- Rebecca P Minor
It's Not Just a Feeling
Imagine your body is never, ever relaxed. Even when you lie down at night, you realize that you're holding your limbs a little rigid so they don't just sink into the mattress--they only touch at the largest contact points. You're not doing it on purpose. It just...happens that way.
You never feel like you can take a full breath. When you try, you feel like your ribs and abdominal muscles are pushing back. If you focus on just breathing for twenty minutes or more, you might get to that point where the resistance backs off, but it takes mammoth concentration, and some days, you just never get there.
Some days, you try to walk up a few stairs, and your legs start to feel like they're filling with liquid lead. Your arms are heavy too--or maybe they're tingling, depending on what kind of day you're having externally. You have a headache, like the majority of the days of the week, and you're so, so exhausted, down to your bones.
Imagine you wake up in the morning from a typical (restless) night's sleep, and your heart is pounding. You're sweating until your underarms drip. Your body starts to tremble, and you think, "Not again," and you tense against it, which only makes the trembling more violent, to the point where you can barely tie your shoes. If you can even get to the point of getting dressed because you know you have to be out the door and people are waiting for you. You feel awful, and your day hasn't even begun.
All if this is illustrates why anxiety is not just a feeling. Or even a set of feelings. It's physical--your body's programming has gotten hacked so your subconscious is constantly telling your adrenal system that you've gotta be ready at any moment to save your own life. Whether you fight, fly, freeze, or fawn comes down to what your environment has taught you takes the pressure off. But your instincts are always on standby, never truly powered down.
If you're somebody who knows a person with anxiety--the disorder--I hope these examples of how they likely feel help you to understand why they can't just put on their big girl pants and push forward. I know it's a tired analogy, but nobody in their right mind would ask someone with a broken leg to run a marathon. Generalized Anxiety Disorder is as much a physical malady as it is a mental one.
And I haven't even touched on what goes on in the anxious mind while the physical symptoms are raging. Intense fears, lack of concentration, guilt, shame, and feelings of worthlessness only describe in a hazy shadow the reality of a GAD sufferers experience.
We're living in a secondary pandemic of emotional health crisis, and only after two years of spiraling are leaders and public voices beginning to acknowledge what so many of us are living--but feeling like we're dying--with. Chances are, you care about someone with an anxiety disorder. If you do, I urge you to educate yourself about how you can support your friend or loved one. If you are someone with an anxiety disorder, I see you, and I urge you to get help if you haven't already. Nobody should have to pretend their chronic condition is no big deal because somebody else doesn't understand it.
Find great articles and resources at https://www.nami.org/Home