“Yeah, I get anxiety sometimes before job interviews and stuff, it sucks!”
“Everyone gets a little anxious sometimes!”
“Omg, seeing my ex totally gives me panic attacks lol.”
The term anxiety is often at times thrown about carelessly and almost unknowingly to those that do not understand what it is like to live with it on the daily.
What the “anxiety” to an average person feels like would most likely be as follows:
- The nerves that twist at your stomach and almost make you feel as though you are going to throw up.
- The moments where it feels as though your heart picks up several beats a minute.
- Sweaty palms before an interview.
- The feeling as though you cannot sit down or keep still.
- An uneasy mind
- A disturbed sleep cycle.
These are just to name a few of the things that take place before a big presentation, an interview, a first date, and so on. After it is over though, you are most likely not going to be feeling these symptoms again until the next big event that takes place, until the next presentation, until the next first date, etc.
This is what those of us with anxiety disorder feel every single day – times ten.
Now while I do not want to make it seem as though I am invalidating people that have very real and very scary symptoms of nerves and anxiety, I do find it hard to feel sympathy for those that get nervous every once and awhile and pass it off as anxiety.
For many years, I was getting nauseous on the daily. No matter what I ate – whether it was vegetables, gluten free foods, greasy foods, etc. – I was getting sick to the point of almost vomiting. Sometimes it didn’t even matter if I ate five minutes ago or two hours ago, almost every night I felt as though I was going to throw up everything in my stomach. After several visits to GI specialists, a few scopes, scans of my gallbladder, food journals, and other forms of tests – they could not find anything wrong with me.
It was only after therapy that my stomach issues slowly dissipated far into the past – to the point that I sometimes forget about the period of 3 to 4 years that I spent feeling nauseated.
I had no idea that anxiety could affect the body to that degree and that badly.
In my worst anxiety times I would pick my fingers so badly to the point that I would have to wear socks on my hands to stop picking. Wearing nail polish never helped as it was another thing for me to pick and peel off of my nails. It would get even worse if it was finals week or if report cards were about to come out.
At my worst point, I couldn’t go into gas stations or convenience stores – my irrational anxiety brain telling me that there would be a shooting or robbery if I went in. You could forget the chances of me going into movie theaters, too. It got so bad that everywhere was dangerous to me – from gas stations to a Subway sandwich shop. I wanted to be placed near the exits at restaurants so that I could run out the door if something were to happen and at every concert, I went to I had several plans of escape if a threat were to enter.
That was the way my anxiety brain worked. I knew that at every concert I went to that every person got checked by security, their bags were checked, and they were patted down – but my anxiety and fight or flight brains were confused by the amount of fear that I placed into my body. Everybody was a suspect and no place was safe.
This was how I lived for a very long time and still have the tendencies to get “sketched out” in situations that I am not used to.
I for many years struggled – and struggled terribly with anxiety. I wasn’t going out with friends, I was a home body to an unnatural sense, I was having anxiety attacks weekly, and I was literally making myself sick with anxiety.
I overcame a lot of struggles to get where I am now.
So yes, the quickened heart rate, sweaty palms, the tendency to bite your fingers, and your uneven breaths are all normal to feel before events like tests, presentations, job interviews, exams, etc. Your nerves are not anxiety.
In a world where mental disorders such as Bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety are “aesthetically pleasing” for a Tumblr layout or a funny tweet, it is hard to take mental illness seriously.
It is important that we note that anxiety, true anxiety, is not the same as feeling nervous for an hour or two (or even a day) once in a while.
Anxiety is very real and very scary but also should not be confused with every day nerves.