I was talking to an acquaintance this morning and he was saying how he has to take all these medications since he’s in his 70’s now.
He said, “Old age ain’t for sissies.”
I thought that summed up living with anxiety disorders pretty well. Anxiety is not for sissies either.
We have to do force ourselves to do all the things everyone else has to do in life, only with the sometimes unbearable burden of anxiety or even panic attacks.
- A high school student with social anxiety endures class day after day even though sitting there is the hardest thing in the world for him to do.
- A young mom struggles to get her kids to a playgroup despite the panic attacks she has while with the other moms.
- A man with agoraphobia works hard at his job and provides for his family even though he feels horrible anxiety every time he has to give a presentation at work.
- A college student with generalized anxiety switches majors because she can’t bear the panic attacks she feels in class. Another college student drops out of school altogether because of anxiety.
- A woman with panic disorder has to switch doctors because of insurance. She feels the new doctor is judging her when she asks for a new prescription of a controlled substance. As she leaves the office, she feels ashamed, like she’s some drug addict.
We work, go to social events, dance at weddings, get married, have babies, grieve over the loss of family, grocery shop, go to church, raise our families, get divorced, celebrate holidays… etc. We do force ourselves to do all the things of life and all the while performing a very delicate, intricate dance.
The dance is this: We do everything in our power to mange our anxiety disorder and make everything appear ok to the outside world, while we suffer inside. When we keep this dance up for awhile, we often have to add a new element to the mix: trying to stave off the ever present threat of overwhelming depression that looms so large in the background.
And as we are busy with the things of life, sometimes it’s too much. Sometimes we slip and have setbacks, sometimes the anxiety and panic are just too hard to deal with, so we have to constrict our world in order to feel safe.
We let our anxiety run the show and our world continues to spiral downward and shrink smaller and smaller. We feel horrible about it, but sometimes it’s the best we can do at the time.
So to that end, we keep current with our doctor appointments, take our medications (even though most of us *hate* taking medicine), bear with the crappy side effects, adjust medications when the side effects are too much to bear, feel the stigma of anxiety from sometimes condescending doctors and health care providers, navigate the horrendous tangled web of insurance companies to try to get therapy when we need it.
We try to do all the necessary things medically, not complain too much, not to get on the pity pot, and not to feel like a doormat either.
We do battle with our self esteem. We feel different from everyone else. We suck it up and keep going, all the while just wishing we could just be normal anxiety free.
We find things to comfort us along the way. Some of us pray or meditate. Some of us reach out to a family member or friend. Some us get pets and lavish them with love and affection. We try to enjoy the seasons. Sometimes we even get a good night’s sleep.
No, anxiety is certainly not for sissies. I say this a lot but it bears repeating: it takes a great deal of courage to navigate life with an anxiety disorder or panic attacks. Most of us wouldn’t label it that way, but it is true: We Are Courageous As Can Be!
To all my dear readers: thank you from the bottom of my heart for reaching out. You are my heroes. It’s because of you that I challenge myself to recover from panic attacks. I think of you every time I venture out into a scary situation. I wouldn’t be where I am today without all of you. Thank you for being there with me and for letting me be there with you.
I wish you peace,
ps. – Wherever you are with your anxiety, I want you to know that you can get better! If you haven’t already joined us, sign up for the rss feed or for my free newsletter. Together, inch by inch, we really are healing.