Imagine leaving the parking lot of the grocery store, excited to get back to your wonderful oasis of an apartment. You stop at the end of the aisle, look to your left and pull out into the road, only to be honked at by several vehicles because you neglected to look right. You suddenly find yourself in a daze trying to remember how you even got in your car in the first place, and why you're at the grocery store when you don't even remember what you ate, or if you ate, breakfast.
Folks, this is what anxiety is like for me.
My brain on anxiety
When something happens, even a miniscule event, my anxiety says, "Alright, it's go time" and proceeds to take over my entire brain function. The story of almost getting in an accident? It happened today about five times because my mind was too busy running at 100 miles per hour over something incredibly minute. [Author's note: after my almost-crash, I did take time to pull over, take a deep breath and call a friend. I made sure I was OK before heading home.]
Because my mind is so focused on that one little thing, it's like the rest of my brain functioning shuts off entirely. Even making a phone call is difficult because I cannot remember why I called someone. You walk through the department store in a fog because your brain is running so fast trying to make sense of something that happened yesterday.
Those thoughts snowball and spin uncontrollably until eventually my brain shuts down.
What could I have done better? What will my boss say? That's it, I'm fired, I know it. How will I pay my bills? Will I have to get rid of my cat? What about my car? When can I get a new car?
And those thoughts snowball and spin uncontrollably until eventually my brain shuts down. I become a zombie, in essence. And for a short while, I don't think about anything. And guys, it's the best feeling in the world. Not having to think about anything for even a minute is so great. Until I turn and check my phone and I see something that reminds me of some mistake I made.
Nobody chooses anxiety
These thoughts I have are irrational and uncontrollable. They're more than overthinking, and they're more than overanalyzing. But most people will tell me to "stop overthinking," or "just stop and look at how stupid your thoughts are," or the most common, "if you're trying so hard, you shouldn't have this anxiety." Believe me, I know how stupid they are, and if I could stop them willingly, I would. But for right now, trying is all I can do. Nobody chooses anxiety. If you have ever experienced a full-fledged anxiety attack, you would understand why you would never choose this.
My anxiety doesn't just manifest in the form of racing thoughts. I have horrible nausea, sometimes vomiting, terrible headaches that won't go away, body aches all the time (my heating pad has become my best friend). Sometimes I binge eat, sometimes I don't eat at all, and I average about three hours a night trying every way possible to fall asleep. It's real. It's valid.
I write this post mid-panic attack over something that happened yesterday. I almost crashed my car five times today. I haven't slept through the night but maybe three times over the past year. I take a daily medication, a "just-in-case" medication, herbal stress remedies, Vitamin-D, a multivitamin, and remain faithful in my peppermint essential oil to soothe my pounding headaches. I guess you could say I'm trying too hard.
But at least I'm trying.
Just like mine, your anxiety is real, valid and OK to talk about.
I'm trying to get the proper dosage of medication. I'm trying to find new ways to cope (writing this is one of them). I'm trying to take time for myself. And I'm trying to take more steps forward. Someday I'll get to the point where anxiety isn't constant, but until then, I'll keep trying.
Just like mine, your anxiety is real, valid and OK to talk about. I encourage you to talk about it with someone. It helps. Don't let someone tell you that you're not trying hard enough. You know how much you can give. Just keep trying.
Frame Of Mind is a new series inspired by The Maddie Project that focuses on teens and mental health. The series will aim to raise awareness and spark a conversation by speaking directly to teens who are going through a tough time, as well as their families, teachers and community leaders. We want to ensure that teens who are struggling with mental illness get the help, support and compassion they need. If you would like to contribute a blog to this series, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
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Also on HuffPost:
One in five Canadians will experience mental illness in their lifetime Source: Canadian Mental Health Association
Nearly half of those who feel they have suffered from depression or anxiety have never gone to see a doctor about this problem. Source: CMHA
Latest studies showed more than 1.3 million young Canadians have a mood disorder or addiction. Two-thirds had symptoms before the age of 15. Source: Statistics Canada, Government of Canada
Suicide is among the leading causes of death in 15- to 24-year-old Canadians, second only to accidents. In 2012, 261 Canadian kids and teens took their own lives. Source: CMHA, Statistics Canada
LGBTQ youth face about 14 times the risk of suicide and substance abuse than their heterosexual peers Source: CMHA Ontario
First Nations youth are at a higher risk. The suicide rate among First Nations youth is roughly five to seven times higher than that of the general population. Source: Parliament of Canada study, 2014
People with mental illness and addictions are more likely to die prematurely than those without. Mental illness can cut 10 to 20 years from a person’s life expectancy. Source: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
Contending with her bipolar disorder brought Yashi Brown to poetry, and with it, she's trying to end the stigma of mental illness.
If you need help, visit ementalhealth.ca to search for services in your area. Or call the Kids' Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868, it's Canada's only free phone counselling service for youth under 20.
More From Frame Of Mind:
- Sophie Grégoire Trudeau: Why My Family Talks Openly About Mental Health
- Depression Is More Than Being Sad
- Why I Talk About My Depression (And You Should Too)
- To Teens In The Darkness: Tomorrow Needs You, We All Need You
- Suicide Prevention: I Want Other Families To Know What Ours Didn't
- Our Daughter Fell Through The Cracks Of Our Mental Health System
- The Way We Care For People With Mental Illness Needs To Change
Follow Kendall Surratt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/kendallsurratt3