Is This What Anxiety Feels Like?
The story below is one personal experience with depression and anxiety, and not by any means, a representation of how everyone experiences these mental health issues.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when my mental health began to dramatically worsen. I’d had waves of good times and bad times, and looking back, the good felt great, but the bad… felt like being trapped in a fiery hell with a parka that can’t come off. Yup, it was a fucking shitty time for sure.
I’ve always been a panicked person. From being 8 years old and not being able to fall asleep because I was stressed about doing my math assignments properly (who knew they’d be so irrelevant now), to being 16 and refusing to drive because I was overly frightened of getting into a car accident. These situations of panic, to me, were very manageable and are probably common things for a human to feel. I’m still like this on many levels.
However, this is how I can so clearly distinguish between my ‘normal’ anxiety and my severe anxiety. I always hear people talk about how anxiety attacks feel like a “heart-attack”, but to me, they feel a little different.
If I was forced to describe my most severe anxiety attacks, I would say that about half of them feel like I took a fat hit of speed, and now everything around me is in fast forward, leaving me unable to understand what the fuck is going on around me. i.e. my adrenaline is pumping way too hard. These types of anxiety attacks usually appear without an exact trigger but are common when I’m most stressed and my body is probably lacking the ability to cope.
The other half of my anxiety attacks feel like I’m genuinely going to die from some semi-irrational (lets be real, usually completely irrational) cause or fear. My heart beats so fast that I can feel it in my head and my ears start to go deaf. Sometimes I even get so light headed that I start to black out. It’s like fear is suffocating me. Some examples of this happening to me were due to: driving on the side of a steep mountain, worrying about my future after graduation, and even being in bad lighting while studying in the library (what the actual fuck?). Try explaining that one to somebody who’s never experienced anxiety...
What I’m trying to demonstrate here is how irrational, frightening, and WEIRD anxiety can truly be. Sometimes you know what can trigger it, sometimes you don’t. And most times, you really can’t control it. My peak anxiety periods were usually followed by periods of depression, which left me unable to get up, finish my work, or see friends, leading to a perpetual cycle of anxiousness and all-around unhappiness. Believe me, I tried to “just be positive”. It didn’t help.
I’m lucky enough that I was able to talk to a psychologist, and had the full support of my family and friends, who at many points, really did not understand what I was going through, but tried to help anyway. I also learned to ~meditate~ which is totally not as strange as I imagined. Some things work for some people while others don’t, but it took me a long time (and a lot of experimenting with coping methods) to be okay again. Along the way, I learned that a lot of mental health issues don’t go away for a long time (or ever) but the key is to learn how to manage them so they don’t crush you. Whether that’s with meds, therapy, or whatever else works! One year ago I would have never believed I’d be genuinely *happy*. Alas, here I am.
I’ve always used humour to cope with my anxiety and depression, probably because I feel way too awkward to just flat out talk about it. But it’s important beyond words to discuss how you feel- to your friends, family, a doctor, or even a stranger. You’ll be surprised at how many people feel the exact same shit as you. Mental health issues can make you feel like a burden and never want to ask for help, but getting help and talking about it doesn't make you weak. Even though people experience mental health issues differently, you can learn a lot just by starting the conversation.
Check out these resources below if you need a place to start:
Mental Health Support Line: 310-6789 (do not add 604, 778 or 250 before the number). This number will connect you to your local BC crisis line without a wait or busy signal, 24 hours a day. Crisis line workers are trained to help provide emotional support as well as mental health information and resources.
Kid's Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868. For kids and teens (ages 20 and under), professional counsellors are available to help, 24 hours a day. It’s free, confidential and anonymous.