I wanted to sit down and vocalise my anxiety 'attacks' for people – partly to inform and educate, but partly in the desperate hope that by writing about how it feels, I might be able to exorcise the feelings enough to get me through the rest of the day.
The feelings that accompany anxiety can be extremely useful – all those chemicals released are solely for the purpose of helping us to stand and fight, or run away. You've all heard of 'fight or flight', so I'm not going to linger upon the definitions. Instead I'll link to this great article about talking through anxiety with children. It's also great for adults.
What I want to talk about is my own personal anxiety. Increasingly frequently now, I see people I know on social media referring to their 'panic attacks' and as much as I understand and empathise, their experiences seem far removed from my own. My bouts of anxiety aren't short and brutal… I don't suddenly think I'm going to die (at least, not from the attack itself), and rarely hyperventilate. I don't feel faint. The stereotypical 'panic attack' is just not something I often get. What I get is the slow, creeping, constant, mind-numbing, freezing weight of a thousand worlds.
I find it almost impossible to describe, but I will try. Imagine something is coming up that you’re dreading… right? Imagine pushing that event back and back in your calendar, day by day, so you never get past it, and the dread is always there. It's like that. Imagine wearing a heavy chain around your neck, and someone adds an extra link to it every day. It's like that. Imagine that Sunday feeling you used to get when you were in school… knowing that the weekend is over, that you probably wasted most of it, that it's five long days until you can breathe again… but that is every day. It's like that.
I can deal with being afraid of things, because at some point the moment of fear will pass me by, or I'll get over it. But I am afraid of my own life, and there's no getting past that. I have to live it every day.
My life has become one long Sunday evening, and it hurts so much that I can barely sit with it for a moment. I do everything I can to distract myself from it, and if I turn totally off, I can be fine, but the minute I acknowledge to myself that I am enjoying a distraction, I am reminded of the anxiety I am trying to avoid, and it comes rushing back like a flood. I don't fly into a wild fit of panic. I just sob and sob, crushed under a certain knowledge that it will never end. That this is what it will be like today, tomorrow, and the day after. And then I am at the point where suddenly, my anxiety and fear over specifics is replaced by anxiety and fear that these feelings will never go away and I'll always feel like this.
I have dealt with this since I was a child, and when it suddenly stopped happening, I thought I had finally recovered from whatever illness I had that caused it. Now I realise that I had just found myself under a specific set of circumstances which made it possible to put my anxiety away. But that achievement was specific to that time in my life, and it's gone now. I have spent the majority of my time on this planet being anxiety's bitch, and it seems that time is back, and here to stay.
And all I want to do is run. But I know that unless I find a set of ideal circumstances again, running will not solve the problem.