My Invisible Illness and How I Cope With It
To be honest, coping isn’t easy. There isn’t an automatic fix. There isn’t a great way to describe my actions. I wish I could tell some people how much I love them without feeling like I doubt them, or that I don’t trust them, because I do. My anxiety makes me question my feelings and thoughts, and myself. It hurts a lot to deal with anxiety because you can’t see it or hear it. You see the outcome and so badly do we want to turn people back to us and have them not leave. We don’t want them to leave because of our anxiety.
To the eye, I’m just an average, quirky, out-going, college student. I love pizza, naps, and spending time with my friends just like everyone else. I have high hopes of being successful during college which will hopefully continue to my professional life. But I’m not like everyone else, but I do have something in common with a lot of people. However, you can’t see it and it is impossible to describe it. I rarely talk about it with people other than those who are close to me. The stigma for mental illness is astounding. It is hard to relate to someone when you can’t even imagine what they’re going through, but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist for them. For me.
I have a lot of anxiety, for what seems no reason at all. When I get anxious, people usually ask why. “Why are you anxious” or “there is no need to be anxious”. You’re right, there is really no need at all, but there is no answer about why I feel anxious. It is uncontrollable, but it is manageable. Almost everyone feels anxiousness before the big test, a sporting event, or public speaking; however an anxiety disorder is a whole other level of anxiousness. It happens for no clear reason. speechless, nauseous, terrified, overwhelmed. Those are just a few ways to describe how I have felt when I get an anxiety attack. It happens in class, during a warm-up set in practice, at dinner with my parents. I get quiet. Really quiet (which is odd for someone who loves to talk as much as I do). It shuts me down almost completely and can sometimes take a long time for me to get out of it. My anxiousness can sometimes overwhelm me so much and last for days. Staying in bed sounds a lot better than being with my friends on those days.
I wish I had a good way to explain it, but there is no perfect way. The worst feeling is feeling upset or anxious and trying so hard to tell someone how you feel but all you can say is “I don’t know why I feel this way”. The look on their face says it all. Frustration, confusion. They wonder how you could think that way or why those thoughts would even cross your mind. Once again all you can say is “I don’t know why I feel this way”. I usually finish with saying I’m sorry for feeling the way I do, but I don’t want to anymore. Yes, I can’t tell you how I feel all the time or why, but I shouldn’t have to apologize for my anxiousness and the stigma for it shouldn’t exist anymore. We live in a very anxious and uncertain world, so it is no surprise that nearly 21% of Americans have an anxiety order of some kind. I bet that was more than you thought. It means I’m not alone. The feeling of being trapped in my own thoughts is relatable for someone else too.
But it can be manageable, and here is how I manage with it.
Ask for help.
There really isn’t anything wrong with asking for help. I’m a pretty prideful person so it wasn’t easy for me to see a therapist and to tell those I’m closest to what I deal with and how I struggle. After letting people in on my life and sharing my thoughts with my therapist, I have made so much progress in my day-to-day life. It doesn’t fix things but it is so helpful to talk to someone who is willing to try to understand and listen to you. When I told my best friend about my struggles, I felt a weight lifted off me and they aren’t afraid to tell me when I am over thinking and that I need to get out of my head. Having at least one person to share those crazy thoughts with and those moments of fear is so relieving.
Find things you’re interested in.
When I let anxiety control a lot of my day-to-day life, I spent a lot of time watching TV and just sitting with my thoughts. I gave up the effort I used to have in spending time with my friends and it tore my apart slowly but painfully. I re-discovered what I loved and it has really made a huge difference. When I get sad or if I’m alone I remind myself of all the things I could do or things I always say I want to do. Then I do them. It is awesome.
Don’t let yourself sit in a dark space for too long.
Anxiety takes me to a dark place mentally and literally. I get sad and I feel surrounded by negativity, and at this point I’m sitting in bed in the dark even though the sun shines bright outside. It is pretty depressing honestly. I’m at my worst when this happens to me and I highly recommend avoiding this at all cost. Feeling bad for yourself will never help, but taking care of yourself will. The smallest adjustments make a huge difference in quality of life and lasting happiness. There are still days I want to stay in my room all day but I force myself to make plans and get fresh air. I often look back and wish I would’ve helped myself more when I did.
Do something. Work out, travel, take a walk. I love to work out so much and to be active. I love finding cool new places and hidden spots. They are life’s little treasures. Being outside and in the sun is so good for you and has a very positive effect on your positivity and happiness.
Know it will be okay.
When we go through hard things throughout our lives, we often change. Not because we want to or that we mean to but because circumstances hurt us and control us more than we would like to admit. My surgery took over my life. I had a hard time finding happiness, and in the end I ended up almost sinking myself and those I cared about. I wish I had helped myself more instead of trying to rely on others so much. But when we make it through those tough times that bring extra and unwanted anxiety, know that you will become yourself again. You will be happier, you will find someone there for you, you will be you. “The temptation to quit is greatest when you are about to succeed.” This is true in more than overcoming challenges, but also in tough relationships, and unexpected change.
So don’t give up. You will look back one day and potentially regret what could have happened if you kept trying and pushing. It makes you stronger and better in the end to keep going. Tough times never last and feelings never fade, but tough people and tough relationships do during these trying times. Never, ever, give up. Especially on yourself or what you care about.