A lifelong battle with anxiety
Missing out on doing things I love isn’t my fault. I have my brain to blame for that.
It started 18 years ago when I almost passed out in a Walmart checkout line. Since then, I’ve been on a roller-coaster trying to deal with anxiety and agoraphobia (a type of anxiety disorder in which you fear and avoid places or situations that might cause you to panic and make you feel trapped, helpless or embarrassed).
From the Walmart incident, my anxiety spread to other areas in my life, that left me not going to other stores that I frequented, and eventually halting my ability to drive safely.
While my children were younger, I would do my shopping at the local bread store and dollar stores. These were our weekly outings while their father was at work. To this day, I can’t do all of the things I want to with them because of my anxiety.
I hate it! I hate that I can’t go to the mall and buy my favorite brands of clothing or take my kids on adventures.
So, what is this anxiety I am talking about? I can describe my symptoms and feelings to give an idea, but one may not completely understand unless you have experienced it yourself, which I hope you never do. We all have anxiety about things in one way or another, but maybe not to this extreme where it affects your life on a daily basis.
For me, it starts with a rapid heart rate, followed by profuse sweating and clamminess. The fight or flight instinct sinks in, most of the time I choose to flee, because I feel trembles, a feeling like I’m going to pass out, and the fear of death comes upon me.
I try to take deep breaths, which is hard because I feel like I am suffocating. I get irritated, angry, and say things in a mean voice that I don’t mean.
Once I get to a “safe place” I start to feel better, but then comes the after effects. For me, this is fatigue, feeling as if I just ran a marathon. The kind of fatigue that anyone who suffers from diabetes and sugar-crashing might experience.
If that wasn’t enough, I suffer from hypoglycemia and sometimes mistake those episodes for anxiety, due to the symptoms being very similar in nature.
Anti-anxiety medication does help to a point, but it makes me drowsy. I also do not like relying on a pill to make me feel “normal”. Instead of using medication, I just keep trying to expose myself to situations I may not feel comfortable in, not thinking beforehand if they will affect me or not. But there are places I do avoid going, because I know my body is not ready to handle that.
It’s been over 3 years now since I have driven a car. That is one of my goals once I conquer anxiety and learn to deal with and face it on a daily basis. I miss not being able to go where I want, when I want.
I felt compelled to share this because anxiety, I feel, is largely misunderstood. I hope my experience helps people understand this illness just a little bit better, and encourages those afflicted with this condition.
For more information on anxiety go to https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Anxiety-Disorders
If you feel you suffer from anxiety, please make an appointment with a psychiatrist. In the meantime, for tips on how to deal with anxiety visit https://adaa.org/tips-manage-anxiety-and-stress
In addition, the following are things I have tried that have helped my anxiety besides medication. I encourage natural alternatives.
Editor’s note: I have great respect for the courage my wife has shown in writing about a much stigmatized and sensitive topic, and her compassion in reaching out to others.