Over the years I have had people say they feel a sense of calm around me or that I portray being calm. Often that statement has surprised me given how much I’ve battled with anxiety due to high levels of stress. It makes sense that people wouldn’t see what’s going on inside me as I have learnt how to interact with others regardless of any internal situation I might be feeling at any given moment.
There was a time in which worry and anxiety interfered on a daily basis. At times when it was really bad I struggled to leave the house for fear of having a panic attack. I was anxious about what was going to happen to me when I was away from the comfort of my home. Home was the place that I retreated to and built as my safe place. Time and again when I was out running errands or buying groceries, anxiety was my shopping companion. Anxiety liked to dictate how I was going to feel whilst walking through the busy shopping mall. On very bad days when anxiety was waiting to pounce I would get my shopping done quick smart so as I could get out of crowded places. I often felt as though people around me could see my struggle as it was so strong, powerful and scary. On many occasions I felt as though I was going to collapse when waiting in a queue. It felt hard to breathe which then resulted in feeling dizzy and shaky. The fear of making a scene in front of other shoppers almost made the anxiety worse. I knew that if I could get myself home then eventually the anxiety would settle and I would be safe again.
Anxiety really is the pits!!!
The battle with anxiety started after a very intense season of stressful circumstances when I was in my mid-twenties. I had gone through stressful events many times over previously however anxiety only really hit me later. I don’t think our bodies are made to cope with too much stress on a regular basis. We often hear about good stress and bad stress. The good stress gets us motivated to get things done however the bad stress sends us into a flight or fight mode. It is inbuilt so as we can respond to dangerous and threatening situations immediately. For example this inbuilt flight/fight switch would go off if you were walking across the road and suddenly a car came towards you out of nowhere. Your body would get you responding as quickly as possible to get you out of the way to prevent serious harm.
The truth is that most situations are not dangerous (such as myself walking through a crowded shopping mall) yet panic attacks happen as a result of the inbuilt flight or fight switch that triggers off at the wrong times. So your body kicks in with adrenaline telling it to start fighting or running away. This is when you feel all sorts of different symptoms in your body, from tingling shaky hands to difficulty breathing. It is like a surge or a rush of intense panic. As you stand there experiencing all of these symptoms in your body knowing full where that there is no real dangerous situation you then feel as though you are going to die as why else would you feel like this? In books panic attacks are often described as a feeling impending doom!
How do we avoid the bad stress which causes so much anxiety?
It took me years to figure out the cause of a lot of my stress despite the fact that it should have been obvious. One of the biggest issues that I had was keeping emotions bottled up. I didn’t find it easy to talk about them. These bottled up emotions were usually a result of an argument with my ex. I wasn’t aware how much unhealthy interactions were affecting me as it was usually on a subconscious level. Consciously I was aware that we were having serious issues which I was always trying to resolve with my ex and in the back of my mind I wondered why the (resolving part) often made me feel worse.
Most people know that relationships have arguments and tension. This is normal!!! Little did I understand that what is normal was not my normal? What I was experiencing was very different. It was so subtle and difficult to recognise which made it impossible for me to truly understand. This is where the topic of emotional abuse is introduced for the first time on my blog page.
It isn’t easy to write about emotional abuse for fear of being seen as the bad person. People that have been emotionally abused would understand this issue, the issue of always blaming oneself for everything. In the relationship it was all too easy for me to continue believing that it was always my fault when things went wrong. That if I would just try hard enough things would be better. That perhaps if I wasn’t so sensitive to how I was being treated then things would be ok. That I should just keep quiet and leave things as they are. The trouble was that keeping things quiet may have caused fewer waves for a time yet it produced anxiety.
Anxiety was always present.
When we are in a relationship with someone who is unstable emotionally and creates crazy circumstances to live through it can result in anxiety together with depression. All of your senses are heightened and at a level that is not healthy. You may see things with your eyes or feel things that are wrong yet your trapped in the situation believing it’s your entire fault.
When we hear about domestic violence everyone knows that the person doing the hitting is the bad person. In more subtle forms of abuse such as emotional manipulation the true culprit hides behind lies and games. It isn’t visible or tangible physically which makes it so hard to see clearly. The abuser leaves you feeling as though the problem is YOU. They don’t take responsibility for their actions. They don’t feel your pain. It is always about them winning and gaining control and power.
While I am no longer in that relationship, thank heavens, I’m working on myself with the help of a counsellor to bring the heightened anxiety level right back down. This will take time of course considering how many years I lived in that state of threat. I suppose this blog is not so much about all of the details on emotional abuse but rather a thought provoking piece to help others recognise what areas of their lives might be causing the bad type of stress that can lead to excessive anxiety.
Feel free to add any comments about your experience with anxiety.