I’ve lived with anxiety my entire life. I only knew what it was once I was an adult, and I’ve spent my adult years unwrapping my childhood. I’ve written about it here and there – (Lockdown 2.0, Waiting Room, The Room) Anxiety has really haunted me my entire life. I remember some childhood experiences and I feel like I have a new understanding and compassion for myself.
I couldn’t sleep when I was little. I remember it was a pain for my parents, but I also remember laying in my childhood bed. I’d wonder things. My heart would race. My light was off, but the shadows played tricks on me. I’d try to cope until I couldn’t bear it anymore. I’d race, pitter-patter, all the way to the top of the stairs and I’d call down to my mom.
These were the bedtime games I played.
I couldn’t handle the thoughts. I couldn’t handle being alone with my mind. It made me think things I knew I shouldn’t be thinking and I didn’t know what to do. Running to my Mom, I’d “confess” and instantly feel better. But it was only seconds before another thought clawed its way back into my mind.
I told on myself about everything. Every single thing I did I thought was wrong and I had to confess it to my Mom in order to move on. But once I did that, and if I didn’t get in trouble and had to deal with that, I’d move on, but those thoughts arrived quickly back in my mind. I truly felt like everything I did was “bad.” Everything was “wrong”.
I didn’t know it was anxiety.
I didn’t know anything really. But I remember how much I struggled. I’d sweat. My thoughts would race. I didn’t know what to do. So I couldn’t do anything. I just got by. I didn’t know it was anxiety, and frankly, no one even talked about it.
Anxiety Disorders were only recognized in 1980 by the American Psychiatric Association.
So in the early 90’s when I was a small child, I’m guessing it was still fairly hush hush. Now we know that Anxiety is actually one of the most common health concerns. It affects nearly 20% of all children at some point in their life. It can look like fears, worries, sadness and hopelessness, and though all of these emotions are normal for an amount of time, it’s not normal when it’s all the time or interrupting daily living.
Common symptoms of anxiety in children:
We know now, in 2021, that anxiety can present itself in a multitude of ways. And as we’ve learnt about anxiety in children it seems that there are some common symptoms. (Read more about them HERE.)
- Difficulty concentrating
- Changes in sleep pattern
- Bad dreams
- Not eating properly
- Constant worrying
- Feeling tense
- Frequent visits to the toilet
- Frequent crying
It’s important to remember that symptoms of anxiety can look different for everyone.
I struggled to concentrate. I didn’t sleep. In fact, I’d get, what I now know as, anxious, in anticipation of bedtime. I knew that at bedtime I was going to be left alone, and once I was old enough to tell time, my anxiety grew and grew. I was tense all the time, and not only did I feel out of control during outbursts but I’d smash my head on things as a relief. Closets, walls, doors, concrete, the floor, anything that was hard and was nearby when I was feeling that.
My heart raced.
All the time. It felt like I could never breathe. I was a perfectionist and strived to be the best student as well. I struggled immensely when I wasn’t the student with the perfect score. I was always worrying. I spent my entire childhood washed away in an intense worry. I didn’t feel safe alone.
As I grew my anxiety changed shape.
It changed how it showed up. From intense cramps, back pain, racing heart, high blood pressure, latching onto unhealthy relationships and so much more. For the majority of my life, anxiety was steering my ship. Here and there I’d catch smooth sails. I remember thinking to myself that I’d figured it out. I knew how to manage everything so I could be happy and okay. And then anxiety would pull the rug out from under my feet and I’d be relearning how to cope.
This isn’t a blame game.
Please don’t read this wrong. I had great parents. A wonderful family home. And I was loved. But none the less, what went on in my head still persevered and I still struggled. I’m really not even sure what could have helped me, but I know when I was diagnosed with anxiety at 21, I started to view my childhood through a different lens.
The world has come a long way since then.
Anxiety is a word used commonly in sentences. It’s often heard, and most people know even what it means. I think it’s slightly less isolating because it’s more common to have it, and more common to talk about it. But, of course, there are still people who don’t believe it’s real, or simply that going for a run will cure it, and to those people I say, LEARN MORE.
Even if it’s something you don’t understand…
Don’t invalidate someone else’s experience. Anxiety is real. And more than that, it’s terrible to live with.
If you are someone who struggles or wants to educate yourself more, here are some resources to check out.
Symptoms of anxiety in adults –
Just like mentioned earlier, anxiety symptoms present themselves differently in each person. Every person’s experience with it can be entirely unique. Someone struggling may have the following symptoms or entirely different ones. They are all valid, important, and deserve/need treatment. The following list is a list of common symptoms in adults.
- Rapid heartbeat
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Excessive sweating
- Racing thoughts
- Troubles sleeping
- Change in appetite
- Unexplained pain
- Weakened immune system
How can anxiety affect someones’ life?
Anxiety can affect someones’ life in so many different ways. It can range from being mild and manageable to being severe and make life very difficult. Here are some ways that anxiety can affect someones’ life:
- self-confidence issues
- can cause digestive problems
- can cause cardiovascular problems
- can severely affect the quality of the person life
- high risk of addiction
- troubles to secure stable employment
- high blood pressure
- muscle tension
- chronic pain
The list is never-ending.
So what exactly IS anxiety?
We’ve talked about signs, symptoms, how serious it is, and I’ve shared various resources to assist or educate you. Now let’s unwrap what exactly IS anxiety and how can we help it.
Anxiety is the body’s normal reaction to stress. In some cases, it’s actually helpful and helps to keep you safe. It can alert you to potential danger and keep you safe. Anxiety is the feeling of fear of what’s to come. It can be so severe that it stops you from doing things you enjoy. It’s a common emotional disorder and it can affect absolutely anyone at any age.
Types of anxiety
Yes. Anxiety is so grossly massive that it takes on various forms. Each of these disorders is unique to itself and features various similar side effects and some entirely different ones as well. The most common forms of anxiety are:
- Panic disorder
- Social anxiety disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Separation anxiety disorder
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Illness anxiety
Panic disorder is a reoccurring and unexpected series of panic attacks. It can feel like sudden terror without any obvious cause. A panic attack can feel like an abrupt surge of intense fear. It usually reaches its peak in a few minutes. However, in those minutes, the feeling can be very terrifying and overwhelming. Panic disorder brings panic attacks that can begin often without any warning. They usually last 5-20 minutes, but every experience IS different. Because panic attacks can’t be predicted or anticipated they can significantly affect a persons’ daily life. There are many treatment options to explore, so if you are someone struggling, or know someone who is, ensure you speak with your doctor.
Common Symptoms Include:
- racing heart
- shortness of breath
- feeling like you’re choking
A phobia is an excessive and irrational fear reaction. Someone struggling with a phobia would feel a deep sense of dread or fear when confronted with the fear. The effects of phobias’ can range from being mild and annoying to debilitating. Phobias can greatly impact a person’s everyday life. The intense fear can stop a person from living their routine lives.
Social Anxiety Disorder
Social anxiety disorder is when a person experiences extreme fear in a social setting. This can make it difficult to work, talk to people, network, build relationships and more.
For more information about anxiety disorders including signs, symptoms and treatment options visit – Healthline – Anxiety.
Anxiety is definitely undeniably real. It’s difficult to live with and can be crippling. It’s important to reach out and get help if you are struggling. There are many therapeutic practices, counselling tips and medications that might be able to assist you.
If you enjoyed this post then I’d love it if you checked out another! Here are some that you might like –
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Why am I spending these last moments like this? My heart is racing. Why can’t anyone see me?” Read more at the link above titled She’s Drowning.
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What is your experience with anxiety? What helps you?
Love Always, Enn