The simplest way to describe anxiety: uncontrollable, unpredictable.
It is a physical reaction to a mental state that often has no cause and no warning.
An anxiety attack is like a nightmare—but while you’re awake. Your body becomes an earthquake, complete with lava spewing at the centre and screams of help bursting from all corners of your soul. Then, your body suddenly becomes cold because, regardless of whether global warming exists on earth, it certainly is a concept to your body.
Anxiety attacks feel like your entire world is ending yet you can’t do a damn thing—not even cry—to mitigate the awful, heart-crushing sensation. There will be times when you are sprawled across the couch, wondering if dying feels akin to this feeling that is scooping you hollow from the inside out.
It’s a feeling of wanting to scream, bawl your eyes dry, rip out every organ until you feel better or until you feel nothing at all—yet not even being able to move.
Some people struggle to get out of bed in the morning because of lack of motivation and exhaustion. For people with anxiety, the exhaustion factor remains constant, but there is instead a mental to-do list that never ceases whispering in your ear, a perpetual tug in the back of your brain that cruelly knifes you from the inside. It is a feeling that the entire world will crash down on you if you don’t get up immediately to put a check mark next to something on that list—yet still, you are unable to move, unable to do anything except remain in your perpetual state of fear.
So, please don’t simplify my problem by telling me to “stop stressing out that much, it’s not that big of a deal.”
Believe me, I’ve already tried to reason the situation out like that.
“It’s just an exam—a B+ will not cease your existence.”
“It’s just an argument—your family cannot hate you forever.”
“A lost cell phone will not initiate the apocalypse—it is time for a new phone anyways.”
Anxiety is far more complex than ‘nerves,’ and it’s something a ‘chill pill’ can’t fix.
I mentally acknowledge that I’m worrying an irrational amount about something that’s not as big of a deal as I’m making it out to be—the difference, though, is that I physically and emotionally cannot make that distinction. My body and emotions are simply not at the pace of my brain, and I can’t change that.
I have refrained from unleashing my temper at some people who are ignorant to the concept of anxiety as a mental condition. After all, it seems reasonable that they remain in the dark because they have never actually experienced an anxiety attack themselves.
At times, it would be so easy—and so tempting—to angrily inject understanding and empathy into friends and family.
I’m glad I have restrained myself though, because heated preaching will not effectively rid the ignorance other others. They cannot be culpable for their misconceptions of what true “anxiety” is. We live in a society that is largely unaware of the term as a real medical issue rather than a common understatement meaning “stress” or “worry.” Unfortunately, anxiety is also a true mental condition that is far more severe than people may know.
My intent is not to shame people who lay in oblivion, or beg for pity. Rather, it is to spread awareness about the issue, and allow others to show a little more empathy.
All we want, as people who struggle with anxiety, is to be taken seriously—to not be brushed aside as too big of worriers, or maniacs who can’t control stress; labeled as OCD or depressed or—worst of all—too uptight.
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Apprentice Editor: Hannah Harris/Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: MikaelF/ Wikimedia Commons