Anxiety & Me
My battle with anxiety is an on-going relationship. It’s not something I’ve always suffered from. It’s something I’ve grown into, and it’s something I desperately want to grow out of.
You hear stories about people complaining about anxiety all the time, and the thing is, some of them are probably just over exaggerating, blowing a small problem out of proportion or just want attention, but there are those people who have serious anxiety disorders. Many of them I believe are more serious than mine.
I’m not here to whine or complain. Mainly, I just want to lay my problems out on paper, in hopes others will one day understand what an anxiety disorder can do to your life.
Like I previously stated, anxiety is something I developed. At age 22, I graduated from college and moved 2,300 miles across the country to get my start in the media business. This was supposed to be a dream job, and a dream move. I would finally be able to explore and see the world, while learning about a profession I love. Sounds like a fairy tale right? Wrong.
Like most jobs in the media business, this job required me to work 24 hours a day, be on top of every little thing that was happening, and work in a time-sensitive, stressful environment. Being a perfectionist and dedicated to my job, I did nothing but eat, sleep, and breath it. Honestly, I feel had the working conditions been better, it would have been okay. The company eventually went bankrupt, went up for sale and sold in the first few months I was there. This led to management issues, and an overall toxic environment. I could write a novel about the abuse endured there, but we’ll save that for another time. Right now, you just need to know the basics. SOOO basically to make a long story short, I was working 6 days a week and could be called into work at any time. This meant 3 a.m., 6 p.m., midnight… and more than not.. working for 12–16 hours a day. Most nights I was only getting 4–5 hours of sleep and spending my day being stressed out about my job.
To answer your question, yes I quit that god awful, soul wrenching job. But I spent 1 1/2 years there, and that time can do some damage to your psyche.
I would have days when I worked there that I couldn't get out of bed. My entire body was drained of energy. Sometimes I felt like I couldn't even move. My body could never get enough rest. I would have several panic attacks a week, and by panic attacks I do mean my heart literally felt like it was beating out of my chest, like one day it was just going to pop and I’d die. Some days I wished I would die. Mainly, I just wanted to be put out of my misery. It got to the point when I didn't want to do anything, most days I felt like I couldn't do anything. I would just lie in my bed, trying to catch my breath. The whole world would just be zoned out. My only focus would be my breathing and my heart beat, that I couldn’t control. (Even right now it’s beating because I’m writing about this because this evil little monster is still here but just better). I would feel like I was losing control. Nothing around me was in my control, not even my own emotions. If anything, this type of anxiety breakdown is scary. You’re just not yourself.
Anxiety isn’t something that happens every day. This is another thing people need to understand. It comes and goes in waves. Some days are worse than others. Some months are worse than others.
I do blame my situation for starting my anxiety. It was so easy to develop and now it’s not so easy to get rid of.
I quit the job. I thought that was the source of my anxiety and emotional breakdowns. I thought ‘x-ing’ that out of the picture would get rid of the problem. It didn’t.
After a few months of seriously struggling with my anxiety, I decided to make some changes. I quit my job. I moved back home. I started a new job.
Those three little sentences make this sound like an easy and stress-free transition. It was anything but.
I found that the changes only made it worse… sometimes. Now I wasn’t stressing out about my job, but about the job I didn’t have. The media field is rough to break into, and my former company was definitely not going to give me a good recommendation. Moving back home — this helped. Being away from the place where my stress started and triggers were everywhere was a disaster. Being back in a familiar happy place among my family and friends was much better. Few of my friends know about my struggles, and I’d like to keep it that way for the most part.
However, now I was getting anxiety for different reasons. I was stressing about finding a job, my life being off track, my long-distance relationship, and living back home with the parents.
I feel like I’d share my problems and my feelings a lot with the parents, and they would listen and provide support (as good parents should). However, talking about it didn’t help my anxiety as much as I thought it would. I didn’t talk to my parents about my anxiety.
The worries in the back of my mind would pile up. I would have days, again, where I was just really depressed. I’d lay in bed all day and binge watch Netflix. I just felt like my life was stuck. I couldn’t go anywhere. Sometimes I’d cry myself to sleep. Some days I wanted to socialize with people. Socializaton helped, but at the end of the day. I would return to my bedroom feeling worried and anxious. The thoughts would just take over my brain. I can’t explain it… I just felt like all I would think about would be finding a job… picking a different career? Going back to school? Student debt…
Being back home wasn’t helping that much. What did help though was finally finding a job and going back to work.
I finally was able to find a job in the media field again, three months later, with the help of some really GREAT mentors.
It felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my chest. The hours still weren’t great. Third shift, weekends, typical for just starting, but at least they were the same hours almost every day, and I was only working 8 hours a day, 5 days a week.
Having a job helped. I love the media field, so going to work and doing something I love everyday took some of the stressers away. I didn’t have time to sit around and ponder life. My work was fast-paced with little time to sort through personal problems on the clock. When I was there, I was able to let go of my worries, and just worry about work.
However, like I said, the hours weren’t great. I was drinking lots of caffeine to stay awake. When I did go home I couldn’t sleep because I was so hyped up. Drinking all the caffeine escalated my problems once again.
Skip Ahead a Few Months
I’ve been working third shift for about five months now. Still on the same routine of coffee binging everyday. Eventually, I think this caught up to me. Suddenly, when I did sleep I would be jolted awake. My heart would be pounding. Then I couldn’t go back to sleep because my heart is pounding.
I started noticing it not only did this while I was sleeping but during the night too when I would be at work, or when I got home from work. I would think about this problem more, and then I’d start worrying about it even more.
I started tracking my heart rate with my Apple Watch. For a week, I’d say I was basically obsessed with my heart rate. Watching it escalated up and down rapidly. The more I thought about it, the worse it got. I was freaking myself out.
Not only that, but I was stressed because of all the changes. Starting a new job, learning a new job, moving home, still living with the parents, trying to manage my long-distance relationship. The stressers had built up again, but this time in a different way.
I’ve found my anxiety gets bad with change. I don’t handle changes well. Just when I was getting used to my normal routine of living at home, I moved to be closer to work. The move stressed me out.
First, it was finding the apartment, I spent weeks vetting apartments. I researched them online, compared them to the crime map, drove past them, and finally toured them. The whole process kept me up worrying night after night. Stuff like this normally never bothered me, but now it was like I just get consumed. This is what I do morning, day, and night… think about where I’m going to live.
Then it was the moving process. When was I going to have time to move? I had to set-up my internet/cable, turn on my lights, set-up my billing… It all got to be too much again.
This was when my anxiety got the best of me. Finally, I broke down and told my parents about what had been going on. They were surprised, saying they thought I was handling everything so well. They never would’ve guessed I was SO stressed out.
They made suggestions like I could quit my job, I could just stay at home and not move. They comforted me by telling me I would find a place to live and that they would help. They basically did everything they could, and I’m forever grateful for that.
After this major breakdown I felt much better. I know it sounds weird, but sharing really helped… knowing my parents knew, and supported me, and backed me on all my decisions. They never did not take this situation seriously, or tell me to “get over it” or “suck it up, stop being such a baby.”
I guess with their help, I started weeding through solutions.
For those who know me, I’m a naturalist. I don’t like doctors. I think they do more harm than good. I don’t like prescriptions. I also think they do more harm than good. Therefore, going to the doctor and getting a prescription for Xanex wasn’t really an option in my book.
I know several of you reading this are probably like, GURRL you need to go to the doc STAT! And you’re probably right. I probably should. Hopped up on meds… I probably would feel much better, but it’s the side-effects that getcha!
Personally, I prefer to find natural solutions. While they may not solve the problem completely, they’re healthier choices.
Since my heart racing, dramatic, emotional breakdown confession to my parents, I’ve cut caffeine out of my life almost completely. I’ve also started doing yoga. I eat a balanced diet, and I try to exercise regularly (basically things everyone SHOULD do but nobody does.)
Have I noticed a difference? Yes. Most days I feel much better. I’ve also moved out on my own, and my boyfriend is now by my side (some stressers eliminated).
When I feel overwhelmed, I just talk to myself. It might sound crazy, but I literally will just tell myself to CALM THE F*** DOWN! I try to sort through my problems, fixing one problem at a time instead of focusing on the whole picture.
Yes, my anxiety is still very much awake and alive. It still gets me down from time to time. I’ll have mini panic attacks about my future, or stuff going on at work, but I can honestly say I’ve been free of panic attacks for a couple of months (minus the fact that I freaked out about my boyfriend moving here, but that’s taken care of now, and I’m fine). Significant progress.
I’m sure my anxiety is slowly going away because problems are going away, but with problems being solved, new problems always arise. Why? Because that’s the way anxiety works. One thing is fixed, another is broken. If nothing is broken, my anxiety still finds something to “fake” break. It finds something new to latch on to.
The main thing I’ve noticed since I first really started being vigilant about my anxiety problem is the way I’ll fixate and freak out over small things. Like the other day I was freaking out over how to decorate my bedroom. I couldn’t make up my mind over how I wanted to decorate it, but it has to be decorated some way. I can’t just have things scattered about and unorganized. My anxiety likes me to be organized. Organization helps me to calm down, but when things go helter skelter, my anxiety starts freaking out. I like a formulated plan, I like things to match, I like to be informed, I like a schedule. These are the things my anxiety responds well to.
Anxiety can be monitored. Small changes can make a big difference. However, you have to keep fighting. It’s work. It’s an on-going battle with your inner self. This isn’t something someone develops in a day, and this isn't something that goes away in a matter of hours. You might think it’s gone, but it’ll come back. It’s kind of like a mosquito. It’s pesky and sometimes demanding. You think you killed it, but then it’s back for more. You just have to keep fighting and not let it consume who you are.
This is easier said than done, but it can be done. For some, this means medication, for others it might just be changing your lifestyle. After all, everything is good in moderation, even anxiety.
I have hope one day it will be gone, or almost gone, for good. Right now, I just have to take each day as it comes, remembering anxiety is something you CAN overcome, and something you CAN grow out of. It just takes time.
Advice: Find a good support group, let people know what’s happening, and figure out how to fight this angry beast head-on! Slow down, breathe, and have patience.