What Anxiety Really Feels Like

This was written a while ago, but I still wanted to share what many people experience on a day to day basis, yet their emotions are belittled by those who believe ‘everyone has anxiety to some degree’…

This post focuses on what the peak of anxiety/panic attacks feel like.

– Before this post, I have never really been personal on this blog and since only 4 of you (hi Charlotte, Jenny, Lucy and Megan if you’re reading this) actually know me, very few know anything about me at all. That makes this incredibly difficult to share, because I know a majority of people who will read this will make judgements about me based on this, since it’s the first time I’ve been personal. But I thought I’d bite the bullet and post it because at the end of the day, I can always delete it if I’m no longer comfortable with it being on my blog but I may regret not sharing it in the first place. –

‘Are you okay?’ Why do you ask me this? For curiosity? Hoping to understand? Or to enable you to say ‘I get you, I get that feeling sometimes too’? But you don’t get that feeling. You get the smallest fraction of it, just like everyone else. To an extent, I don’t want you to know how it feels. Not for greater attention or to keep you in suspense or even because I don’t want to let you understand, but simply because I don’t wish that perpetual sense of dread, constant feeling of humility or the overpowering lack of control onto anyone. But I do want you to understand – but experiencing is not imperative to understanding.

As the drums in my chest commence their deafening performance, my breathing begins to chase the rhythm of the beats, pulling all of the blood from my limbs and sucking the tears from my eyes. To you, you may feel a flutter in the heart, a jogging breath or a mere tremble of the feet when you ‘feel like this’. See the difference yet?

It is as if the world is closing in, pushing all dimensions of the chest together, refusing to let the drummer have a tea break, while its purpose remains neglected. That was what was so baffling at first – why is my heart beating so quickly yet I still have pins and needles? I would run through everything that could be wrong with me, from abdominal aches or a possible new mole to chest pain or back ache. It sounds like a lot to do in 15 minutes, doesn’t it? That’s where you’re wrong. Time extends, while my thoughts continue to pass the baton aiming for a new world record yet you’re searching for the answers in an interview or exam and only focusing on that.

On the good times, it may only appear to you that I’m doing deep breathing exercises for homework from a yoga class but my inner thoughts rarely change. When it’s bad I appear to be on a child’s swing, shaking, squeezing the handlebars for support. It is then when the glares of disgusted peers, the worried looks of some and the puzzled looks of others begin to surface.

‘Hurdles don’t stop a hurdler but they do stop a marathon runner’

When you confess your thoughts, you feel better – I disagree. I will be thinking for the next few hours about what just happened and what everyone thought of me. In reality I’m sure everyone would have moved on and forgotten about it after a few minutes, just like you, but for me, all logical explanations couldn’t stop these thoughts. Hurdles don’t stop a hurdler but they do stop a marathon runner.  It’s true that the coach can only do so much to ensure an athlete’s success. What were you thinking after your ‘attack’? How you answered the question? Whether you were successful? Or fully immersing yourself in a brand new gripping series on Netflix to relax after completing the task?

But I haven’t quite finished yet…

You know the cause of your feeling, and even though some panic attack sufferers do, I have no clue what inspires my inner Olympian. They subside when I am most stressed. They get no worse when I have to confront a difficult situation. They don’t happen before important events. But that doesn’t mean my anxiety levels aren’t high.

At times like those I am terrified of disappointing, judgements or making a fool of myself, but unlike many others, anxiety is what ensures I don’t mess up. I know that as soon as I step away I will be overthinking, so I need to do my best so at least I can have the argument that I tried my hardest. That might not always be enough, but it’s something. My anxiety levels are always high, no matter how relaxed I should be feeling, but I try to see that as a blessing in disguise – even though it takes hours to go to sleep, at least I have thought about how exactly I’m going to tackle the next important day; even though I’ve spent hours overthinking, at least no one would have thought anything bad of me which I haven’t thought about myself; even though I fear failure, at least I do all I can to ensure success. But those emotions and practices I have just described in this paragraph is anxiety, not panic attacks which are all of these emotions hitting you in the face all at once, paralysing you with fear of everything going on around you, leaving you with a lack of control. But of course, you feel that too…

‘Anxiety can be a blessing in disguise; it has helped me’

Right now my panic attacks are very sporadic. It seems like months since my last one but that doesn’t mean I can’t have one tomorrow. I concentrate on my work, and I hope to do it well, and I don’t think of anything else other than success or failure. That is what I convince myself and I know it will work. I know if I were to have one right now I would return back to writing this and hope for full concentration. I know that’s unlikely but it is that hope which puts me in control of those times and I refuse to let such an insignificant hindrance prevent me from achieving success. In a weird way, they have helped me. I am more positive. I am more empathetic, but most importantly I make sure I am in control of my life and my future, so nothing will get in my way. I am at the stage where I don’t even think about sprints or marathons, I merely wait in the stands supporting those who need it and working hard to achieve, and achieve I will.

Even if you don’t know me personally, if you want to talk to me about anything at all, I will be there – you can contact me through the ‘contact’ tab at the top of the page or DM me on my Instagram. We can’t normalise any mental health condition so that we refer to it as if it’s something everyone deals with – that just belittles those who truly do suffer. There’s a massive difference between being nervous and having anxiety, being sad and having depression or going on a diet and having anorexia. That difference is what everyone simply must understand.

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