Anxiety comes with its problems. People assume it’s all panic attacks and a temporary state of being but for many of us with anxiety, the symptoms are stretched out over the entire course of our daily life. It disables millions of us a day and yet millions don’t seem to understand it because they can’t see it or feel it.
If you’re not having a panic attack, you can’t have anxiety, right? Wrong! Anxiety can be as invisible as it is invasive. Below are just a few ways my anxiety effects me everyday but it’s largely invisible to those I love, let alone the stranger in the street.
1) People I love are going to die! For me this is a huge one. I make my partner text me every time he arrives at a destination. If he forgets I pace about the house, back and forth, to sooth myself, constantly checking my phone and debating whether or not I should call him at work, but then if I do and a paramedic picks up what will I do? Oh my god he has to be dead in the car, impaled by a steel beam, I have lost him, what will I do now, I have to kill myself, I can’t be without him….see what the silent aspect of anxiety is like? It rambles relentless until the phone tingles a tone to signal he remains safe and well.
2) Doubts about relationships! Sometimes, no matter how good things are or how in love we are, I get doubts. My mind starts asking if I can really tolerate his musical tastes the rest of my life or if he secretly hates me because of my morning breath. It’s ridiculous and petty and yet a regular occurrence, all stemming from my anxious C-PTSD brain because my brain convinces me that everyone I love is dangerous or going to leave.
3) I have a serious illness! The other night I lay in bed and convinced myself my neurological disability is the result of advanced HIV! It’s impossible. To be that symptomatic I would have contracted it long before the symptoms developed and yet I convinced myself I have it and it given it to my partner and now we would be forced to be together because nobody else would want us and he’d secretly resent me for murdering him. This kept me awake half the night and I cried about it. But I hid under my covers and ‘went to sleep,’ so nobody is any the wiser to this moment. Unless you can catch HIV from breathing, I’m pretty sure I don’t have it.
4) Visitors to the home! I hate workmen. I always convince myself I am going to be raped or hammered in the back of the head by a mad workman. I get nervous when people come to do quotes, I keep bricks and other heavy objects all over the house just in case and the strangest thing is, nobody ever notices my ‘defence weapons’ because I am so anxious I make them blend in so the workmen don’t spot them and move them out of reach. Okay, so I may have some logical reasons for this behaviour but it is unlikely a stranger with I.D will be the one conducting a violent crime in a house he is registered to go too.
5) Food poisoning! I had it as a kid and to this day I get tense about food. If they steak has a brown patch, it’s not getting cooked. If the almond milk has been opened and I have forgotten how long (which happens a lot thanks to brain fog) it’s getting tossed. I hate cooking chicken and pork, runny eggs make my stomach clench and if something smells, even when it is meant to, it’s not going in my mouth. I did have a nasty bout as a kid but I’m 32! I cook my food, I don’t take risks with reduced foods and a repeat bout is unlikely and yet it rules my life. But I hide these sort of behaviours. I hardly ever cook or eat around others to hide my anxiety. My family now think I’m just antisocial and I hate them because of an argument on holiday. They are only half right.
6) Eating! I will avoid eating around others. I say no to family lunches, I avoid meeting friends in places where they may force me to have a slice of cake and the only person who really sees me eat now is my partner. No logical reason, my mind just tells me that if I eat in front of someone that I most definitely will vomit in front of them too. That’s stupid.
7) I’ve forgotten something! We all get this one right? But does it ruin your day to think you let someone down because you are convinced you forgot something but they are not telling you. Does the thought reverberate around your idea hemisphere until you have a headache? What if you left the oven hob on, despite not using it? I mean maybe you knocked it on the way past and accidentally turned it and there’s a newspaper on the stove, even though you don’t read them, and it caught fire and now the house is burning down with the cat inside! Phew! Well if you didn’t have that thought, you may well do now…sorry!
8) Ordering food! Phone or face to face, it’s a nightmare. You convince yourself you’ll mess up the words or in my case, my brain may chose that exact phone call, to have a seizure and they will panic and send an ambulance and the paramedics will belittle you for wasting their time and then I’ll be banned from ordering takeaway ever again (might be a good thing for me haha)
9) Shop counters! What if my card declines! What if they talk to me? What if I drop something and break it and have to pay for it but I don’t have enough money? What if, what if, what if. Those what ifs mean I avoid shops at all costs and order everything online and I ask my partner to bring me bits after work despite my nearest shop being 5 minutes away. I make excuses that are easy to slide under the radar, simply to avoid these ludicrous what ifs.
19) Avoidance of triggers! I’m not a fan of blood so I avoid any tv show that may have it in.This limits my options and that of anyone with me. I will only go to the hospital if I have too and I have skipped so many important blood tests I am surprised I haven’t been asked after yet. Which takes me back to number 3, above; I could soothe my worry but I won’t sit through another blood test. I avoid places, people and even every day activities but I do it so well people don’t suspect anything or they simply consider it normal for me because they don’t realise my ‘quirks’ are in fact my not so invisible anxiety symptoms.