Stories of anxiety

The first time I had a major panic attack was in September 2021, the night before going on a holiday, after a very busy and stressing period since the pandemic started.

I was sleeping and I wake up with my heart racing unable to breathe and until then I knew nothing about anxiety or panic attacks.

Later that month I continued to have more and more panic attacks daily, as I was extremely stressed working in a new position that I couldn't identify with.

I don't remember much of that period, only the many panic attacks,waking up in panic in tbe mornings, hyperventilation, being unable to eat or sleep for many weeks. 

It was a nightmare I was living, having to also endure the shame of having anxiety, like anyone ever would choose to be anxious and feel like shit.

Looking over the statistics of last year in US, 19% of adults had anxiety disorders, 8.3% major depression and 3.6% PTSD.  I never thought the numbers were so high.

Anxiety is messy , unpredictable, tough and most of the time I've experienced that people don't know how to deal with people that have anxiety.

For some there isn't something real( the same for depression) or it's hard to understand it from outside.

What I found out lately is that for me anxiety is linked to not feeling safe, something that in my childhood I'd experienced too much. 

It is very hard to not feel afraid when you are not feeling safe, or don't have control and uncertainty is a very good trigger for anxiety.

Rationally we all know that the anxious thoughts are not facts , but the emotional intensity is higher and anxiety never responds to rational arguments.

Anxiety comes as a protection mechanism, the protection we never received in our childhood from the adults that should have done this.

There are days when the anxiety is so high that I'm unable to eat or sleep. All I want is to breathe, but I feel there isn't enough air to do so.

Sometimes it's difficult to focus on tasks or reading, I feel tense and unable to relax, find it hard to sit still and I need to move a lot (walking helps).

Or I may feel dizzy, nausea, an angry stomach, headaches, trembling or shaking.

I have friends that had panic attacks and anxiety before me, so their experience was of great help to understand the physical sensations and normalize the experiences. 

Then I learned how to deal with other people that have anxiety, so I can bring them relief and not worsen their anxiety.

The best thing to do is to ask them what they need in those moments. Sometimes we may know and tell you or we may need more time to understand it ourselves.

What also helps is not to try and fix anything for us, not give advice or solutions, unless we ask for them.

Let us know that we can be anxious with you, that you understand that anxiety is not something we are choosing.

A person who stays in silence with us , who doesn't put pressure on us, is kind and non-judgmental is priceless.

What doesn't help is trying to overload us with questions, to baby us, it makes us feel more vulnerable and makes the anxiety worse.

Anxiety is different for each person, there are techniques that work for some or for a medium anxiety level.

I have to face days when the anxiety is so high that none of these tools work so I just sit with the fear, to understand where it comes from. 

Anxiety brings out emotions as guilt or shame. Anxiety is also an inner-bully, that sometimes makes us feel like a burden. 

Exposure therapy works for me, but I need to do it on my own timing and after having reached the acceptance point , otherwise it's overwhelming.

Having anxiety is a daily constant struggle and I try my best to learn as much as I can from each experience. 

I wrote some things I wished to have known or found easier when it all started. There may be things that I forgot about. 

What I know is that patience, curiosity, compassion can go a long way when communication with someone with anxiety.


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