That Feeling

That feeling of complete helplessness. A feeling that spreads through your veins and drowns you. You feel bottomless, with nowhere left to turn for help. You’ve done everything you can, but still nothing.

Breathing becomes difficult, your lungs find it harder to expand to fill themselves with air. Your chest feels heavy, your body checks out. Eye lids start to flutter and close, gasps from your lips so violent.

Darkness starts to appear in your periferals and your ears scream at you in protest. You squeeze your eyes shut to try to stop the screeching but it gets louder. You feel as if your mind is at war and about to explode through the cannon.

That feeling. Is that what anxiety feels like? Is this how life should be? That feeling…

We’ve all experienced this kind of feeling at one point in our lives. Each one’s suffering scaled differently. Some people may experience severe anxiety to the point where they are incapable of getting out of bed, speaking to family members, and doing basic daily tasks other people wouldn’t give a second thought to. Others may just get minor symptoms and only experience it when they have a test or a presentation. This one fades and doesn’t really make life any different than if they didn’t experience it.

Severe anxiety is a different story. As I said before, it is the kind of impairment that prevents you from performing basic life tasks.

Anxiety is a disorder that can be labeled in different forms. There are several kinds of anxiety disorders, including: panic disorder; social anxiety disorder; generalized anxiety disorder; specific phobias etc. The list goes on. It can be overwhelming to try and figure out what your body is experiencing. Sometimes the symptoms don’t align with specifically one disorder.

It depends on the type of anxiety disorder, but general symptoms include:

  • Feelings of panic, fear, and uneasiness
  • Problems sleeping
  • Cold or sweaty hands or feet
  • Shortness of breath
  • Heart palpitations
  • Not being able to be still and calm
  • Dry mouth
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
  • Nausea
  • Muscle tension
  • Dizziness

Again, the list of symptoms goes on, which can result in unusual behaviour. What causes these symptoms or feelings is entirely unknown. Scientists are continuing to do research and figure out why people are affected by it.

I was reading an article online that was published by WebMD, a highly credited website for scientists and doctors. They gave me the list of symptoms that I wrote above, but they also gave me some inside details as to what anxiety really is. As someone who suffers from severe anxiety and depression, I know all too well what that feeling is like.

Here is an excerpt from the article I was reading:

“As scientists continue their research on mental illness, it is becoming clear that many of these disorders are caused by a combination of factors, including changes in the brain and environmental stress. Like other brain illnesses, anxiety disorders may be caused by problems in the functioning of brain circuits that regulate fear and other emotions. Studies have shown that severe or long-lasting stress can change the way nerve cells within these circuits transmit information from one region of the brain to another. Other studies have shown that people with certain anxiety disorders have changes in certain brain structures that control memories linked with strong emotions. In addition, studies have shown that anxiety disorders can run in families, which means that they can at least partly be inherited from one or both parents, similar to the genetic risk for heart disease or cancer. Moreover, certain environmental factors — such as a trauma or significant event — may trigger an anxiety disorder in people who have an inherited susceptibility to developing the disorder.” (WebMD, Anxiety & Panic Disorders Health Center)

Another article I was reading was from the Canadian Mental Health Association provided some more insight as to what mental illness really is and how people live with it everyday for a lifetime, “Mental illnesses can take many forms, just as physical illnesses do. Mental illnesses are still feared and misunderstood by many people, but the fear will disappear as people learn more about them. If you, or someone you know, has a mental illness, there is good news: all mental illnesses can be treated.” (Canadian Mental Health Association, Understanding Mental Illness)

More specifically on anxiety:

“We all feel nervous or worried at times. This anxiety can be a helpful feeling when it motivates us or warns us of danger. An anxiety disorder, on the other hand, causes unexpected or unhelpful anxiety that seriously impacts our lives, including how we think, feel, and act. Anxiety disorders can affect anyone at any age, and they are the most common mental health problem. Sometimes, anxiety disorders are triggered by a specific event or stressful life experience. Anxiety disorders may be more likely to occur when we have certain ways of looking at things (like believing that everything must be perfect) or learn unhelpful coping strategies from others. But sometimes there just doesn’t seem to be a reason.” (Canadian Mental Health Association, Anxiety Disorders)

Anxiety is not a joke, it is not something you can just brush off and not give a second thought to. It is something that many people experience in their lives and it should not be overlooked. If you know someone who is suffering from any mental illness, DO NOT WALK AWAY. They need all the love and support in the world, not cruelty. It is not their fault they have their illness. If they could get rid of it they would; no one would want experience that feeling and to live in that kind of hell by choice.

Like I said before, I am also suffering from severe anxiety and depression. I know that feeling. I know how hard it is. There are days when I can’t even get out of bed or move myself off the couch to go to the gym or go for a run or do yoga. There are days when I eat myself into oblivion in hopes of filling the deep and empty gouge in my heart that threatens to tear me apart every minute. The oblivion turns into self hatred and disgust. As I sit here and write this and hold my head in my hands and begin to feel my anxiety rising, I know that it is not me. I AM NOT MY ILLNESS. I am not this feeling. I am so much more than my ongoing symptoms and attacks. And neither are you. You are not your illness and you are more than your symptoms and attacks. You are so much more.

One thing to remember though is that anxiety is NOT A RESULT OF PERSONAL WEAKNESS OR FAILURE. It does not change who you are as a person or what you are capable of accomplishing. It is what will build you to be stronger and more resilient to situations in life. If you are suffering from anxiety or any other form of mental illness or disorder, please know that you are not alone. There are answers. There is help. Treatments plans are in place for you to utilize and take advantage of. DO NOT BE AFRAID. There is light at the end of the tunnel. There is hope.

Sending lots of love and prayers to my survivors and fighters out there. We can do it!

-E

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