I thought I knew what anxiety was. I mean, I have anxiety. I take medication for it. And I do get the obvious stuff -- sometimes my chest gets tight and fluttery and I have trouble breathing and my heart races. Sometimes that tips over into a full-fledged panic attack. But there's lot of other stuff going on with me -- stuff that I generally just attribute to my personality or general "issues" -- that might just fit under the anxiety umbrella as well. And I didn't realize it until I stumbled upon this webcomic that's been going around this week:
This comic is from artist Sophie Wright, and she shared it on Tumblr. I don't relate to everything she writes about, but here are just a few things this helped me realize may be related to my anxiety:
When my phone dings with a text message, my brain automatically assumes it is someone texting because they are angry at me and/or no longer like me. Text from my boyfriend? Most likely breaking up with me. My boss? I'm fired. Then I kind of wince while I check the probably innocuous text message.
Voicemails are a no man's land. I currently have 88 unread voicemails. I just can't make myself check them, to the continual frustration of my therapist, who sometimes leaves me an important message. Even she doesn't get what it means to be "to scared to check your voicemails."
If I make a small mistake, it haunts me for days. An example I've used before is accidentally purchasing the wrong size of jeans. No big deal, right? These things happen. Unless you've got anxiety. Upon realizing my mistake, I feel simultaneously a) extremely guilty for doing something "wrong" and b) overwhelmed by the actions now required of me. Having to go and return the pair of pants, or exchange them for a new size, seems as impossible as having to scale a mountain.
It turns out anxiety isn't just about feeling nervous and having panic attacks -- it's ALSO about a constant sense of dread and feeling guilty that you are doing something wrong/are fundamentally unacceptable as a human being!
With anxiety, the stuff you're panicking about might not be a big deal or even real. I have a friend with anxiety who panics constantly about flaws truly imperceptible to anyone but him. "I was a bad friend to you this week," he'll say, despite the fact that I have no literal idea what he's talking about.
On the one hand, discovering that web comic (and a few subsequent others) gave me one of those nice "A-ha" moments of "This is a real thing, it has a name, and I'm not alone." But my second thought was "Holy shit, my anxiety is way out of control."
I kind of knew my anti-anxiety meds weren't cutting it, but every time I mention it to my psychiatrist, she suggests I try herbal tea. A good alternate title for this piece might have been, "Do I need to find a new psychiatrist?"
Here's one more amazing anxiety-themed web comic from heymonster on Tumblr:
Anybody else suffering from debilitating anxiety out there? Share your comforting web comics if you got 'em.