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Inside the Hidden Circus of Your Mind

What Anxiety Really Feels like

Image credit: Porsche Brosseau/Flickr

Having an anxiety disorder, particularly a high-functioning anxiety disorder, is like having a conjoined twin. A very loud, disruptive, pessimistic conjoined twin. It is with you when you try to go to bed at a decent time, it is then with you two hours later when it wakes you up multiple times by shouting frightening things at you, and it is still with you in the morning, to which it gleefully follows you, taunting and prodding at you as you try to survive through your day.

But sadly many of those around us are totally oblivious to what it actually feels like having to put up with this suffocating, debilitating twin everyday. For one thing, the phrase "anxiety attack," or "panic attack" is used way too casually for my liking. A panic attack isn't this oh-gosh-you-really-scared-me-for-a-sec-woah-look-I'm-actually-shaking-wah. No. It is brutal. It is being on the front line on your own with no weapons during a battle you will never think you can win. It is being in a room filling with water and only having two cms of air left. It is having cling film taped over your mouth and nose constantly. It is someone dropping a 13-tonne bolder on your chest. It is someone shoving a burning hot, flaming ember down your throat and then throwing alcohol on it. It is being strapped to a chair with someone pointing a gun to your head but you never know when they will shoot. 

It is terrifying to live with anxiety. You never know when the next panic attack or intrusive, crippling thought will come. And it is not something that can be fully understood until you experience it yourself. It completely cripples you to the point that you develop other disorders; agoraphobia, depression, eating disorders, addiction, etc. So, you as a fellow anxiety sufferer, should never accept the "oh just get on with it" and "pull your socks up" remarks, because it is never as simple and easy as that. You wouldn't tell someone with a broken leg to "just take the cast off, drop the crutches and get running." 

I have had a high-functioning anxiety disorder for as long as I can remember, and it has defined me as a person, and dictated how I live my life. "Live" being the inaccurate choice of words here. I don't feel like I am living; people with anxiety disorders don't "live." They exist; they survive. Because every ounce of our energy is put into surviving each day with this toxic, heavy weight on our shoulders. Trying to ignore the spiraling circus of panic on a daily or weekly basis completely zaps us of our ability to "live."

So anxiety disorders should never be taken lightly and it can be frustrating when you can't fully explain how crippling it can be. But it is so important to know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. You may feel like you are fighting this battle with no troops, but there are literally millions (40 million in the US alone) of people who are going through what you're going through. But trust the sources out there that are available and always accessible to you. We are lucky to live in a day in age where free 24/7 helplines, online therapists and forums are so prevalent and are made up of people much like yourself who are at the front line fighting this battle alongside you. 

A few forums I recommend:

Sane Forums 

Anxiety UK (this is the UK site but other countries will have sister sites)

Mental Health Forum 

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Inside the Hidden Circus of Your Mind
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