Living with Anxiety
Living with Anxiety is basically like saying that you’re constantly on alert. That something’s going to happen. At any time. Like NOW!
For the record, I don’t suffer from Anxiety anymore but the version I had in my youth was extreme. I can remember the panic attacks. They started when I was very young. My first ever one was horrendous. I thought I was going to die, and I can remember running around the house screaming for an ambulance. My Mum didn’t know what to do, it was unlike me, normally I was a happy-go-lucky boy, the next minute I’m running around the house screaming that my life was going to end. Luckily she didn’t panic and we waited it out as best as we could.
I could only describe a panic attack like this: I would be sitting at home, watching TV, minding my own business and then all of a sudden my hands, arms and legs would go numb. The numbness would seep into my heart and I’d feel terribly lightheaded. And then I could hear the torrent of blood being swished around my body via my heart thudding frantically against my chest. It was frightening. And if it was only that I probably could handle it, but then the mind starts to kick in.
“You’re going to die,”
“you’re going to DIE!”
“YOU’RE GOING TO DIE!!!!”
No. Panic attacks are no fun at all. I can say they were the single, most debilitating thing about living with Anxiety. But Anxiety is far more insidious than that. Think of Anxiety like an Iceberg, whereas you have The Panic Attacks on the top and all the under-the-surface issues were beneath the water. Like unrealistic perceptions of fear. I have a healthy reaction to fear now, it’s probably because I’m prone to take far more risks than I used to, or perhaps it’s the other way around. Who knows.
In my case, if I had offended someone, I would imagine the absolute worst case scenario. My mind would play out these traumatic events where the person that I had offended would stop being friends with me, or even worse, stab me in the eye. Naturally, a person with a healthy response to fear would deal with it in their stride, and aim to apologise to said person at the appropriate time. Knowing that everyone has arguments, and everyone isn’t perfect.
Living with Anxiety also brings its unhealthy perceptions of other people too. Or it did for me. I was anxious because I was always trying to be this complete vision of perfection and when I made a mistake I would come down crushingly hard on myself. You see this is because I saw the best side of everyone when they were around me. I hadn’t realised yet that it’s not only me who stinks out the bathroom once in a while, and it’s definitely not only me that screws up. I had everyone I met on these seriously high pedestals that were in awe to look up to, and me, just a lowly little worker ant. Anxiety can do that to a person.
And the over analysing! Ugh. Luckily I didn’t have a massive intelligence when I did analyse too much, but I would find myself wondering why someone said something to another person? Or why did he ask me in that tone of voice? Usually, the conclusions would end up in “because they hate me”. Nothing good ever came from my over analysing. Yet now that I’m better educated I think in depth analysing is good, but only if you can find a way to switch it off. I know body language, I know voice tone and I know people. If I were to keep that switched on with everyone it would drive me batty!
I lived with Anxiety for most of my life. I’m lucky to shed it. I can only account shedding it to my lovely wife and the caring, safe environment that she’s created for us at home, and that perhaps I’ve faced my crushingly real demons. The one’s that crippled me. I made peace with my Dad. He didn’t make it easy for me. All through my youth and young adulthood Dad was one of these people that were happier when I was feeling shit about myself than not. I remember Dad once threatening to cave my kneecaps in with a hammer, and the funny thing was, onlookers, they laughed and joked, “I really thought he was going to do it”. Yeah, fun time mate. Ha ha.
I’m sure I was born with Anxiety. I’m sure it’s a natural accompaniment to Autism. The excess stimuli, not fully knowing how to process the information that I’m receiving. Being too much. Making me anxious. I think spending a lifetime with Anxiety can be hell unless seen by someone that really knows what they’re talking about. I was lucky enough to heavily involve myself with Mental Health and Charities for ten years. In return for helping them deliver projects and making a name for themselves I gained a wealth of help to better myself. And it somehow worked. In the long run. I mean it didn’t just happen overnight. It took 10+ years!
I haven’t suffered a panic attack in a good 10 years now, I haven’t overly-analysed anything recently and sometimes I can be known to be “too easy on myself” or so my wife tells me. And she’s normally right. I certainly haven’t put anyone on a pedestal recently either. I see everyone as my equal. The Prime Minister. Or the busker in the street looking to rake in enough for his dinner.
If you’re reading this and thinking, “wow, how did you actually do it?” Here’s how.
1. I spent more time alone and looked into which hobbies I would like to have
2. Every time I judged, criticised or assumed, I stopped myself. I also tried to relate my harsh judgement to myself. “I can’t talk, I’m skint anyway. Why would I judge someone with no money?” It gets easier after a while.
3. I watched other successful people, a lot. No TV, No YouTube, No videos. I watched people like my boss and people that would captivate an audience on stage. I had to be there in person.
4. I learned to meditate.
5. I learned to relax and spend time alone. Proper time to myself, and play a game, or read a book.
6. I got rid of obnoxious and toxic friendships.
7. I surrounded myself with empowering and loving people.
8. I learned. As much as I could.
9. I learned to give without return
There are a lot more but here’s a few to start you off. As I say, at least those nine is a lot of work! So no thinking you can do 9 in one day and wait for positive results, it’s a continual process. I hope this has been enlightening for you. Please feel free to comment!