Most days I don’t have anxiety. Most days I work two jobs, make time for the gym, eat relatively healthy, try to read/write for a few minutes at least, spend too much time on social media, and try to keep my apartment mostly clean. Most days I can do all of this and fall into bed exhausted at the end of the day, ready to wake up and do it all again. Most days I have a smile on my face and I’m in a good mood and I feel grateful for my life and I feel like I’m making progress towards my goals. That’s most days.
But some days… some days I feel like there’s a hand in my chest squeezing my heart. Some days I feel like there’s an elephant sitting on my chest and every breath is a conscious effort. Some days I’m on the verge of tears for no reason at all. Some days I feel like I can’t catch my breath. Some days I want to turn off my phone and crawl into bed and not move for hours. Some days getting dressed and out the door for work feels like it takes the same amount of effort as running a marathon. Some days my mind races with all of the things I haven’t done that I need to accomplish. Some days my mind tells me that I’m not doing enough and I can do more and I should be farther along than I am now. Some days feel hopeless. Some days I can’t focus on anything at all besides the fluttering, twisting, crushing feeling in my chest.
Other days, it’s just a twinge. Just a nagging feeling I can push to the back of my mind for a little while until it pops up for a few minutes again. These days it’s manageable. But some days… some days it’s unbearable.
The days with crushing anxiety don’t come very often. Once every couple of weeks. Maybe once a month. Some days it only lasts a few hours. Some days its ebbs and flows all day long. But when they come.. it’s miserable. I am always hesitant to label myself as someone with anxiety for a few reasons. 1) I’ve never been formally diagnosed. I only know how I feel on some days and that it’s not a normal feeling. 2) Anxiety has become almost a buzzword in our society. Like it’s trendy to have anxiety. And I would never want to diminish the suffering of people who have diagnosed anxiety disorders. But, I’ve come to accept that just because my anxiety is not as bad as some people’s anxiety doesn’t mean it’s not real. Luckily for me, mine isn’t every day. I can’t imagine living with crippling anxiety every day.
I know the strategies to help reduce anxiety. Finding 5 things around you to “ground” you. Writing about it. Taking deep breaths. Etc. But my anxiety makes hills look like mountains. And on a normal day, using strategies to get over it is like getting over a hill. And some days.. some days it’s like getting over Mount Everest.
This morning, I was walking on the treadmill to warm up for my workout. I can’t explain it, I don’t even remember what triggered the initial feeling, but all of a sudden I knew today was a day. I had struggled to get out of bed. I was struggling to wake up. I had taken my pre-workout, which I do before every workout. But walking on the treadmill, I felt that weight on my chest and I knew it was going to be a struggle. I did my hour long leg workout. It was harder to catch my breath and twice I was close to tears. For no. reason. I went home and showered and tried to think about anything else but it was pointless. Today was just gonna be a day. I got dressed and made it to work, where I sat at my desk feeling restless until it subsided slightly after a lit tle while.
This might sound melodramatic- but if it does, you’ve probably never experienced the kind of anxiety I’m talking about.
I wrote the first part of this article two weeks ago in the midst of an anxiety “episode.” I hesitate to call it an anxiety attack because like I said, I’ve never been formally diagnosed. I reread it later, realized how dramatic it sounded, saved it in my drafts and left it sit there. And then yesterday, it happened ago. For no reason!
Logically, I know that there is sometimes an underlying cause for it. I’m worrying too much about pleasing everyone, or giving 100% in all areas of my life, or I’m worrying about money, or about the future. But these things don’t always cause anxiety. Some times its because I’ve had too much caffeine. But again… that doesn’t always cause anxiety. I never understand why some days it hits me and other days I manage the stressors like any other person.
Like I said, most days I don’t struggle with anxiety at all. But some days, it hits me harder than others and I feel like all I can do is ride it out. I feel a little silly for posting this, because once my anxiety chills out it all sounds pretty dramatic. But I’m not over exaggerating how I feel during those periods. Luckily, mine is minor and manageable. If you suffer with anxiety of any type, just know that you are not alone. And no matter how ‘together’ someone seems to be, no matter how great their life seems, don’t for one second think that they don’t struggle with issues of their own.
This is a hard topic to talk about, especially in such a public forum. It’s hard to admit you’re struggling. And it’s hard to share your vulnerabilities with the world. But, if just one person reads my words and relates to them and feels a little less alone, then it will have been worth it.
And please know, most days I am perfectly fine. Most days I’m great actually. Maybe at some point in the future I will be able to avoid these anxious periods, or maybe it will get worse and at that point I would seek the help of a therapist. But please (I’m talking specifically to my parents and my grandma because I know they read this 😂) don’t be alarmed because seriously, most days are pretty wonderful.
Photography by: 3 Little Birds Photography