anxiety sucks. feeling anxious and nervous and scared sucks. but, for me at least, one of the most frustrating aspects of it is the complete curveball that is how many symptoms of anxiety feel absolutely nothing like anxiety. when you rock up to the GP with a list the length of your arm of all your physical ailments, only to be told that every last one of them is because you’re anxious, you get a bit of a wake up call. on the one hand, it’s super disheartening to realise just how much of an impact your mental health is having on the physical, but on the other it’s nice to know that there’s one treatable root cause. either way, i reckon a push towards discussing the very tangible outcome of anxiety can only be a good thing - even if it’s just to get the ‘it’s all in your head’ crowd to consider for a second that they maybe don’t know everything about a situation that they’ve never experienced…
here are my first 5 picks for things they don’t tell you about anxiety:
- the indecisiveness.
and i’m not talking about not having a preference between strawberry & raspberry jam (FYI the correct answer is raspberry for PBJ, strawberry for everything else). i’m talking standing in the supermarket for an hour trying to decide on dinner but being genuinely unable to make your mind cooperate long enough to be able to think in a logical straight line that will lead to a choice. i’m talking not even being aware that you’re being indecisive, or how much time has passed, because your head is genuinely just listing to you every food that exists in the world, and having to factor in cooking time & your level of hunger is enough to literally just crash the whole system and you find yourself staring blankly at the shelves until you decide that oven chips are sufficiently nutritious and you continue on your road of malnourished self-destruction.
- the mental paralysis.
picture the scene: you have like, maximum, 3 different things you need to get done. all take place in your house and all are of similar levels of importance/urgency. your brain tries to work out which order you should tackle them in, and before you know it you are being flooded by the thought equivalent of those lecture hall chalkboards you get in american movies covered from top to bottom in weird physics equations and diagrams and graphs etc. you are that meme of the confused lady with the superimposed maths. skip to 2 hours later when you find yourself sitting literally in the EXACT spot on your bed, having achieved absolutely nothing whatsoever except to have wasted 120 minutes of time that you could’ve gotten all 3 things done in, leaving you only with less time and more panic as a result of the less time. a successful evening, you’ve done it again!
- the guilt.
this is one that, if you’re as emotionally catastrophic as me, will make you cry if you think about it too much (aka for longer than 17 seconds). whether the anxiety is part of a guilt complex, or the guilt is a symptom of anxiety, i’m still unsure (we could also blame catholicism but i like to think i made it through that fairly unscathed). but hell does it hurt. i feel guilty all the time. i feel guilty about things that have nothing to do with me, i feel guilty about things that i’ve done but that aren’t worthy of guilt, and i also feel guilty about the impact of my anxiety on the people who know me. i feel sick to my stomach that my parents worked so hard and so lovingly to raise someone who turned out to be the human personification of neuroticism. like, how is that fair? when you have parents who LITERALLY only want you to be happy and you can’t even give them that?! ROTTEN. it’s not even guilt that i’m a difficult person, it’s just knowing how many people care about me and want me to be the best possible happy version of me that i can be, and live my most wonderful fun life, and most of the time i’m a miserable little slug person. I’M SO SORRY MUM.
- the shits.
hey normal well-adjusted typically-functioning humans. you know when you’re going to a job interview or you’re finally going to have to tell your girlfriend you cheated on her or you’re psyching yourself up to steal a snickers from tesco because it’s the only way you can feel something anymore, and your stomach does that gargling squeezing rolling thing and you’re like ‘please god no not here not like this’? when you have generalised anxiety about literally everything in life, that’s just how you feel. ALL THE TIME. like as though it’s not enough suffering that your brain is trying to destroy you, but your guts have also turned against you and now you’re going to shit yourself too because that’s just what your life has become. anxiety is one of the most common causes of IBS. and, obviously, having a gross stomach/bowel thing only serves to make you more anxious, which only makes the churning in your stomach worse, and so we embark upon the cruellest inescapable cycle ever.
- the exhaustion.
not even, like, it makes you tired, it’s more that when your brain just will not stop it very quickly becomes very tiring just being awake and alive and all that. relaxing is not a thing, switching off is not a thing, chilling out is not a thing. relaxing with anxiety is essentially just you finally giving in to the fact that your actual body needs rest, while you beg your stupid brain to stop whispering ‘ok but, like, have you forgotten how much you need to get done? because it just sorta seems like you’re not doing any of that right now.’ the anxious mind is the most passive-aggressive entity you will ever encounter. and that’s not a patch on the catastrophising. if EVERY time you’re on the tube, your brain assures you that you’re going to die “because terrorism” having to override you being totally mental with the rational part of your mind that knows better, you very quickly get very tired. or if every conversation you ever have with anyone gets analysed repeatedly to make sure you didn’t embarrass yourself, how exhausted do you think we are at any given moment. who has the time?
part 2 coming tomorrow, there's just so much to cover, isn't life fun!!