I haven’t been posting very much recently because I have an endless amount of deadlines and applications to get done. My anxiety has been through the roof and whether it is correlated with the stress of the above or not, I do not know. The way my anxiety manifests is almost 100% physical, so a lot of the time it is impossible to work out what is actually going on. Basically, it is not a cognitive tangible thing; it is a chronic state of physiological hyper-vigilance permanently trapped in the cells of my body.
People ask me how I cope with anxiety and I do not lie. I can tell you I do not “cope” with my anxiety – it totally consumes me! Imagine coming down with a virus and feeling so nauseous you can barely eat, so delicate you can barely get out of bed, and so dizzy you have to keep your eyes closed in order to stop the sea-sickness. I guess right now that is what my anxiety is doing to me.
My way of dealing with my anxiety unmedicated does not, unfortunately, involve getting rid of it. As much as I wish it could fuck off 24/7, willing anxiety away amounts to absolutely nothing. It is the same as saying “Hey I have a virus and it’s making me throw up my intestines twelve times a minute, but maybe if I wish it wasn’t this way, it won’t have to be any longer!” Nope… it doesn’t work like that. Not for me anywho.
The one thing I can do – and do do – however, is the one thing that enables me to continue having at least some semblance of a life to actually live. Very simply (although paradoxically the hardest thing in the world), despite the anxiety, I keep doing life.
What I mean by this is that no matter how overwhelming the symptoms, no matter how sick nor tense nor shaky I feel, I do not let it dictate my actions 100% of the time. Despite the anxiety, I get up and do exactly what I would do if I didn’t have the disorder. I go to uni, I see people (sometimes!), I get public transport, I make phonecalls to companies, I keep appointments, I force myself to eat, I make conversations, I attend courses. I pretend to be fully functional in order to maximise my functionality. Even when I feel like I am dying internally, I act “as if”. I plough on. I work on my long term goals. I refuse to let the anxiety destroy my present and future aspirations.
To try and understand how much effort this takes, it would probably be helpful to think back to the virus analogy. Continuing turning up to life when afflicted with this level of physical anxiety is akin to being wrecked with a hellish virus but having to act like it just does not exist. Shaking and sweating? Doesn’t matter! Throwing up, diarrhoea, or both at the same time? Oh well! Too nauseous to stand straight? Do it anyway! Heart rate so high you fear for your life? Keep on keeping on regardless!
That. Is. How. I. Roll.
If I gave in and stopped rolling, I would come to a standstill. I would not just be tormented by the crippling reality of anxious symptoms, I would also lose all the things in my life that make it in any way worth living. Gosh, it would be so much easier to drug myself up and avoid life in order to dampen the anxiety by even a smidgen, but if I did that I would have little reason to keep doing life at all. When even the ‘safety behaviours’ fail to reduce the anxiety by a worthwhile amount, the options become pretty limited anyway.
I can either: a) experience crippling anxiety and venture out into the world, get stuff done, help people, build mastery and keep fighting despite how fucking tough it is, or b) experience crippling anxiety and hide away from the world, feel like poop, get nothing done, let all my hopes shrivel into nothing, but remain pretty much just as anxious anyway. Neither option is ideal, but the former is what keeps me plodding – and makes my existence worthwhile.
Ask me how I manage with anxiety? The truth is I don’t manage it well at all. I suppose I just refuse to let it totally manage me.