I liken anxiety to a toddler. It never stops talking, constantly tells you that you are wrong about everything and will wake you up at 2 o’clock in the morning.
Explaining to someone that has never experienced anxiety what it feels like is one of the hardest things to do. It isn’t like it’s a physical ailment where you can see it directly and say ‘look — here is where I’m hurting’ – so making them believe it exists is one thing, but showing them how it feels is another.
If you were to imagine yourself on a hill, holding a ball of string, then letting the ball go all the while still holding on to the end piece of string, you would probably watch the ball almost spiral out of control.
My ball of string metaphor is one I like to use to try and describe what having anxiety feels like to someone who has not experienced it outside of, perhaps, usual daily stressors. The true condition of Anxiety is when it begins to impede on living your life. I emphasise that this is simply one way I use to describe what this feels like to me. Others would have a different view; everyone experiences anxiety differently. Most people that I have come in contact with however, all describe ongoing feelings of worry that interrupt their ability to perform socially, at work, or even within their own mind. That is, it can begin to control your life.
Getting into the deep and raw emotions of how it feels to be anxious is, believe it or not, really hard for most people. Sometimes there are no real words to adequately convey what’s happening in your head at a given time. And this makes it very hard to explain to people who don’t relate what’s going on. It seems to be a constant struggle of almost having to educate people, justifying yourself, while also trying to deal with the emotions and the physical presentations of it all at the same time (blog post on this to follow). Which, no surprise, causes more anxiety, funny that!
Not only do we have to deal with them as they arise, sometimes we have to whip them out to show them to others, or they sneakily make an uncontrollable escape. It is here, that I think of a quote by Khalil Gibran that really resonated with me: “My friend, I am not what I seem. Seeming is but a garment I wear – a care-woven garment that protects me from thy questionings and thee from my negligence.” I took a few minutes to write out a handful of things that came to my mind, organically without interruption or correction, to see if I could further show how it feels in the depths of my anxiety.
“I feel like I am being held captive in my own body. Like I’m in a hole and see the light but I can’t reach it. Like, I’m alone, even surrounded by people. Like everyone is breathing and I’m watching them while I drown slowly. Like I’m stuck and I can’t move no matter how I try to get my legs working actively pull my legs or how loudly I scream for help. Like no one could every understand how I feel. Like what I am going through is worse than anyone else’s pain, their struggles. Now, I feel guilty I feel sad that there are others out there struggling just as much as I am and more! And the same thing that tires me to sleep every night wakes me up in the morning. Then you get to this point where you stop and think ‘I thought I found a way out” but it never goes away”.
I hope this has offered someone some comfort to know you are definitely not alone. Perhaps it has just opened up your eyes to checking in on that loved one and treating them with a lil’ extra care at this time in their life.
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