As many people who’ve experienced generalized anxiety would probably tell you, sometimes we just don’t know why we’re anxious. It’s just a feeling that consumes you and you can’t turn it off. Often times, for me though, the same thoughts recur in my anxious cycle, and they almost always come towards the end of the day when I’m trying to go to sleep. I guess you could say, it’s what keeps me up at night.
I’ve been so lucky to not suffer the loss of many family members so far in my life. My Grandpa passed away when I was a pre-teen and that was very difficult to get though. My Nana passed when I was two so I don’t remember it, and her husband passed many years before I was born. I haven’t lost any close friends, but I’ve lost a pet and that really sucked.
I feel so lucky to have had generally a lot of constants in my life- everything has been pretty status quo in the past 10 years. Why is this troubling, one might ask? Because I know it’s coming. I know I WILL lose the people I love. I know my sweet dog Tippy will have to cross the rainbow bridge. My heart aches every time I think about a future that won’t include weekly calls to my Grandma (who happens to be one of my best friends). I’ve spent many nights crying and mourning the losses that haven’t been lost yet. I know they’re morbid thoughts and I shouldn’t think about that stuff, but unfortunately when you have anxiety, you just can’t help it.
When I was growing up, I didn’t realize that these thoughts weren’t normal. I thought everyone felt this pain all of the time. I used to have anxiety attacks thinking about my mom not being around anymore and be so suffocated by the thought that it’d spiral me into depression. My anxiety manifested itself into a phobia (strangely I had a phobia of people throwing up/ throw up in general) and it consumed me. I had to beg my mom to let me get a therapist when I was in 9th grade because I was having panic attacks at school and dance whenever someone got sick. She thought maybe it was just a phase I was going through, but it was real, and it was crippling. Did you think it was possible for someone to have PTSD-type flashbacks of seeing other people throw up? It sounds crazy right? It was. All of my anxiety went straight into this paralyzing fear. I can remember my first panic attack in 7th grade when a kid threw up at reading competition. I remember a kid getting sick later that school year at our choir concert and me not being able to keep it together. I can remember being backstage at a dance competition, literally about to go on, and seeing a girl throw up into a trashcan behind me. That was a bad one. Someone had to slap me out of my panic attack to get me on stage. It took me actually getting the stomach flu at dance camp to stop letting the phobia control my life.
I’d be lying if I said I’m OK when someone near me throws up… It happened last year at Disneyland and although I didn’t have a panic attack, I can still remember something most people would’ve forgotten the next day.
When I stopped letting the phobia control me and started becoming a generally more normal person, all that pent up anxiety didn’t just go away. I’ve always thought my phobia caused my generalized anxiety disorder, but the more I evaluate it, I think it was probably there before the phobia and then re-dispersed itself once I wasn’t spending every minute making sure no one was getting sick around me. Generalized anxiety can also be crippling and painful- I think my phobia personally was worse to me because I was petrified of a normal human body function, but general anxiety is no walk in the park either.
I can never quite get out of my head. I think things through so much that I already decide the outcome of risks before even taking them. No point in going on that first date, he’ll probably be boring anyways. No point in asking for a day off work, they’ll probably say no.
This all kind of leads me back into something I’m not really sure exists, but it’s really relevant to me. I have a fascinating coping mechanism for times of high anxiety. I latch on to things wholeheartedly so I can distract myself from whatever’s missing. I know, I know- everyone does that. But most people don’t do it to the level I do. When I was 11 or 12, right around the time I started experiencing anxiety for the first time, I saw the musical RENT. Don’t ask me why, but I became obsessed. I’ve seen the show 14 times now, and in the height of my obsession I think it made being around me difficult because I was just so crazed. I’ve done this with a handful of things, some worse than others. Panic! At The Disco/Brendon Urie. Auditioning to be a face character at Disney. Pretty Little Liars. Vampire Diaries. And of course, Lana Del Rey. My two worst attachments have definitely been Rent and Lana, and I think they sort of reflect two interesting points in my life.
Like I said with Rent, I fell in love with it around the time I first started experiencing anxiety. It was my escape. I stayed obsessed for quite a few years and dragged my poor mother along with me. When I started listening to Lana, I was on my second Disney College Program, had kind of just thrown away my 2.5 year relationship for a guy I met there (who treated me like crap) and I was under the stark realization that my perfect fairy tale life there was 100% going to come to an end as soon as I had to move back home. I DOVE into Lana’s music, and because she has that natural mystery surrounding her, I just became more and more interested in figuring her out. Who was she really? It certainly took my mind off of everything going on. I’d sit in my car blasting “Born to Die” and just let myself cry. I know that doesn’t sound like it was helping me, but it REALLY did. When I got back to college and realized how much my life sucked now that I had ruined my relationship and pretty much had no friends, her music became my best friend. Lana’s music was the soundtrack to my life, and I literally listened to nothing else for 2.5 years. I binged Big Bang Theory and Pretty Little Liars and dreamed that I’d move to LA and have friends as cool as my favorite actors.
News Flash: it doesn’t work that way, and even though I knew it didn’t, it was still a wonderful distraction from the truth.
Now, here I am, a few months away from turning 25, and still suffering from anxiety. I’m still obsessed with all of my original obsessions, but I had a new one recently enter the mix- The TV show New Girl. I even have been listening to Zooey Deschanel’s band She & Him on repeat for the past month, which is funny because I only somewhat liked them in high school. I get frustrated sometimes because I know my crazy obsessions are a LOT for people to handle. I wish so badly that I could turn them off and just be normal, but when I live normal, the anxiety always makes its way back in. Having an escape has really helped me figure out which friends really care about me. The ones that can’t handle my personality must not be worth it in the first place.
At the end of the day, it’s really just me trying to find a way to deal with all the things that terrify me on a daily basis. I hope that one day, maybe I won’t have such bad anxiety, and I’ll be able to watch a TV show like a normal person without latching on and going crazy, but for now I guess it’s just one of my quirks.