What People Don’t Tell You About Anxiety

Simply put, it’s a bitch.

I actually forgot about anxiety the last few months. Something about a recent treatment was working in a way that no prescription had up to that point. So I was excited.

As my chronic pain decreased, my confidence started to kick back up. I was taking control! Therapy was doing wonders and all of these peer groups I signed up for helped me forget that I’d been recently laid off, with no prospects of a full-time career in the near future. Goodbye, anxiety, I thought. It’s only up from here! Little by little, I started to forget what anxiety could mean.

So how is it that I’ve found myself frozen in fear – everything suddenly collapsing into each other. The things I should have done, would have done. There were the things I could have done. What does this mean? The always-a-possibility questions. Was I going to be homeless in a few weeks? No, I need to get a job. What job? A job. My savings will disappear. I need to get back to work. How?

How is it that I barely made it into my apartment before all semblance of that façade I called confidence crumbled away? Mild annoyances that I previously waved away suddenly seem like life altering decisions I’d ignored.

Am I hyperventilating?

There’s something people don’t tell you about anxiety. It changes, morphs into concern about the future, precaution against what might come. It craves attention. So, the more you try to drown out the thoughts, the louder they come. And they multiply! Until it’s wave upon wave of panic crashing against the dilapidated wall you’d put up in your mind, slowly wearing away the strategies you had gathered for moments like this.

Anxiety can also turn you into a crazy person. Why are you so upset? It’s not that bad. Just calm down!

Even as I laid back on my bed, struggling to catch my breath, I was critical. Why am I so upset?

Am I shaking? Stop overreacting!

Oh, my God, I am hyperventilating.

Count of four. Four counts to breathe in, four counts to hold, four counts to breathe out.

Pause and repeat. Four counts to breathe in, four counts to hold, four counts to breathe out.

Pause and repeat.

How do I cope with this? What’s my exit strategy? That annoying little voice continued. I can’t just maintain this rise of panic. That won’t help. So distract! But how?

There’s something else people don’t tell you about anxiety. You lose sometimes. Or maybe it’s more of a truce. Either way, I can’t do this right now. The rational part of me sometimes gets drowned out by the worried part.

Stand. I tell myself. Walk to the couch. Lie down. Don’t forget your counts of four.

Originally published in Thought Catalog and Medium.

Photo by Vance Osterhout on Unsplash

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