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Anxiety, another invisible illness. How can I possibly justify my illness? How can I prove that I have chemical imbalances in my brain? Are they going to believe me, or think I'm too sensitive and stress too much?
Even in 2017, anxiety is a touchy subject to talk about. People who haven't experienced it will often think that we should "suck it up" or tell us to "stop being irrational". It's not like we're doing this on purpose. We don't get up every morning wanting to be anxious. This is not the kind of life we've dreamed of.
Many of us know that it doesn't make sense to have a panic attack for doing groceries. We know there's no danger being in a public area. We know our family and friends love us, yet we still think we disappoint them or we aren't good enough. We are hard enough on ourselves, we don't need the additional judgement.
Often, we get frustrated at ourselves because we know it's irrational. There's a constant battle in our mind; rational thoughts against irrational thoughts. Fighting anxiety every second of every day is tiring. And don't get me wrong, some days are easier while others are hard. Some days we can laugh, talk, enjoy the day like everyone else. But other days, we just give up out of exhaustion. Anxiety completely takes over. We hardly want to do anything, because we know the slightest thing could trigger a panic attack. This illness, not only is mentally exhausting, it's also physically exhausting.
Now I want you to picture yourself, walking alone through the forest. Everything seems so peaceful and beautiful, when all of a sudden, you see a bear. The bear locks it's eyes on you and let's out a loud roar and starts chasing you. Immediately, a part of your brain called the amygdala will take over. Then, your body will release epinephrine (adrenaline). Your heart rate will increase significantly. It'll feel like your heart is going to burst out of your chest. You will start to sweat, shake, and have shortness of breath. You'll feel nauseous because the blood flow is being redirected from your stomach to other important muscles and organs, such as the heart and lungs. All of this is necessary for a "fight or flight" response. It'll give you endurance and the necessary energy you need to run for your life, or help you fight by increasing your strength and pain resistance.
This all sounds reasonable, right? But, what if regular, every day life scenarios, such as driving or going shopping, sets off the amygdala part of the brain? We get all this epinephrine released in our body, causing a rapid heart beat, sweating, upset stomach, trembling, dizziness, shortness of breath, etc. The amygdala doesn't have "common sense". It doesn't understand your thoughts, or what you're stressing about. All it knows is that you're getting anxious about something and starts it's process to help "save your life".
All we want is patience and understanding. Be patient with us, listen to what we tell you. Ask us what you can do to help us. Be gentle with us, because the slightest negative comment could haunt us for months. Just know that we are trying our best to control it. Whether it's medication, seeing a psychologist, psychiatrist, or self help, we are trying and we need your support.
Truly, anxiety is like your shadow. Always near you, always following you, even during the brightest days.