In recent months I’ve seen a few posts and articles about anxiety and the impact it has on people’s lives. It’s definitely not something I talk about much, but I think it’s important that people know they aren’t alone when it comes to coping with it in their daily lives. I’ve probably dealt with anxiety to some degree throughout my entire life, and it was really only a couple of years ago as an adult that I finally decided that something needed to change.
The definition of anxiety is “a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.” That description, while definitely accurate, doesn’t quite encapsulate the physical and mental strain you experience on a day-to-day basis. In my own case, anxiety had several side effects that made life more stressful, made decisions more difficult, made change more disruptive, and caused me to be unable to enjoy things as much as I probably should have otherwise.
It’s hard to explain to someone that hasn’t dealt with it personally, but even in situations or settings without stress like at a restaurant for dinner, or out with friends I could feel extremely uneasy to the point that I physically felt sick. This could be going out to a movie and bar with friends I’d had for years to places I’d been a hundred times; it didn’t matter, because even though I knew these feelings were irrational I couldn’t stop them. Add to that the near-constant negative thoughts running through my mind about any number of horrific scenarios that could occur at any moment or the extremely angry thoughts directed at myself.
Over time, I would avoid certain situations, places and people as a result. I would adjust my diet, my sleep patterns and other habits in an attempt to work against the natural feelings of anxiety I was experiencing. For years I hated the idea of doctors or prescriptions to try and help out in this area. I didn’t think I’d get better without feeling over-medicated in some way, trading some side effects for others, and I was adamantly against the idea that I couldn’t somehow will myself into getting better on my own.
Keep in mind, my experiences lasted over years, and I really was aware of this from about middle school on into my recent adult years. Luckily, when I finally arrived at the point where I felt I wanted to feel better my wife was there to encourage me to see a doctor and get to the bottom of things after years of struggling. When I finally did see my doctor I needed to try out a few dosage levels of a simple daily prescription before I really started to notice a benefit. It took several months, and I won’t lie, at the start I had really vivid nightmares for a while that were difficult to power through.
Today, though, I can honestly say that I feel much, much better. Sure, I still get stressed, and I still know situations that may drive increased anxiety to consider avoiding or navigating a specific way if I can. That said, I’m so glad I better understand what was causing the anxiety. Like many others out there, the way my body handles serotonin caused much of my anxiety which led to the constant physical side effects that were so much fun to live with for all those years.
I want to thank those friends out there that opened-up as well about anxiety: THANK YOU. A ton of people deal with this, and yet in large part it’s sort of lumped-in with depression and swept under the rug as being something only emotional or psychological in nature so I don’t often hear others talk about it. As it turns out, anxiety can be all in your head, though, and in my case could be treated successfully, thankfully. As a result, the irrational fears, negative thoughts, and subsequent impact on my health and social well being has been much improved. I would encourage anyone reading this to know a couple of things: you’re not alone, and you don’t need to feel weak if you’re not able to get better on your own. I’m in pretty good health all things considered, and if living with anxiety is the only thing I have to deal with medically for some time then I count myself pretty lucky because there is help available.
So, I sincerely hope this helps anyone struggling with anxiety, anyone who is a friend of someone who does, and to those others out there that have found some relief as well. I hope you all have many happy, healthy years ahead of you! Anxiety might not ever completely go away, but it can get better.