Friday, October 3, 2014

Adventures in Anxiety

I’ve battled anxiety problems since an early age. In 5th grade, I would freak out and hyperventilate over “mad minutes” (one-minute timed math tables). I don’t know if it was because I had convinced myself I wasn’t good at math or if the time limit really freaked me out. I think it’s safe to say it was both. My mom will tell me she remembers these times. She would set the timer on the microwave and leave the room (if anyone was in the room, I would freak out more), and as she waited in the other room, she would hear me freaking out and saying, “I can’t do this!” and also probably wondering if I was going to die or something.

I mean, it probably wasn’t extreme to the point of questioning death, but hopefully you understand what I’m trying to say. Fast forward to 2014: my senior year of college and the beginning of post-graduate life. Battling anxiety has been very interesting for me because the anxiety I’ve faced has manifested itself in many different ways.

Throughout my entire life, I’ve worried about potential health problems. During the summer between sophomore and junior year, when I was in Colorado, I was really afraid of the world ending and also dying young. At the beginning of my junior year, I was really anxious around the guy I had a crush on before we started dating. In the spring of my junior year, I started having stomachaches and chest pains, so I went to the doctor. That turned into a prescription for Zoloft.

Today, my anxiety is triggered by job searching (which sucks by the way). For a while now, that anxiety has manifested itself in me having trouble falling asleep. And after I fall asleep, I have trouble getting any good sleep because my dreams are full of anxiety. Then, I will always wake up with a locked and tight jaw (TMJ, for those of you who don’t know), and sometimes with a headache if I clench my teeth enough. Here’s an example of how that process goes:

* lays down *

* checks facebook, and probably snapchat and instagram to avoid trying to go to sleep. Note: these things make it harder to go to sleep *

This interview tomorrow is freaking me out. I love animals and I want to show these people that I’m passionate about animals, but what if they don’t like my presentation? What if they’re super professional and judgmental? I still have to do that trifold tomorrow, but should I do it? Would it be too much, or would they like it? And I have to print off pictures for it too. That means I have to go to the library. I really don’t want to go to the library. What if the color printing is super frustrating? What if I see people I know? Then they’ll ask questions about what I’m doing because they’ll know I graduated. I don’t want to answer questions! I just want to print things! Or maybe I can just act like I’m still in school. Or I’ll just look like that naturally. But I’m not in school. I don’t want to inadvertently lie to people. I wonder how far away Johnson City, Tennessee is from Cincinnati. We could stay there with Martha when we go down to Pompano Beach. I mean hopefully we’ll go so we can all see Marco. And I wonder how far Jacksonville is too. Maybe I could convince my mom to stop there so I could see Tim and Elissa! Maybe I could sneak Millie into the car and into the hotel so Marco could see her. He misses her so much! But mom would totally know. And she wouldn’t agree to it. And Millie would be such a pain in the ass. Millie! I love her so much! I want to see her soon! And I love our cats. They are so great.

* turns over *

Except why is Steve giving himself a bath on my bed right now? That’s really annoying. I really hope my interview doesn’t go so long so I can be on time to work. Maybe I should text my boss just in case. But an interview shouldn’t be longer than 30 minutes, right? I don’t know. I just really need another job. Maybe I should sleep with this pillow between my legs so my back isn’t all messed up in the morning. But I don’t really want to. Stupid pillow pet.

This is just an example of what I could be thinking about before I go to sleep on any given night. Usually, I will have super anxious dreams when I sleep. The night interview worries were going through my head, I had a dream that I went to the wrong place for the interview, didn’t end up doing my trifold, and was around a bunch of other people who looked super qualified. I woke up terrified and with little sleep.

I can’t tell you how difficult it is to get my mind to shut up before I go to sleep. I don’t know if it’s ever been this bad before. I remember even during this past school year not having a difficult time falling asleep. Then, my anxiety manifested itself in terms of doing homework. But, this is what I’m dealing with right now. And it freaking sucks. Because I toss and turn so much in my sleep, much of my body is sore right now, along with my jaw pain and a slight headache.

I wanted to share this with people who might read this blog post to communicate a few very important points. One, there are so many people out there that struggle with anxiety. Maybe you’re one of them. If so, half of the point of this post is to let you know you’re not alone, so I’m extremely glad you read this. Two, people struggle with anxiety in a myriad of different ways. For me, it’s changed over the span of my life. For you, it may be different. I know people who have fear and anxiety around animals and people who have multiple anxiety attacks within a week depending on what they’re going through. No matter how your anxiety manifests itself, I want you to walk away from reading this today having learned one thing:

Just because someone’s problems are more severe than yours doesn’t mean that yours are less significant.

The point is, there are issues that are difficult for you to deal with. It’s like the “don’t throw away that food, there’s a child in Africa who is hungry” argument. Although that may be true, that food will not get to that child unless you intentionally send it to him in a box. Everyone’s problems are going to be different, not more or less important.

This will always remain true: God will still love you the same. You will still be just as important to Him as the next person, and He will still meet you where you’re at, regardless of where that is.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.”- 2 Corinthians 1:3-5

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