And sometimes it becomes completely overwhelming.
Sometimes I struggle to leave my house.
Other times it is just a distant nagging in my mind, a dull presence which I can ignore enough to function fully. This is my reality and it is one that I have grown used to. When I was younger I drank a lot to try and numb the anxiety, I didn't tell anyone how I felt, I hid it from friends and boyfriends and made a million excuses as to why I couldn't do things with them. Needless to say it didn't work very well!
I used to feel a lot of shame about feeling this way, embarrassment and even anger and I know others living with anxiety have felt the same. Many still do. But with age has come more kindness towards myself. More gentleness and a great deal of patience. The older I get the less I judge myself for feeling like this and the more I am able to say 'this is me' and accept it...to a point. Do I wish I didn't have anxiety? YES. Do I wish that I could just get up and get on with things without the gnawing sensation of dread and a head filled with racing thoughts? YES. But in all honesty I may as well wish I was blonde-haired, blue-eyed and a natural born runner. Just not going to happen. I wasn't born that way.
What I have learnt over time is that there are things which help me: meditation, journaling, exercise, getting enough sleep, getting out into nature everyday, not supressing my emotions or worries about things, eating healthily, keeping hydrated, not giving in. That last one is the most important for me 'not giving in'. When I am feeling most overwhelmed with anxiety I can feel as though I just want to stay in bed or at home for days on end BUT I know that doesn't really help. Yes, I can take time to care for myself but hiding away doesn't help, allowing myself small victories does. Perhaps it feels too much to go to the supermarket but a walk to the corner shop or to a friends for a cuppa and a chat can feel like a major achievement and reminds me that I CAN do things even when I think I can't. And that is the thing for people living with anxiety, the smallest thing can seem like a huge obstacle and when we tackle and survive that object we feel as though we have had a major victory. Our Everest might be going to a restaurant with friends, a solo shopping trip, meeting new people, or even just leaving the house. We all have different triggers, we all have a different battle going on.
Living with anxiety is a little like being stuck on a permanent roller coaster and never knowing when the next big drop will come. As someone who lives with anxiety all I ask is that you don't tell me to 'get over it' , roll your eyes at me, assume I am crazy or making it up or dismiss my feelings. With around a third of the population suffering from anxiety I can promise you we are not making it up, it is very real and yes, it might be inconvenient to you sometimes, but it can be inconvenient to us every day. People who live with anxiety are not weak. It takes great strength to fight and manage life with anxiety every day.
I can't speak for everyone with anxiety but I know that I don't want to be judged or defined by my anxiety. I am who I am. Anxiety is just a part of the package. So please be kind, be patient, make me a cup of tea and let me breathe for a moment if I need to and above all just love and accept me for who I am. Anxiety included.