  4. Lisa, I believe that coincidences are more than just coincidences, and there is no way I can thank you enough for this post. I too have struggled with anxiety my whole life but have only been honest with myself about it very, very recently due to an illness that was likely brought on because of it. I’m struggling with giving medication a chance, I’m struggling with not being able to control it myself (when I’m so good at planning, organizing, and controlling everything else…), and the hardest part–I do not have any major fears, nor do I have panic attacks, so I feel like my anxiety isn’t “that bad” and therefore I should be able to control it. I’m not worried about death, paying the bills, I have only “furry” kids to worry about, I love my day job, and I have zero anxiety about writing–at least not the kind that keeps me up at night. Instead, I lie awake at night thinking about stupid things, like what I’m doing the next day, and the day after that, and the day after that. Sometimes it’s nothing other than song lyrics spinning repeatedly in my head. At 2am.

    I’m currently trying yoga and meditation, and a medication from a doctor I trust, and I’ve eliminated virtually all of my volunteer responsibilities in animal rescue (a huge stressor). I’m taking more time for me. I’m the first person people come to for advice (your empathy comment hit the mark!), and I’d be the first person to tell someone to NOT feel any of the things I’m feeling–and yet the shame is there.

    So thank you–that seems hardly enough to say–but thank you for every single word you wrote here. I knew I wasn’t alone, but it feels that way sometimes. I’ll be revisiting this post often to remind me that–gasp–it’s ok if I can’t control it. It’s ok that I have it. It’s ok that I’m doing my best to deal with it.

    1. I don’t think there are enough words to express how your comment has helped me too. Having anxiety feels like a lonely business because we carry it inside. Knowing someone else understands those things that feel foolish or incomprehensible helps.

      I too consume my thoughts with the strangest things until they take over. It’s hard to get off that ride once you’re on it.

      Thank you for sharing your feelings and thoughts with me. I’m honoured.

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