Imagine having an overactive fight-or-flight response.
Imagine your body being braced for disaster.
Imagine staying awake all night at sleepovers as a child because every time the house creaked or the water dripped, your mind delivered a hard shot of adrenaline to your system, reminding you ‘this is an unfamiliar environment – stay alert.’
Imagine headaches that arrived out of nowhere. Imagine stomach pains you couldn’t explain. Imagine a tightening chest that you couldn’t alleviate, ending up in emergency room visits.
Imagine your surprise at being told, ‘This is anxiety,’ when you have never identified with the term.
Imagine not relating to the traditional signs of anxiety – the perfectionism, the over-planning, the rumination and concern about how you’re being perceived.
Imagine being someone who thinks swiftly on their feet, enjoys high-pressure situations and thrives when they are working against a deadline. Imagine being told you have anxiety when everything about the term ‘anxiety’ seems to contradict your core personality.
Imagine the confusion. The frustration. The helplessness you feel in alleviating a mental illness that manifests entirely as a physical one.
Imagine the frustration of waking up at 3am with knots tightening inside of your stomach and knowing that there is no medical cause.
Imagine taking weeks off of work due to a chest tightness that cannot be explained in cardiac terms.
Imagine trying everything possible to alleviate your pain and discomfort, only to be told by emergency room doctors that the cure is to try mindfulness or meditation.
Imagine the agony of trying to feel calm when your body is preventing you from working – when you’ll only feel relaxed once that work is complete.
Imagine the dissonance of suffering from an illness that doesn’t follow the traditional rules of cause-and-effect.
Imagine reading article after article on anxiety and relating to almost none of them – but still being told it’s what you have.
Imagine having to learn your own coping mechanisms from scratch, because your pitfall isn’t perfectionism or obsessiveness. It’s your body simply throwing in the towel and saying, ‘No more.’ But your mind refusing to agree.
Imagine your mind and your body at war.
Imagine wishing you could crawl out of your skin and abandon it – letting your mind reel on and on.
Imagine stretching your limits so far that your mind cues your body to cut you off – because your mind knows you will spare yourself no pity.
Imagine rarely feeling stressed or obsessive, but your body waking you up at 3am, reminding you: mental pain can be pushed aside, but physical pain can’t be ignored.
Imagine your body bearing the brunt of your emotions and your anxieties, no matter how many times your mind insists that everything is under control.
Imagine a day with physical anxiety.
And the maddening contradictions that ensue.