I always thought of anxiety as panic attacks with heart palpitations, extreme feelings of fear or worry with a bit of hyperventilation mixed in. I think most people are under that impression.
This is why I never considered myself to have anxiety. I have only had, from what I recall, one full blown panic attack as described above once. This was when I was 19 and on my way to meet my husband’s parents for the first time – this was while we were still dating and hadn’t even discussed marriage yet. I wasn’t going to just meet them, I was going to spend Christmas with them after only dating their son for about a month at that point. Needless to say, I chalked the event up to stress and unusual circumstances. far be it for me to self-diagnose an anxiety disorder after only one panic attack. That is hardly a trend.
Now, 15 years or so later, I am rethinking that stance. I saw one of those PSA type memes on social media recently about anxiety symptoms that most people don’t know about. several of them struck a chord with me, so I decided to do some research on the topic. Turns out, not everyone deals with anxiety the same way or has the same symptoms.
A lot of it made so much sense to me and explained so much about myself. All of my sisters and I have some form of mental illness, currently diagnosed or not. As you are quite well aware at this point, I’ve dealt with depression for many, many, years. There is a range of issues, including one of my sisters having a diagnosed anxiety disorder – hers, from what I understand, being what one might think of as “traditional” anxiety. Fairly typical in what one would assume as outlined above.
I read that anxiety often goes hand-in-hand with depression, so clearly that peaked my interest. Turns out, there are also several symptoms that cross over to both disorders and they both basically stem from the same part of the brain.
So I looked even further into anxiety itself. There are over 100 symptoms associated with it in which several could be an occasional symptom for me – but here are the ones that stood out to me. The ones that shouted out from the webpages at me.
- Sudden Irritability, check
- Muscle Tension (neck, back, and shoulder pain), check
- Chronic fatigue, check
- Usual craving for sugars and sweets, check
- Feeling “wrong” or “strange,” check
- Frequent urination, check
- Feeling cold/chills, check
- Startle easily, check
- Weight gain (or weight loss), check
- Brain fog, check
- Deja vu, check
- Short term memory loss, check
- Difficulty thinking, forming thoughts, check
- Nightmares, check
- Feeling spaced out, check
- Feeling trapped in your mind, check
- Feeling angry and having a lack of patience, check
- Frequently being on edge or grouchy, check
- Depression, emotionally numb, check
- Frequent upset stomach – Gastro issues, IBS symptoms, check
- Teeth Grinding, check
- Eye tricks – seeing things out of the corner of your eye that isn’t there, check
The main thing on this list I want to focus on is irritability. Apparently this is a very common anxiety symptom. Of course, I read about this mere days after I flew off the handle with my irritability last week. I was in Walmart with my family, it was super busy and crowded… and I got extremely on edge. I became very impatient, angry, short, and downright bitchy with my family even after we got into the car. Hubs calmly told me I needed to chill and all I could respond was that I just needed to get home and have no noise, then I’d calm down. At least I was able to recognize this time that the too-many-people was the main cause of my freak out. I said so when he asked me what was wrong, but at the moment I don’t think he understood what was going on with me. I barely understand it myself… These feelings seem to pop up out of nowhere and they’re difficult to control. Luckily, though I’ve started at least recognizing when I have these freak outs in the past few years. I used to act out like this without even realizing what a heinous bitch I came off as to my family.
Now, usually, I can control this behavior to an extent. If I can recognize what’s happening, I can at least minimize the impact. Especially if I catch myself starting to feel off from the start; then I can sometimes focus and breathe in time. Usually… This last time was pretty bad. And honestly, I can’t say I like myself much when I act that way. My husband, though I don’t think he quite fully understands, has also started to understand how much I need the quiet/alone time and assist me in getting it by keeping the kids away from me when I am starting to get to the agitated.
When I was a kid/teen it was so much easier to deal. I always had my own room, thank goodness, and I could and did go spend a lot of alone time in my room. I’ve never liked being in crowds. If I’m prepared for it ahead of time, it makes it easier to handle – but in general I don’t like people being too close to me.
I think I must have been dealing with anxiety in my own way pretty much my whole life. I don’t think it’s a newer condition. I just think I skated by a lot more/it was a lot easier to overlook when I was younger. I think it also, at least in part, affected my often stony exterior and the walls I built up around myself.
The frequent urination is a big thing that I’ve dealt with since I was young. Friends of mine would think it odd I went to the bathroom so much. Brought it up to a doctor when I was in my 20s and he just said I probably just have a small bladder. So I grew up making sure I knew where bathrooms were at all times and going whenever the opportunity arose just in case I’d miss my chance, especially if I am travelling.
I worked through feelings of fear when I had to start calling businesses and dealing with my own shit as a teen – i.e making my own appointments etc. I got over that eventually so it doesn’t bother me to do so anymore. Then I started having similar feelings of fear when I’d have to bring up something even remotely serious with a male partner, which I believe started because of first abusive boyfriend – though now I’m not sure. Maybe I was just born with a touch of anxiousness. I’d have to work myself up to it, convince myself to act brave. This bled over to my relationship with my husband as well for many years. I’ve been working on it, and for the most part it’s been working. This last year or so I have made some huge strides in this area.
As for these other symptoms – I often grind my teeth at night, I’ve told y’all about some of my nightmares, I have a consistent set of knots in my shoulders no matter how many times the hubs helps me work them out, I eat a ridiculous amount of sugar because I have a feeling I NEED it – and I’m an emotional eater in general… and while my current gastro issues are tied to my gallbladder removal, pretty much my whole life I dealt with IBS like symptoms. I would usually be in the extremes of either constipation or diarrhea. Always in a cycle going back and forth. Ugh.
Anyway, needless to say, I think I need to delve into this a bit more and look at talking to my doc/getting a diagnosis. I’m tired of feeling this way about myself.