This Is What Living With Anxiety Is Actually Like


Anxiety is crippling. I have spent the majority of my life trying to find a way to express myself and produce some sort of outlet to get my anxiety under control. I don’t talk about my anxiety. I don’t share when I’m having a panic attack. I don’t express myself when I’m feeling anxious, I just don’t. Few people in my life even know about my anxiety or the severity of the presence of it in my life. It’s embarrassing. It’s nearly impossible to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced it. And the fear that it projects onto my loved ones that have had to witness me in a loop of anxiety is enough to put me into a nervous frenzy. My clinical anxiety has very few boundaries, a countless number of triggers, and my ability to control it depends day to day.

Anyone that suffers from anxiety knows that it can take form in some bizarre ways. Our brains are complicated vessels, when something disrupts that vessel, there can be an array of consequences that take form in any number of ways.

My symptoms? My head spins, I’m physically unable to concentrate and feel unbelievably lightheaded. It is hands down the most crippling and awful feeling I have ever had. Imagine yourself in a constant state of inebriation. I can go months at a time without a clear mind. There have been periods in my life where I have gone to bed dreading waking up the next day knowing I was going to have to continue on feeling like absolute shit. Along with this, I experience awful stomach pains and from time to time, debilitating panic attacks. When I have a panic attack, my day is over. It forces me into such a state of fatigue that I am literally unable to do anything else.

Anxiety is exhausting. Living with anxiety is exhausting. Trying to live with anxiety in a world where the majority of people do not see it as a major health condition is the most exhausting of all.

When people speak of chronic health problems, the first thing that comes to mind is physical health, but what happens when your mind, the one thing that controls everything, is what you cannot get control over? You truly feel like you’re shutting down, that’s what happens. Feeling like you’re unmistakably dying and cannot preform daily tasks while from the outside, you seem completely healthy and normal, is something that I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

I wish there was one single thing that sets off my anxiety, but that’s the thing with anxiety, there are no guidelines. I wish more than anything that I knew why I can spontaneously move countries and feel nothing short of euphoria, but the second I lose control of a situation in the organized chaos that is my life, I spiral into a week long, anxiety filled fight between my mind and body.

I find myself, more often than not, in some very interesting situations in my time abroad, all of which I purposefully submerge myself. Although, throughout all of these crazy situations, the only time I feel anxiety, is when something is not going according to my obnoxious plan.

Fly to Madrid on a days notice? No problem. 30 minutes late to the air coach that will still get me to the airport an hour and a half before my flight takes off? I’m unable to stop fixating. Give a two-hour presentation my second day into senior year in college? Easy. Am unable to find my hard cover of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban that I haven’t picked up to read in over a year? All hell breaks loose and I feel this overwhelming sense of dread until I know where it is. If it sounds like I am neurotic as hell, it’s because I am. I wish I were making this stuff up.

I believe everybody has a varying degree of anxiety in some form or another. Whether it’s the night before a big exam or something stupid you said that’s sitting with you from earlier in the day, those feelings of nervousness and regret are a simulation of anxiety. So, if you’ve made it this far, you may be asking yourself; Shelby, if you’re going through what everyone else is, what has earned you a very intimate rapport with the nurses in the UCSF emergency room, a hefty Xanax prescription, and your desire to write about it and post it for the world to see on the internet? Well, I’ve been asking myself the same thing.

Why does my mind blow things way out of the water? Why do certain things stop my brain in its tracks? Why does my body have this awful defensive physical response in non-threatening situations? The short answer; I don’t know. I can 100% promise you if a real life or death situation was happening I would maintain composure, think clearly, and act things through accordingly, but you bet your ass I will not rest until I know for sure if I left my glasses on the table at home or not.

The one thing I do know is life experiences play a huge role in anxiety, mine being the death of my father at a young age. So, I know the root and the problem, now I’m hopeful that writing things out like this is a step in the right direction for some sort of coping mechanism for my anxiety. It is very anti-Shelby of me to ever emotionally express myself and it’s most definitely way out of character for me to publicly broadcast anything private about myself, but hey, I’m trying this new thing called “dealing with my problems” and it’s hard to do that when I’m unwillingly to ever talk about them. So here I am, talking about them, kind of.

For the first time in my four months abroad, I have had a week of being in a constant loop of anxiety, and I decided to drink some wine about it and write myself off the ledge. Maybe someone will read this and feel a little less crazy, either because they are going through something similar or because they’ll see how sane they are through my neurosis, either one is fine with me to be honest.

All in all, my anxiety does not define me, the experiences in my life that have gotten me to this enormous level of anxiety do not define me. Although, my person is a product of both, and instead of trying to ignore this large part of who I am, embracing and dealing with is will hopefully provide for a much healthier relationship with my mind, body, and spirit, something that I have been in a constant pursuit of. So, here I am, patting myself on the back and considering this a huge leap in the right direction.