Anxiety… and All Its Little Shards

I don’t know that I’ve ever written much about my anxiety on here, but I think now is the time to start. Honestly, living with anxiety is not easy. Sometimes it can manifest itself in ways that make it nearly impossible to get out of bed in the morning or to finish a simple task.

Other times, like some of the things I wanted to write about today, it manifests itself in small ways that are *just* enough to inconvenience you or make your day more complicated. Sometimes you don’t even realize how ridiculous these things can be, and sometimes you do, but you have to do them anyways. Because if you don’t, who knows what could happen?

Sometimes, anxiety means locking your deadbolt when you get home from work/going out/wherever — and then checking it again when you’re getting ready for bed, and then one more check before you actually hop into bed.

Sometimes, anxiety means putting away your keys or your wallet or some other item when you get home or done using it — and then checking two minutes later to make sure it’s there. And then checking again a few minutes later. Same goes for putting your debit card into your wallet after using it at the store. Better check again to make sure you didn’t forget it at the register!

Sometimes, anxiety means putting your bus pass into your wallet, and your wallet into your purse, when you step on the bus — and then checking again, two or three times over the course of your bus ride, to make sure you put it away. And then one more quick check before you step off the bus, because what if you didn’t actually put it away and you leave it on the bus?!?

Sometimes, anxiety means making dinner and then shutting off the stovetop & oven when you’re done — and then checking a few minutes later, when you and your family are actually eating that dinner, to make sure you turned everything off. Oh, and you’d better check one more time before you leave the house or go to bed to make sure that stove is really off.

Sometimes, anxiety means leaving your apartment and locking the door — and then, instead of being able to just leave and walk away, you’d better check the door handle to make sure it’s actually locked. Actually, you’d better pull that handle two, or three, or five times to check…..

…. and maybe you get down the stairs, or to the car, and that overwhelming sense of panic floods over you and you have no choice but to run back upstairs and check the lock, again. You might know at this point that it’s ridiculous, but you know that if you leave without checking one more time, it’ll be all you can think about all day long.

Sometimes, anxiety means getting behind the wheel of a car while you’re trying to learn to drive, and thinking about nothing but what could go wrong. You could hit someone! You could KILL someone! You could get killed! You could damage this car beyond your financial repairs. You could damage someone’s property!

Sometimes, anxiety means getting in the passenger’s seat of a car and thinking about everything that could go wrong. You’ve read all those freak stories on the Internet, right? What if the car slams into something – a pole, a tree, whatever – and the person driving the car, who you love so deeply, gets fatally injured, and you’re stuck sitting there next to them as it happens? What if you actually SEE it happen? What if you both die? What if you hit another car and everyone gets horribly injured? What if you hit a patch of ice or a speeding car throws you off, and the car rolls down that hill? What are the chances you’d survive that?

Sometimes, anxiety means you have a seemingly-random pain in your body — and you instantly jump to all the “worst” possible conclusions. Oh God, what if it’s my appendix? What if it bursts? What if it’s my heart and I’m actually dying? What if this mark on my skin isn’t just a zit, but is actually cancer? What if the pain in my leg isn’t just a charley-horse, but is actually a blood clot that spreads to my heart and kills me?

Sometimes, anxiety means having these pains at night when all you want to do is sleep, and your mind is saying “what if this is wrong, and you die overnight and never wake up?” or “what if that is wrong, and your friend/husband/loved one dies overngiht and never wakes up?”

Sometimes, anxiety means hearing the tiniest little noise at night — and immediately thinking of every possible, horrible thing it could be. Was that the carbon monoxide detector? Probably not, but what if you ignore it and die? Was that someone breaking in? Nah, but what if it was? What if that car honking on your street at 3 in the morning isn’t being a burden, but trying to warn people that the building is on fire?

These are just some of the ways that anxiety, and anxious thoughts, invade my mind at times. Some of these may seem like small things – like, is it really a big deal if I check if the stove is off one more time before I go to sleep? But in reality, even if it is a small thing once, it happens over and over again that all these manifestations add up to, well, exhaustion.

It is exhausting to have anxiety. It is exhausting to be anxious all the time, or most of the time, or some of the time. It was exhausting, but also cathartic, to write this blog post.

If you’re reading this, maybe you or someone you know has anxiety. Maybe we’re all in this fight together. And that’s what it is – a fight. I try every day to fight these thoughts and feelings. I see a counselor monthly to check in on how I’m feeling and doing. Right now, I don’t take any medication for it, though that’s a personal choice and I understand why a lot of people do.

I am not my anxiety.

Most days, I’m trying, and that’s good for me. Here’s to hoping it only gets better.

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