I’ve been told, on various occasions, that my anxiety isn’t legitimate. We’ve all heard the classics – ‘it’s all in your head’, ‘why don’t you just get over it?’ and many, many more words that have slashed against our hearts rather callously.
Because the truth is, people who don’t go through situations like these will never know how incredibly hard it is to live with something like it every minute of everyday. They will never know what it feels like to second guess every word you say, to be extra cautious and always mentally prepared for something to go wrong. They won’t know how we’re always expecting the worst — from ourselves, and others.
So for the people who think that Anxiety is something completely made up – let me give you a medical explanation for it.
Anxiety and stress are terms that are commonly interchangeably used. But they differ from each other in their intensity. While stress makes you worried, cautious, etc, anxiety makes you feel fear, dread or apprehension. Stress helps you prepare for a potential threat while anxiety is the constant reminder of a threat and over-preparing yourself for it.
Anxiety disorders are triggered, or can trigger, chemical imbalances in the brain. The neurotransmitters targeted in anxiety disorders are gamma-aminobutyric acid(GABA), serotonin, dopamine, and epinephrine.
Anxiety disorders trigger a ‘fight or flight’ situation in the brain without any potential threat or cause.
We all know about the fire alarms placed in buildings, houses or hospitals. They’re installed to go off in case of a fire. Now, imagine the alarm has malfunctioned. It goes off without any potential threat of fire.
That’s sort of what happens in the brain when you have an anxiety disorder. Your brain keeps warning you about threats or situations that might not even cause you any harm. Sometimes, there are minor triggers but sometimes – it’s absolutely nothing. And in these situations of intense anxiousness – we face what we call ‘anxiety attacks’. (Panic attacks are sort of more intense form of anxiety attacks)
What happens during an anxiety attack?
It starts with a feeling. It’s that very first moment, when you start detecting the slightest change in your body and its surroundings. Whether its a slight chest ache, a lump in the throat or any physical symptom at all – it becomes magnified. Most of these feelings would be immediately dismissed by people who don’t suffer anxiety disorders but for someone who does – it becomes the centre of attention.
The truth is, that a person who suffers anxiety disorders isn’t actually dreaming or making up the physical sensations – but they’re actually paying a lot of attention to what would be dismissed by someone without the disorder.
The physical symptoms could include –
1. Chest ache
2. Rapid heartbeat
4. Breathlessness or irregular pattern of breathing
5. Difficulty focusing
6. Trouble balancing
8. Aches in the body
A lot of times, symptoms like these magnify the feeling of anxiety and in turn – cause an actual anxiety attack.
When a person is going through an anxiety attack – they’re way inside their head while simultaneously being very, very aware of their bodily functions. They feel the need to take in deeper breaths and cough or yawn in order to control the anxiety but a lot of times, it becomes uncontrollable. There are times when an anxiety attack can be controlled before it even begins properly. I’ve done it. But there are times when it’s too out of your hand, when the triggers are a tad bit more powerful than your control over yourself.
Anxiety is loss of control over your own self. And for people, that’s really hard to understand.
How are you incapable of having control over yourself?
It’s because there are times when our brain doesn’t particularly cooperate. It’s because of the chemical imbalance that we find it hard to immediately react to a situation in a socially ‘appropriate’ way. It’s why we freak out over small things or avoid them all together.
Anxiety isn’t my choice.
I don’t choose to be anxious over little things like being in a quiet, closed room or long durations of travel. I don’t enjoy not being able to breathe or to not be able to be present in the moment.
I don’t enjoy being even slightly dependent on someone in case I have an anxiety attack.
No one suffering from anxiety enjoys it.
It’s isn’t exciting. It isn’t as poetic, or romantic as it seems to be on television and books. It doesn’t just ‘go away’ when love or some miracle worker comes along.
It takes hours, days, weeks, months and years of practice to control. The things that people seem to do effortlessly, could be things that take away all our energy. Our days struggling with it leave us exhausted, spent and completely deprived of inner peace and calm. There are days when we might be lucky enough to catch a few breathers, to feel how it is to not be constantly waiting for the worry to strike.
Does it make us weak, though? I doubt it.
Although we have weak days – days when we’d much rather stay in bed and avoid the world – we face our demons headfirst, anyway. Although there are days when we feel we’re losing our battle, we refuse to give up. We’re at war with ourselves. We’re at war with what was supposed to be an ally. But we refuse surrender.
Despite being misunderstood or dismissed by most people around us, we acknowledge our fight and prepare for it.
Our anxiety doesn’t make us weak at all. It makes us aware. It makes us aware of how awful the human brain is capable of making someone feel. It makes us cautious. It makes us second guess our words so that they never hurt someone. It makes us realise the meaning and value of support and care. It makes us love harder than most because we’d much rather smother you with love than let you feel unloved for even a measly second.
It makes us believe that if we can win against ourselves – we can win against anyone at all.