My Anxiety Confessions

One of the first posts I wrote for my blog was about anxiety. It was written as a way for me to practice both free writing and vulnerability. It’s a fairly popular post people visit when perusing my blog, so I thought I’d write a sequel with a few of my anxiety confessions.
 
Ready? It should be fun.
 
Even more fun? Right now as I’m writing this I’m experiencing indigestion or heartburn or something that very well could be a heart attack. But I’m powering through it so you’ll have a finished post, even if it’s my last.
 
You’re welcome.
 
That’s just one example of how anxiety (and sometimes mild, okay medium, hypochondria) can affect my life.
 
I once read an article about a man who woke up with a blue toe because at some point during the night he lost proper circulation to his foot. Now I look at my toes every morning to make sure they’re not blue.
 
True story.
 
This summer I went to Niagara Falls with a few friends. We spent the day doing all the touristy options on the American side of the falls and decided to end our visit with a ride on Maid of the Mist. If you don’t remember this tourist attraction from The Office, it’s a big boat that floats out onto the Niagara River and gets you so close to the falls you’re temporarily blinded by “mist” that feels less like mist and more like gigantic drops of water being pelted directly at your face.
 
I was having a great time until my friend looked at me and said, “He’s getting awfully close.” She was clearly anxious about our increasing proximity to the huge, raging waterfall and decided to share her anxiety with me. (Great. Friends don’t have to share everything, okay?) This is the same friend who earlier in the day said, “Don’t think about the massive security threat!” while we were in line.
 
She’s a giver.
 
From that point on all I could think was, Oh my gosh, what if this guy is having a bad day? What if he decides he’s done, this is it, he’s checking out, and drives us under the falls? At what point do I jump off the boat and can I survive? Anxiety completely changed my Maid of the Mist experience. Of course he eventually turned the boat around and I lived to tell the story.
 
I can joke about my anxiety because it’s part of the way I manage it. Overall I’m a fairly rational person. I know when anxiety sets in it’s not rational. It’s usually an exaggerated response to something I don’t have any control over, like whether the boat driver with a possible death wish fulfills it or not.
 
Looking back, I’ve always been an anxious person, even as a child. I remember an incident that occurred around third grade. I was playing at a friend’s house and found an old baby bottle in her playroom. For reasons I don’t remember, I put the bottle in my mouth. My friend shrieked, “Don’t do that! You’ll get a fungus!”
 
A fungus??
 
For days, weeks, maybe even a month, I checked my mouth for a fungus regularly, not that I would necessarily recognize a fungus if I found one. It was constantly on my mind and I’m pretty sure my mouth felt fuzzy for awhile. I didn’t know what to do with what I was feeling, other than to keep checking my face for a fungus. I never talked to anyone about it. I might have brought it up as a hypothetical in conversation but I doubt it.
 
“So, let’s say you find an old bottle somewhere and it ends up in your mouth. Will you get a fungus on your face? Just curious.”
 
Yeah, that probably would have brought on some questions and aroused suspicion so I suffered in silence.
 
Those are a few of my anxiety confessions and I have to say, I think anxiety is like my face fungus. It grows and grows but you can never quite get your hands on it. You’re never 100% sure what is real and life feels fuzzy for awhile.
 
Revisiting incidents like the baby bottle helped me realize that anxiety has been with me for a long time, only I didn’t have the word to define it. From changing in gym class to making a presentation, I thought I was just nervous. Really nervous. Think-about-it-every-second-for-a-week-with-a-pit-in-my-stomach-nervous. What I didn’t realize was that most kids weren’t as cripplingly nervous as I was.
 
For me, anxiety is not debilitating but it is something that makes its presence known most days. (Did I send that email? Was that a noise at the door? What is this lump in my neck?) For some people, it completely rules their lives. It’s powerful, it’s contagious, and it feeds on itself.
 
If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile you know there is no happy ending to this post. I can’t wrap up my posts with life changing advice, unless I have it, which is not often. I’m just here to tell you that you’re not alone if you check your feet for blue toes every morning.
 

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12 Comments

  1. Cara on January 11, 2018 at 8:50 am

    My husband has difficulties with anxiety and so I thought I could easily recognize it. And if I could recognize it and not see those symptoms in myself, then I must not have it, I thought. It seemed a relief to not have anxiety issues, almost a trade off for having heart issues that never crop up when the doctor is actually there. Until one day my heart did that weird thing when my husband was around and I started explaining how it felt. Rather than being horrified, he had this faint smile. When I finished talking it through, he said “you don’t have heart issues. You just had an anxiety attack”. Just like you, years went by where I didn’t have the words to describe what was happening and so I just used the ones I had, terribly misdiagnosing myself. I think that’s why it’s so important that we be able to talk about mental health issues. No two people experience the same symptoms and so it’s easy to try and downplay what we’re going through as something else.



  2. Charlotte on January 11, 2018 at 9:24 am

    I can totally totally TOTALLY relate to this.

    So much so, that I actually felt my neck when you wrote “is that a lump in my neck?” lol, it’s a real thing. It’s inexplicable. It can be absolutely debilitating and, (for me at least) I find that there’s never any rhyme or reason to it. Sometimes I can carry on with life without ANY kind of anxiety whatsoever. Other times, I feel frozen, like the world around me is moving but I’m stuck. It’s a horrible feeling and understand your Niagara Falls experience (something happened to me once at a concert. Actually most of my anxiety stems from a panic attack I had at a show, and I can’t ever shake it). Anyway, keep on keeping on. Keep writing. Keep experiencing, and working THROUGH those awkward moments. Like you said, it might never go away, but we can’t let it win.

    We’re better than that.

    XOXO and thank you so much for sharing.



  3. Beth on January 11, 2018 at 11:07 am

    YES to all of this. You described anxiety so well and like you, I can look back on my youth and specific moments that I can say now were definite anxiety moments, I just didn’t know it until now. My anxiety led me to check our home security camera all day yesterday to make sure I hadn’t burned the house down because I couldn’t remember if I had unplugged my hair straightener. So yep, I 100% get it. I have mine pretty well under control with meds right now but there are moments. It’s always there.



  4. San on January 11, 2018 at 11:13 am

    First of all, thank you for being so open and sharing your story. Secondly, I think everybody experiences boughts of anxiety (even though I would not call myself an anxious person at all, I have definitely experienced anxiety moments!)

    My husband has been dealing with increasing anxiety and yes, sometimes it’s contagious and even though I am reassuring him outwardly, on the inside I am getting a little nervous too about all the things to worry about.

    It’s hard to get a handle on these thought processes, but what has helped him (at least temporarily in the past) is that a) probablility of something happening are usually low (statistically speaking) and b) reminding himself of the “facts”.



  5. Sara on January 11, 2018 at 12:39 pm

    Anxiety is the worst and just when you think it gets better it hits you hard out of nowhere. I’m right there with ya, sista.



  6. ShootingStarsMag on January 11, 2018 at 12:58 pm

    I love this so much. I mostly have social anxiety, but it can be general anxiety sometimes too. I’m definitely one of those people that freaked out in gym class. I never changed in front of people. I’d go in the tiny bathroom in grade/middle school and nobody but me did this…in high school, I went into the shower stall. Granted, one other person did this too so I wasn’t alone. But yeah, social situations were the WORST for a long, long time. I’ve gotten better but it’s there. And it’s not always easy to explain.

    -Lauren



  7. Maya @ Powered Crowd on January 12, 2018 at 7:42 pm

    I share some of these thoughts as well. It’s funny how anxiety can make you irrational and you know you are being irrational yet it still effects you.

    Maya @ http://www.poweredcrowd.com



  8. Heather on January 12, 2018 at 9:23 pm

    You’re not the only one! When I was a kid I had such bad anxiety that I would despair when I wished on a star that I wasn’t doing it right and so my wish would backfire. It’s a lifelong struggle, but it’s good to know I’m not alone.



  9. Anthea on January 15, 2018 at 6:45 am

    Wow, Courtney – thank you for sharing this. I always enjoy the way you write and the way you describe things in your posts.
    I was also an anxious child (I used to check things like my homework was in my bag even when I KNEW it was packed in). I know my Gran was also a worrier and I often wonder if it is hereditary because I can worry over anything and everything given the chance.

    Public speaking was a huge deal for me growing up – I used to get so anxious before speaking in front of the class at school. Years ago I tackled this by joining a Toastmasters club through my work which I was a part of for a couple of years. I thought that my heart would fall out my chest before my first speech.
    But I’m still here. And it got easier.
    I wish all my fears/worries and moments of anxiety could be fixed (or alleviated with time) by joining a class or taking up something new but I haven’t found a course that deals with “did I switch off the iron?/hope I got my point across nicely/really dreading this party/is this stomach pain the start of an ulcer or not?
    Baby steps though, I do hope to get to the stage where I can worry less and in the process feel less anxious.



  10. Lisa | Simple Life Experiment on January 16, 2018 at 12:24 am

    What a wonderfully honest (and humorous) account of your experience with anxiety, Courtney. I wasn’t really an anxious child but have had some bouts of anxiety since my teenage years, so I can definitely relate. Something I have been exploring a lot very recently has been mindfulness and mindfulness meditation, which so far has been a wonderful tool for helping me tackle those anxious moments. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts!



  11. Hannah on January 21, 2018 at 12:35 pm

    Thank you for sharing all of this! I’m so sorry that you go through this. For the record, I get terrible heartburn whenever I start to worry about things. I keep a bottle of Tums on my desk for this very reason! When I started meditating again last year, it definitely helped me managed my anxiety a little better. Confronting it head on and sorting through it rationally really is what works for me, because like you said it isn’t rational at all.



  12. gkgirl on February 1, 2018 at 5:02 pm

    i so totally relate to this! like…on an bizarre level…when you said lump in neck, i automatically felt the spot where i always think there is a slight bump…AND i use humor to deal with it (hence…my blog…and my facebook posts.) 🙂