What is anxiety?
Anxiety is not just simply the feeling of being anxious, nor is it just the feeling you get when you have a math test later on, or when you are about to speak in front of a group of people. Anxiety is a mental illness, much like depression. It is a disorder in which you excessively feel uneasy and worry over current and future events. When you have anxiety disorder, your typical response to most conflicts is to overthink obsessively and worry yourself sick. When everything becomes overwhelming, it can result in a panic attack, or in some cases something close to a panic attack. What makes anxiety disorder distinctive from that feeling of being anxious is both the response to it, and the fact that when you have anxiety disorder you obsess over whatever you are worried about, whether it is a big conflict or something trivial.
Another difference? You cannot control anxiety disorder. No matter how much you want to, or how much you try to control your thoughts, you just can’t. It’s like telling someone with bipolar disorder to control their mood swings, or telling someone with ADHD to learn to control themselves; it’s just not possible.
Some people do, however, disagree with this. They will say that anxiety is not a disorder, but rather people upsetting themselves over little things. Everyone has problems, but are able to get over it. People who claim to have anxiety disorder are just people crying for attention because they don’t know how to handle their problems.
I have an example from the past of dealing with people with this ignorant mindset:
Early August 2015. Warm summer day. Canal Street, NYC
I am with my ex-boyfriend and his mom, giving their friends a tour of Manhattan. We have been walking around with no break all day. We went from walking the Coney Island boardwalk, to the Staten Island Ferry and back, to walking from South Ferry to Tribeca. They were hoping to walk Chinatown and Times Square next, but my feet were tired and I had work the next day. They were walking in an extremely fast pace as well so that did not help my aching feet. The sun was also ready to set, and I hated travelling on the subway alone at night. One would think that after keeping me out on my feet all day, my ex would have had the decency to take me home or make sure I get home safe in some way. Oh no, he was going to send me off alone because, despite making me go around Brooklyn and Manhattan with his friends, he decided he couldn’t part ways with them for just a little bit just so that he could ensure I made it home okay. Not to mention that he thought all that travelling and walking we did was not too much, and his mother seemed to agree with this poor treatment toward me.
So here is what I thought:
Wow, my safety is not important to him or his mother.
Are you fucking kidding me?
How do they not see that they are wrong?
I feel like I walked all over New York City. All five boroughs.
He really doesn’t care about me, does he?
He seems more invested in his friends despite me taking time out my day to travel around all day, and visit tourist spots of a city I have lived in all my life with people I don’t even know. While we were on the ferry and at the 9/11 memorial he barely even paid me any mind. What I am doing for him doesn’t mean anything, huh?
These thoughts didn’t just cross my mind just once, nor did they leave when I tried to argue with him and he just wasn’t getting it throughout the day. Neither was his mother. In fact, she was encouraging his behavior toward me on letting me leave alone. I felt so overwhelmed, and all those horrendous thoughts I listed above kept replaying in my head like a broken record. My heartbeat kept increasing rapidly, and I felt like the sun was suddenly beating directly on me. I tried, however, to ignore it.
Then we went from Chambers to Canal street to get to Chinatown. On the way there is where it happened. Where I argued heavily with his mother as my heart felt like it was going to rip out my chest from beating too hard and where I felt like I was drowning in sweat. Still eager to prove my point, I kept on going until he lost his patience with me and threw something then walked away.
Then, the flashbacks played in my head. The flashbacks of growing up witnessing my father do the very same thing when he lost his temper quickly. Him lashing out on my family and I so easily, along with his habit of throwing and breaking things when he lost control, caused me to become frightened whenever someone lashes out on me or starts throwing things around out of anger.
That is exactly what happened. Except I did not just cower away from the scene in fear. I began shaking and tears began falling down my face. He had stormed away, but his mom noticed, and questioned why I was crying. My mind had eventually blanked out, and I only remember the following events in bits and pieces. I remember leanung against a rough brick wall because I could not even figure how to stand up anymore. I remember sobbing so loud I felt everyone around me was staring at me. I remember feeling like I was having a heart attack because the pounding of my heartbeat was so hard it was causing me immense pain. I rememeber it suddenly felt like breathing was too difficult to do and each inhale and exhale became stronger and stronger. There was sweat dripping from my forehead and palms, and the temperature felt like it increased to two hundred degrees. I recall the images of my ex in front of me with his mom and all my other surroundings flipping on and off as I attemped to pay attention to my surroundings like that bullshit Facebook post advises to do to ease out of a panic attack. I remember trying to push out words, but my heavy breathing made it impossible to talk. As I slowly began to come back to my own self, I had to resist the urge to both punch my ex in the face, and to jump in front of traffic in the nearby street.
Saying that I wanted to punch him may sound cruel, but my anxious mindset had automatically turned to inflicting violence on anyone who got even the least bit loud with me. I did not punch him, as I slowly began to regain control again, but who could blame me when he was urging me to answer him, and getting visibly angry with me that I did not when he saw how I was gasping for air?
Even if this was over a year ago, I do recall him saying these words:
“What do you have to be so anxious about? You need to chill.”
I also recall his mom saying this:
“You are too young to be getting upset like that.”
While it upset me, I should not have even been surprised. I kept wondering why someone so close to me that I have been there for could even think something so ignorant and have the nerve to speak so negatively against me for having this right in front of my face. I also wonder why someone who is a grown adult and a mother could honestly believe young people can’t have problems or be allowed to get upset over things. Then I remember that some people are just so closed-minded that they do not understand, or make an attempt to understand, something that does not affect them. It is like when someone tells another person with clinic depression to just get over it and go out more; some people have ignorant beliefs about certain things they don’t know personally about.
When it comes to people who are ignorant about mental illnesses, I keep them at a distance. If they cannot shut up about their ignorant beliefs, I drop them like a boom. As I wrote in a previous post, “Special Snowflakes Versus the World,” everyone is entitled to their own opinion. As long as you do not shove that opinion down my throat, I will respect you whether or not I agree with it. I have had many friends who are closed-minded about my mental illnesses, and while their views on it irk me, I leave them alone about it as long as they do not judge me about it. I also have vowed to myself never to date someone who says nasty things in response to my anxiety again, and is anything but helpful when I imevitably have a panic attack.
I have a lot of supportive friends and a boyfriend who is understanding of anxiety and very patient when it comes to panic attacks. They subsided over the past year, as I started seeing a therapist shortly after that incident with my ex, and I started back on medication last October. The worst panic attacks I had were when I underwent a lot of stress during my last semester of college, and when I was in my uncles car back in February to say goodbye to my grandma when it was time for her to be buried. While I had my medication and methods of coping with anxiety, such as writing and painting, it was still hard sometimes to ignore anxiety. Anxiety may be incurable, and you just have to learn to live with it, but lately it has gotten worse. My last dose of medication is gone, life finds a way to slap me in the face with a load of crap at one time, and my depression has found a way to kick me in the ass in such a way that my interest in anything I was passionate about to help calm my anxiety is gone. The fact that I have been able to keep my attention on this post for so long in one day amazes me.
What is it that I am so anxious about, as my ex had once so delightfully asked? Well, to close this post, I present to you an anxious thought train of mine. This final piece of my post derives from a time where my anxiety takes over, which can either happen due to a certain event, someone seriously upsetting me, or just when I am alone at night trying to sleep and the thoughts find their way in. The following thought train is an example of the last one.
A thought train:
*I am a disgrace. I don’t deserve to be happy, why do I ever think I will be? I want to apply to NYU, but what makes me think I will ever get in? If I don’t then I am a letdown to my family who wants me to better myself for the future but I just can’t do it. I have a great scholarship oppritunity to help get me into NYU but I can’t seem to get anyone to help me with recommendations and the application deadline is Tuesday. Crazy how I always help people and they never help me. But maybe that is the reason why. Maybe I don’t deserve any help. When you help people it should be selfless, and yet here I am expecting people to drop what they are doing to write something for me about how great I am. I am not gonna finish thay application in time. Maybe I did not know about that damn scholarship until yesterday, but maybe I would have if my lazy ass had started looking for scholarships sooner. I am a disappointment to my mom, my sister, and everyone I care about.
I turn 21 in eleven days. 21 and all I have is an Associates’ degree and no clue with what I want to do with myself. My phone battery is at thirty six percent. I want to continue with this post and post it today. I know I said that the purpose of this was to prove the significance of freewriting but I want it to be perfectly written. Who am I kidding though? I am not the best writer, no matter how hard I try. I know I am good, but there are so many good writers out there, so what makes me think that I am so special? I am mediocre compared to most, so I probably won’t make it out there. I don’t want to be famous, but I do want my writing to speak out to some. But how can it when all I do is write rants and personal experiences on this blog once in a blue? I am 20 years old with no plan, no future, and no idea of how I’m gonna pursue what I want to do. My life is a mess. Should I even say more?
Ah yes. I need glasses. I can barely see what I am typing because my reading glasses got crushed in my bag. But I can’t afford new ones. I can, but then I have no money saved. Money seems to be one thing I am anxious about. It shouldn’t be, but it is because I need stuff and because I am one of the worst savers in history. I need so many things. I want to save money for my birthday too…oh what does it matter? No one else seems to care much for it. People want to make requests on what I should do but no one cares to try and help out but me, my boyfriend, and my mom. My sister would probably help if she could. That is beside the point though. The last time anyone even did anything for me was my close friends taking me to a buffet years ago, and a friend of mine that took me out to a chocolate resturant two years ago. Oh wow, look at how ungrateful I am. I complain so much but now that I think about it people do care about my birthday. My best friend came with my family to a resturant last year and got me a giant teddy bear. Here I have the nerve to complain no one cares or tries. Its no wonder I feel selfish; I am very selfish. I do help people, some of which don’t help back, but I have close friends who care. I have a mom thay cares, a sister that cares, a boyfriend that cares, friends that care. I should be happy with that, but Im not. All I ever do is complain to people and then get angry at them for the littlest things, just like my exes said. I would not be surprised if one day, everyone I know and love just left me because I am pathetic in every sense and complain about everything. I know it annoys me, which is why sometimes I want to do whatever I can to make it all go away. No, those kind of thoughts are selfish too. You see Lisa, you are so annoying and selfish. So selfish. Just shut the fuck up already.*
Most of those thoughts may seem ridiculous, and I am sure anyone who cares about me that will read this will want to slap me for thinking such insolence, but that is anxiety and what it does to the brain. It is like my normal self leaves my body and is replaced by some overly obsessive worrier that repeats the same negativity over and over and lists everything wrong with my life, even if nothing is wrong, and causes me to see nothing but negative outcomes in everything. That whole thought train was my anxiety speaking, and what I deal with on a daily basis. I wish it would go away, but it wins every battle and takes over my head too often. It keeps me up at night, it causes me to need reassurance from others constantly that everything is okay and they don’t hate me, and it causes me to have those panic attacks that seem to go on forever when I am too overwhelmed by everything.
Now tell me anxiety disorder is made up and can be easily controlled.