This is what it feels like to live with an anxiety and panic disorder.
|Mascara is running down my face, but I don’t really feel it. Instead, I feel my lungs fighting to expand and contract; relentlessly taking in oxygen as rapidly as possible. My hands are flesh-bound earthquakes, but I can't feel them either because they've gone completely numb. Even though they're balled into fists with my nails digging into my palms, it is like I am only a bystander— the damage is visible, even though it cannot be felt.|
Sometimes, I wonder if other people can see the darkness as well as I can. I wonder if anybody ever looks at me in the street and thinks, “she's barely hanging on. I can see it.” I see it everywhere- in everyone; maybe that's why I'm having a panic attack right now. Maybe hiding behind blinders like everybody else is what could save me.
Blood is coursing through my veins at a speed that makes me feel dizzy. My heart is beating so hard that it physically hurts, and I cross one arm over my torso and chest, and hang my head on the other. Every organ in my body is in flames, debilitated by the unending and excruciating fear that is used like an unlimited bucket of gasoline.
For so long, people have always told me that I am “in control,” or that all I need to do is stop taking everything too personally, and worrying about “unrealistic scenarios.” 'Just stop being so over dramatic,' but they aren't the ones who feel it- most don't even truly see it. How can they tell me to stop feeling when it's so much more than just a feeling? Anxiety affects my whole body. It is intertwined within every memory I’ve ever had, every relationship I've ever been in, and every success and every failure I've ever experienced. Anxiety is ingrained into every fiber of my being, and if I worked to somehow rip that away, what would even be left?
The nights are full of tears and terror and nightmares that I can't ever seem to escape. I double-over on the carpet or the tile or my bed, and cover my mouth to try and muffle the sound of hyperventilation and escaped cries so that I don’t disturb or wake anybody else up. These are the nights that I am expected to disregard. These are the nights that must be hidden. These are the nights that I've been taught to self-blame because I cannot flip a switch and automatically be okay. To society, anxiety disorders, and panic attacks aren't ”real” issues; no matter how many things they interrupt or destroy or push away. To others, this is what I want- what I've always wanted, and I know that if I were to speak of the nerves crawling like insects underneath my skin, or the way reality and insanity collide in my brain, it will just prove that I am only searching for attention.
Anxiety isn’t convenient for anyone- but it is so much worse for the ones with the ticking time-bombs inside of them. It's so much worse because after a night of being too scared to go to sleep, or going to sleep and being reminded of why I was scared in the first place, I must wake up every day and question everything before I do anything. Before I even leave my bed, I'm exhausted. I can already feel my shoulders tensing up, and no matter how many times I try to relax, my muscles refuse to cooperate. I’ve spent thirty minutes attempting to decipher reality from my dreams because both realms are filled with screaming, arguments, terror, and panic. I don't think I will ever know which world inflicts more pain.
I'm constantly on the defense, even in my own home when I'm alone. People tell me that I need to calm down, that everything is fine, and I am safe; I am only an immature child with an overactive imagination that has conjured up the asinine phobia of a fabricated monster in their closet. I've given up on trying to explain that anxiety is a monster, and I'm just desperately trying to cope because monsters in closets are fleeting, but monsters within the mind are inescapable.
The dread is intense and irrational. I know it is. Something in my brain must be disconnected though because no matter how many times the word “ridiculous” gets pounded into my skull, it still will not tell my arms to remove the weights that lie on my chest. Surrounding me are hazy figures pleading, screaming, and scolding. I'm sinking further and further down to the bottom of the sea, and they are chastising me for not removing the weight. They don't know that the weight has been there for so long that it has already begun to attach itself to my flesh. They don't know that I've already been to the bottom of the sea many times before and each time, I hear their words as I sink, “Please, you're so loved. Your life matters. You can get help.”
Yet, none of them ever reach to save me. They all just get smaller and smaller, and fade away as I am swallowed by the sea, and I know that soon, they will all say that I did this to myself. They will lift the masks of grief off their faces, filled with relief that they can finally go on without a hint of the blood that could have tainted their hands.
There's no guarantee that I will ever see the surface of the water again, and my legs almost give out from the pressure that the deep blue has placed on top of me. From the shore, the water looked to be penetrable and flowing, but now it is completely solid, and rather crushing. I'm trapped and losing oxygen; too weakened and paralyzed by the panic that is sending a chain reaction all throughout my body. The neurotransmitters in my brain spark and sputter, but fizzle out because they can't seem to decide between fight or flight. It is chaos, and I'm finally beginning to understand the whispered opinions that never seem to cease before I can overhear- no matter how cautious their owner.
How can I possibly have a successful life when this is who I am?