I have suffered from anxiety all my life. I had no idea what it was for the first 27-ish years. I thought it was just the way everyone felt all the time. I think it started as social anxiety when I was younger and grew to higher-level anxiety with age and different life experiences—steadily growing with each perceived danger that cropped up. I notice the pattern now, and it seems to come and go, sometimes from triggers but often appearing for no good reason at all. Like a giant zit on your face; it appears all of a sudden, causes havoc and then goes away again.
Some of the ways I experience anxiety are feeling fearful and excessive worrying that something terrible will happen. When it gets awful, it can affect simple tasks like going for a walk alone; I wonder if I’ll be hit by a car, robbed on the street or in some other type of altercation. Even though rationally I know the likelihood of this is extremely low, it seems like it is a highly possible outcome for me and it ruins my whole experience.
My grandmother told me that even as a child, she recalls me displaying signs of anxiety, shying away from social situations and being very adverse to new situations, places and people. I have done a lot of research on anxiety over the past years. And have found that anxiety is genetic but also influenced by your environment—basically, an unlucky dip.
Some things that can trigger my anxiety are; being in a situation that I’m uncomfortable in and feeling crowded, especially in social situations – you can read more about that here. In a confrontational situation, I become hyper-vigilant. I notice that I start to hold my breath, I experience heart palpitations, and my flight response is triggered almost immediately, the response is always to freeze and then flight. It can take hours and sometimes even days to calm down from being around aggressive behaviour.
When I experience ongoing stress, my body starts to shut down, and I need to take time to recover. Irritability is one of the identifiers for me that I am needing to take stock of what is going on around me and change something or remove myself. If I don’t get on top of it quickly, it will result in racing thoughts, overthinking and at its peak Insomnia.
Some of the ways I have been able to manage it:
- Exercise (running)
- Cuddles with my Doggo
- Learning Mindfulness
- Meditation sleep music
- Limiting sugar
- Limiting alcohol
- Practising self-care
- Setting aside scheduled “me-time.”
As far as I know, there isn’t a “cure” for anxiety. I work to lessen the symptoms and learn more about myself, my triggers, and ways to keep myself comfortable. I find the more research I do and the more people I talk to about it, the more I feel understood and like I’m not the only one.
It can be scary and sometimes really annoying because it doesn’t always require a trigger or an event to set it off. Sometimes I notice it bubbling up if I am in the car on my way somewhere, even if I am headed to a place of enjoyment it can just shoot into my mind and body without warning.
When the panic sets in, I think of a mantra that a wise woman once told me – “This too shall pass”. She was right; it always does. I am now a lot more aware of what it is and what it feels like so it is getting a little easier to manage.