What is Anxiety?

Drawing inspiration from the Bell’s Let’s Talk event this year (2017) I am compelled to revitalize the Millennial Perspective blog from its grass roots. Though I’ve been on hiatus doing a range of things from writing for publications to school and travel, I’ve learned many things. Things I believe will enhance the Millennial Perspective and ultimately help people through a blog series about what started the blog, Anxiety.

 

What is Anxiety?

 

Anxiety is a controversial topic for it is subjective. It affects everyone in different ways. Though you and I may find overlapping similarities in our Anxiety, it is never truly the same experience. Though we cannot always understand what each other is going through, a common theme amongs those in the mental health community is to always say “I’m here for you.” Over the years I’ve seen Anxiety in many shapes and sizes, and there’s no one clear, textbook example of it. Anxiety can be the little girl not wanting to go out to parties because she feels uncomfortable in crowds and the peer pressure that is associated with them. Anxiety is also the teenage boy too scared to try new things because of what might happen. Anxiety affects us all in many different ways, and there’s still no clear solution, or a cure to what ails us.

Anxiety is normal. Everyone experiences Anxiety at times. For example, it is normal to feel anxious when you miss a bus, or before a job interview. It’s a system in our body that helps us perform our best or avoid danger. The definition of Anxiety is: a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.

Put into such simple terms it can seem an afterthought to those that don’t experience Anxiety. Often people dismiss it, saying “It’s all in your head.” Those people have not experienced a panic attack. Though Anxiety is an imbalance in our brains, it is not a made up phenomenon that can just be thought away.

One constant of Anxiety is a fear of the unknown. Through overthinking, what could happen becomes what will happen. Anxiety is pessimistically perceiving an event in the future whether it’s a task, a conversation, traffic, a crowd, it is predicting the future through a worst case scenario filter. The most rewarding part of this often crippling fear is that when you can put the fear aside and do something you feel anxious about, you often benefit through positive life changing experiences. This, however, does not make the next time any easier unless it was a common fear you overcame such as acrophobia, arachnophobia, galeophobia, etc.

 

What does Anxiety mean to me?

Anxiety is heavily triggered by unpredictability, but Anxiety itself is unpredictable. This is why Anxiety about Anxiety will trigger panic attacks due to an endless cycle. It is a constant internal barrier to overcome. People with Anxiety constantly overthink situations and doubt their ability to carry through their responsibilities. Meeting new people is often very hard, not due to shyness, but from the fear of crowds. First impressions are very important but if you’re someone with Anxiety, you can affect others which makes them uncomfortable, tarnishing someone’s view of you possibly forever. This is why crowds so often frighten people that suffer from Anxiety. Things that normally stress people out such as money, school, work, etc. affect people with Anxiety to another level and if you don’t make it work to your advantage, it can really go downhill. Communication is key but is it always easy to identify what’s causing the Anxiety? People ask how they can help you but if you can’t identify the problem then how can you find a solution?

On a personal note, Anxiety runs in my family. I’ve been afforded the luxury of having the elders pass on knowledge about Anxiety and what to do if you’re diagnosed, what coping mechanisms are effective and who to talk to when I can’t handle it. Several years ago I saw several doctors to get on a proper balance of medication and self-awareness due to a string of panic attacks really scaring me. I learnt that breathing through the stomach in deep, slow breathes required more thought than I had expected. When we’re born as babies, we breathe that way naturally and over time we start to breathe more through our chest. This actually results in a shortness of breath.

After learning several techniques on how to tame Anxiety and calm myself from panic attacks, I felt I only needed see my family doctor, Dr. Kanagaratnam, who’s amazing. Much of my remedy for Anxiety is less medical and more mindfulness as I started practicing meditation which is very therapeutic. All the methods I’ve used to tame my Anxiety will be shared throughout this blog series as I hope I can help others the way others have helped me.

 

What’s next?

Whether the series is successful or not, I have several blogs planned on Anxiety through my experiences and observations since initially writing about it. I plan to discuss further what it is, as it is a very complex topic. I also intend to discuss the triggers of Anxiety, the fight vs flight instinct, Self-Awareness with Anxiety, how to help others with Anxiety, Travel Anxiety, City Anxiety, Anxiety about making plans, how others can effect those with Anxiety, and several more. Hopefully through the series and discussing ways I have overcome Anxiety, I can help others do the same.

Anxiety Blog 3

I’m starting to realize as I continue to recover from my anxiety disorder that things that used to give me horrible anxiety no longer even seem to affect me in some cases. 

I don’t like curveball’s, I never did. As long as I can remember, once I got something in my head, anything that got in the way of it was an obstacle. Growing up, that obstacle was crippling anxiety. It’s hard to describe. A lot of people think 3 steps ahead of what they’re presently doing, but in my case I can’t even think about doing other things before I do those three things I was already thinking about. This likely stems from a memory issue that has also been repaired through post secondary education.

There’s a difference between getting annoyed from an obstacle and having anxiety about it. To put it into perspective, there was a time my mother asked me to walk the dog. This is a perfectly acceptable thing to request since I walk the dog every day, but the timing was against me. I had thought 3 steps ahead, so now I had to rush those three things. As I rushed doing those things, I felt winded and dizzy from the panic attack that was now in full tilt. During the walk, the stress of the day already seemed to fall away even though it wasn’t even lunch time yet. The sun was shining, Chloe (my 16 y/o multipoo) was happy, and the tide at White Rock Beach was out. The serenity of nature is something that has been a large part of learning to deal with my anxiety. Often I’ll go out of my way to take a stroll through the park to ease my mind, sometimes listening to music that reminds me of simpler times, or the music that opens my mind.

Anxiety alone is a complex thing. I estimate that I have had anxiety issues with panic attacks since I was 6 years old. My earliest memory specifically was moving for the first time when my parents divorced, I kept everything packed in my closet. Unpacking and putting things away felt weird in the new house, and when I was asked to unpack, every item I retrieved from the closet to place somewhere in the room felt like a punch to the gut. As if unpacking was forever binding me to the spot, a slave to my space.

Alert and attentive, but anxiously uncomfortable
Alert and attentive, but anxiously uncomfortable

A form of anxiety that’s rather common, as it reaches those that don’t otherwise have the pleasure of experiencing anxiety, is test anxiety. It’s the big day of the final and you studied all night, barely getting any sleep. You walk into class and instantly are struck with fear. Desks are organized with tests for every seat, you sit in the back corner by the window for some natural sunlight, as if it will help you. As you gaze onto the paper, the first question doesn’t look familiar and you instantly panic, assuming you studied the wrong chapter. This is when people need to take a breathe and just read all the questions, go through it and note the questions you DO recognize. With every answer you feel progressively less confident in your test, knowing that you will fail. When you give the test to your teacher finally, (s)he looks up at you with a sinister grin, they know you failed just from looking at your answers. You grab your stuff as quietly as possible so as to not disturb the peace and quiet, and hurry out of the room. The worries of the test are over, you feel sweaty and tired, but you survived. That’s the feeling of surviving a panic attack, but a far more tame version.

As a writer, I get in ‘the zone’ similar to the ‘wired in’ term used in the successful film “The Social Network” about the origin of Facebook. This is the only thing I still get significant anxiety if it’s interrupted, fearing to lose the roll I was on, scared to lose my inspiration and end up playing video games instead. Usually this means I’m writing in my room with my stereo playing Blink-182, surrounded by the soft glow of my laptop, or sitting on a hill with notepad and pen in hand the old fashioned way. I require a bubble to be in this zone, and get anxious the second someone steps into it. I minimize what I was writing if they hover over my shoulder, because to me, none of my work is worth reading until it is finished. When asked what I’m doing on the spot, usually I’ll lie and say I’m just on Facebook, or doing nothing at all, revealing to the same person later that I was writing an article; proceed to show them the finished article no problem.

People think my anxiety is a social anxiety, a sign of a lack of confidence. People who hang out with me frequently know that is not the issue. The problem is I’m afraid of what people assume. People see what they see, they don’t live your life, so if they don’t see you do something and you don’t talk about it, then it didn’t happen to them at all.

Instead of acknowledging a sign of ignorance, us humans seem to wish to piece everything together ourselves without asking questions or talking about the subject matter. So something as simple as walking to the store can be blown out of proportion. If your boss doesn’t witness you doing your work, they will assume you are an insubordinate and lose faith in you until the results come in, in which case the boss takes credit because you were clearly on Facebook while helping customers, or because you had your phone out as (s)he passes by your cubicle. Teachers in college assume students aren’t paying attention when they use their laptops during a lecture. Girlfriends assume you’re mad at them if you’re having a bad day. Boyfriends assume you’re PMSing just because you’re having a bad day. Instead of assuming things like this, what is the harm in simply asking what’s the matter. That takes a significantly less amount of energy to do than creating your version of the story.

With a society that seems to be plagued with a constant sense of entitlement, it’s based upon these outlandish assumptions creating a jumbled world where people would rather come up with stories than listen to the real side of the story. We’re all guilty of assuming too much, even myself. I often catch myself assuming certain things, but better to catch myself before I let it take over and become truth in my brain. Maybe it’s because a lot of people are incapable of articulating their feelings, or thoughts without getting angry and into a heated argument. That’s how things were with me until I understood myself a little more. Maybe the first step is to look within.

Great quote, good color scheme
Great quote, good color scheme

Like I mentioned yesterday in my shout-out to Bell for another successful annual Let’s Talk event, spreading awareness about mental health is in a lot of cases more important than raising money for the cause. The more people know about it, the more we might be able to diagnose things before they consume too much of someone’s life. It took almost 20 years for me to conquer my anxiety and I still whimper to the effects on bad days. People suffering from any mental illness come with them their own set of ticks and social issues, but if society understands the difference between someone that’s bi-polar and someone that’s a paranoid schizophrenic less people will be outsiders, less people will face rejection, and we can create a more suitable environment for all of us.

This blog summed up in one photo
This blog summed up in one photo

Thank You, Bell

Another annual Bell Let’s Talk event has come and gone in 2014.

According to Bell, they set new records this year thanks to all the help on social media and through the natural art of texting. 109,451,718 tweets, texts, calls and shares on Bell Let’s Talk Day 2014 – Bell will donate a further $5,472,585.90 to Canadian mental health programs. Now you can feel good about any excessive texting you do, at least for one day. Parents of teens, don’t give your kids too much flack for their next bill, it’s going to a great cause!

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Since 2010, Bell has committed $62.5 million to mental health initiatives in Canada. Not only do they run a successful annual charity event, but even more importantly, they spread awareness of issues such as anxiety, depression, etc. Mental health awareness is an important thing to a society where teens kill themselves suffering from mental illness, but if people understood the issue more it might be prevented.

I have fallen prey to mental health issues, particularly the effects of heavy anxiety. It has been a long journey to where I am today, and it all started with my blog. I wrote two blogs about it, which you can find on my wordpress to those of you that aren’t aware, and I’ll be releasing more essay’s about the subject as time goes on, as it is a subject I like to study and learn as I cope with it, discovering ways to deal with it.

Our government has neglected the mental health sector in many ways, but it is thanks to charity events such as this that we can get money into these programs, into paying registered professionals to help those who need it. People who don’t have a mental illness have a hard time understanding what it means. When they hear you have one they think you’re crazy. That’s not a very healthy way of looking at it, in fact, looking at things from that angle is part of the problem. This year’s Bell Let’s Talk event successfully reached those people through their marketing and maybe by next years event, more people will understand what it means to have depression, anxiety,  bi-polar, or any one of the hundreds of other illnesses/disorders. Until then, Bell will be behind guiding the people toward conquering what plagues them.