Someone, somewhere, asked, "What is anxiety to you?" These were my thoughts.
To me, a small snapshot of anxiety is... Catastrophising. Conflict. Crisis. Delusion. Doubt. Fear. Insecurity. Overthinking. Paralysis. Stress. Worry.
It's never been the way others seemed to describe it, and with no clear ignition... no blazing flames consuming me in an attack, I was long ignorant to my affliction. To me, it's a slow burn, and the summit of my physiological manifestation is rare.
It is small habits that seem inconsequential but lie deep within the psyche as refined coping mechanisms. Twisting my hair, scratching my head, restyling my style-lacking ponytail. Nail biting, finger or foot tapping, toe curling. Loud music accompanied by enthusiastic (awful) singing, and wild (uncoordinated) dancing. Distractions that occupy me in some physical manner and require some form of thought divergence in order to quell the growing potentiality of disaster in my mind.
It's the fear of failure so that even the smallest of tasks seems insurmountable. It's constant doubt of the world around you, and if this is at odds with your intuitive personality, you end up in constant doubt of yourself. It's the overwhelming fear that I cannot and will not ever be able to deal with what life throws at me - and in spite of any demonstrable accomplishments, it cannot be abated. It's catastrophising and imagining every dark and grim possibility (that will probably never come to light), because I need some kind of control and working through those thoughts gives me some, in some convoluted way.
It's living in one place for seven years and not having made a single friend locally because you have a constant fear of rejection. It's being a mother to a school aged child and attending his classroom only once for the entire school year, never meeting other mothers, never inviting friends on play dates, because anxiety has deeply rooted in you self-hatred that convinces you that you will never, ever be enough to other people and the mere thought of having to introduce yourself to somebody new sends you into a tailspin of fright and acopic hyperventilation.
It's being a confident, well executed writer with writer's block 95% of the time because anxiety seeds and feeds your perfectionism and then does not allow you to takes risks, grow or progress. It's being a student of an amazing profession, of which you bear a strong body of knowledge, drive, and passion, but never succeeding to espouse your true capabilities because of sheer fright that your practice is somehow wrong and you will forever be judged for it.
It's not leaving the house for a week. Because you can't. You just can't. Feelings can be so hard to explain, and nobody understands you, but that's the thing, they are feelings, not thoughts. Feelings are not meant to be canvassed with words; they are meant to be felt. I can't leave the house because I. Just. Goddamn. Can't.
When the toll of it all eventually becomes too much to bear, when the distractions aren't enough, and you're struck with crippling emotional fragility - your mind needs a release from the constant strain, from the beatings you have learned to take, survive, squash and forget. So your body tries to take control. Dangerously.
Paralysis that has long resided only in your limbs slowly makes its way to your chest. Sensations of crushing tightness reign. You try to will it away, claw it away, beg it to just GO AWAY, to no avail. Eventually, you remember to breathe, and then you begin to overdo it, in some vain hope that the rapid and continued expansion of your lungs will somehow convince the silent and invisible presence to release its threatening grips. Panic courses through you as you find it now bracing around your neck, throat clenching so tight it hurts to swallow the fright you are trying to fight back against. It's tears so violent your body heaves until you cough and throw up... Your head spins because you're so deprived of oxygen and finally you succumb to what feels like relief. Is it fainting? Is it exhaustion induced mini sleep? Is it a darkness expelled that allows you to regain some semblance of composure?
I don't think I'll ever know, but at that moment when my head spins and my eyes glaze over before I "come to" - in whatever context that takes, I feel both the greatest fear and the greatest relief all mixed into one. The fear is momentary; the relief washes over me. Somehow this is a reset button. An uninvited, but effective catharsis.
I hate getting to the point of physical manifestation. My anxiety is a slow burn, and it can, and has, burned for months or years without striking a roaring fire. Then suddenly, I know it is coming. I hate the feelings. I hate the experience. I hate that it can be hours or days of build up to that point where I finally reach some explosive blazing summit that eventually feels like some smouldering bliss. I am blessed it occurs rarely. But somehow, at the end of it, I'm almost thankful that it offers some release.
Perhaps it sounds weird, but without it, I don't think I could survive the constant onslaught.