I had to share this! Such amazing and on point descriptions of anxiety, such as: “GAD is not the easiest thing to put up on a shelf, and it became difficult to hide. As someone who has suffered from panic attacks and debilitating anxiety for as long as I could remember, it has been a consistent obstacle that has only worsened as I reached adulthood.”
“My tendency to lock myself in and frequently cancel plans, for example, did not go unnoticed by friends. Take the bus? To your house? But that’s a bus route I’ve never taken! And I could get lost! And what then?”
“Simple things were daunting – visiting a new place, taking the bus, even going outside – and in order to soothe my anxiety, I had a system of complicated rules that eventually descended into dysfunction.”
“Never take a new bus route without practicing it first.”
“Never take the bus after nine o’clock pm.”
“Never take the bus without a friend.”
“Never take the bus.”
“Never leave the house.”
“The “what then” and “what if” scenarios were never very likely, but felt real and threatening enough to discourage me from doing what I wanted and often needed to do. I was intimidated by seemingly simple things, stressed to the point where I eventually decided to do nothing at all. I would self-isolate or make excuses to avoid the things that scared me.”
“After one too many unexplained disappearances, cancellations, and panic attacks while I hid in public restrooms, I had to fess up: my bipolar had a companion, and that companion was called GAD.”
“If I had to describe generalized anxiety, I would describe it as chronic fear.”
“Fear of public transit. Fear of strangers. Fear of disappointing others. Fear of making mistakes. Fear of being abandoned. Fear of failure. Fear of mold. Fear of bugs. Fear of judgment. Fear of big crowds. Fear of being alone. Fear of talking too much. Fear of not saying enough. Fear of being disliked. Fear of the future. Fear of natural disasters. Fear of the “what ifs” and all the things that could go wrong.”
“And fear of absolutely nothing, fear for fear’s sake, fear of just being alive in a world that was inexplicably scary to me.”
“My life, on paper, could be going perfectly well. And yet I would still find something to be anxious about. My brain was incredibly skilled that way.”
“It was the kind of fear that gave me aches and pains, exhaustion, and nausea for weeks on end. The kind of anxiety that makes it impossible to eat or sleep, further draining my body and weakening my defenses.”
“There was a continuous dread that I felt in the pit of my stomach – the unwavering conviction that something terrible was going to happen, and I would be helpless to stop it.”
“I spent years at a time in a panic that I could not control or affect.”
“And when it reached a peak, I would have awful panic attacks – hyperventilating in a car, my hands going numb, my heart palpitating wildly in my chest, tunnel vision, unable to speak, cold chills sweeping over my body, unable to breathe and gasping for air that never seemed to reach my lungs.”
“I felt constantly on-edge, as if I were at the top of a roller coaster that was suspended, prepared to drop at any moment. And yes, in case you were wondering, I’m also afraid of roller coasters.”
Amazing job Sam. Way to put into words what everyone with anxiety feels on a daily basis!!!
Illustration by Jessica Krcmarik.
[The illustration features a house, seemingly unstable, perched precariously upon a cliff. The author, Sam Dylan Finch, is standing at the edge of that cliff, looking down with uncertainty. Inside the house, there are words in frames that read, “Everyone feels stressed sometimes.”]
I know this is an unexpected entry, seeing as I usually blog once a week. But it feels like the right time to talk about this.
One of the scary parts of bipolar disorder is that it often begets company. Co-occurring disorders are not uncommon for people who have bipolar, and yet they are conversations we tend to have behind closed doors. There’s something about having multiple labels assigned to us that really terrifies us.
Or at least, it really terrified me. I’ve been very open about my experiences with bipolar disorder, and have even discussed my history of disordered eating…
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