I bet you’ve heard about chronic anxiety and wondered what the big deal was? Even maybe wondered why people can just pull their socks up and get on with life? Maybe even contemplated that people with anxiety are putting on a show and should just get over themselves? A bit of stress is necessary in the workplace – I was told once – because it motivates you.
Have you ever been nervous about an examination or a job interview? We’ve all been on edge at some point in our lives. Most of the time we ride through that worry and come out just fine on the other side. In a few days we will have wondered what we were concerned about.
I’ve been like that too. That kind of worry, for the sufferer of chronic anxiety is really mild and hardly worth a second thought. I suffer from long term, chronic anxiety. I am going to try to describe my experiences to you.
I feel able to talk about it just now in my life because I have been given some new medication and I think it is finally working a little bit. I can talk again, after about maybe a year or terrifying ups and downs. I don’t even know to what extent my anxiety is linked to PTSD, because I’ve had rapes, abuse, and a prolonged period of stalking. I am Autistic, so the world places extra demands on my senses even when my brain is in a non- anxious state. I will talk about Autism, another time.
Anxiety it is not a short term thing. On a bad day, it feels as though the world is full of noisy TV static which is not only a noise but a feeling of intense fear. Colour is dimmed. A thick gloopy grey fog surrounds me. I can see no fog, but I can feel it and my body struggles to move through it, as though gravity is extra strong. The world around me vibrates and is distorted by this static noise-feeling and I struggle to focus on anything. I am lucky to have a good brain that takes me on autopilot for most of my daily tasks, but each task is exponentially more difficult and concentrating on things is super frustrating.
My body tenses up and feels glued to the earth or to the sofa – a kind of feeling similar to that which you feel when you ride a roller-coaster and the gravity pushes you onto your seat . I feel pushed to the sofa, or my back to a wall with some kind of a force. Like when you pull two magnets apart, it takes a real big effort to move from sofa to table, from room to room. Like that moment before the roller-coaster drops, and your breathing is temporarily interrupted, your heart skips beats, but the feeling never goes away.
On a better day I can beat the exhaustion that being in a constant state of alarm gives you, and I can appreciate my dog’s soft fur and the birds singing outside. On a worse day, leaving the house is like a terrifying game of beat the zombies where I just have to focus on my tasks and act normally so that nobody suspects that I am not.like.them. I have to ignore the fight or flight response that my brain has activated and hold it together until I get home. It will take me the rest of the day or even the week to recover.
It affects the whole body.
And it’s very, very, tiring.
There is medicine to reduce it, but, it will always come back in the end.
I often wonder – if in a better society, one where we all had a guaranteed level of security (good healthcare, an universal basic income) in our lives – whether anxiety would decrease across the population.
Whether if I hid my Autism less, my anxiety would lessen.
If poverty and war were a thing of the past, would we all feel more secure?
So. Many. Questions.