In the last 6 months I have had two people tell me that I suffer from anxiety. Truth be told, I have never considered it as an option for me. I don’t like ‘labels’ for one and don’t think all of society can be put in a box – which I think most do when there is some sort of ‘disorder’ – but I also never considered my life to be hard enough to have anxiety over. No one in the last 46 years had ever used that word to describe me. Stressed? Yes. High strung? Yes. A worrywart? Yes. But Anxiety? Isn’t anxiety just a word for stressed, which we all have?
When it comes to my emotional well-being, is it stress or anxiety?
The difference is important. Come to find out there is actually a difference. The easiest way I can explain it is that stress is my reaction to an external cause. My divorce, losing a client, my dog dying. Anxiety is the way I internalize things in my life, even after a stress event has happened.
So when I lay awake worried about the time I drove a car over 100 miles an hour with the urging of a friend and, had I not hit the brakes at just the right time, would have gone straight off of a cliff, that is anxiety, even though there was stress at the time. No kidding. I still think of this event, which happened years ago and feel the panic, the tightness in my chest and the complete fear of my children being told their mom was dead. I, honestly, have cried over this many, many times… and it was YEARS ago!
The car incident is just one example in a long line of decisions that I regret, berate myself for and play over and over again in my brain as if the movie is on auto-loop.
On a daily basis I feel like I have to stop and take a deep breath. Even as I type this I feel the need to stop, sit up and breathe. My chest always – 24/7 – feels like someone is sitting on it. It is tight, unable to relax and a constant worry for me that I am doing major damage to my body by not being able to relax.
I feel my heart racing as I go through daily life, feel the aches and pains that come with a body constantly under the stress of an owner that can’t let things go.
Talking to my friend the other day, who has known me since I was 18, the revelation that I could be suffering from PTSD from my childhood came up. He said he has always known me as anxious and that the constant abuse before my adoption at 8 could be a major contributing factor. As a person who has tried never to let her past define her, this pissed me off, to be honest. But when he was talking about how he feels after serving in the military and experiencing real war, and being diagnosed with PTSD, I am starting to wonder. He describes his days exactly how mine are.
It was scary. Eye opening. But scary as hell.
Best part? According to his doctors, it gets worse as someone ages.
Now I have this to worry about.
But here is the deal. Could I have anxiety? Sure. Could it also be an incredible stack of stress crap burying me to the point of anxiety without it being ‘anxiety’? Sure. Anything is possible.
Which is why I hate labels. And boxes. And mental diagnosis from a non-doctor.
So let’s talk about stress and the incredible amount that we live with every.single.day. Between the news, social media that goes viral for the most random stupidity – that I read all day every day because of my company – and the pressures to raise three kind, generous, successful, wonderful girls as a single mom, who would not feel stressed out every.single.day.
Just yesterday, while trying to take my last day of ‘vacation’ – we will get to that on another post – I had to worry about a million things. Was the ice cream I was buying one of the licked ones everyone is reporting? Was the gas station I used to put gas in my car fitted with a skimmer – again – for me to worry about? Was this the day that some idiot was taking a selfie while driving and not paying attention, thus slamming into my car and killing all inside?
Would my daughter properly take care of her braces as she entered her first day of getting wires? (The answer is no… we have to go back today for a wire she popped off last night….) Will my children ever get along? Will I ever find a handyman to fix my leaky sink? Do I have termites in my home? Will my dog die from eating too many flip flops? Will my daughter ever be able to live without worrying about her medical condition? Will my youngest ever go to bed at night IN HER OWN BED? Will I be able to support my family, send my kids to college, buy them cars, handle a wedding with my ex and his ‘wife’ there, will I ever lose weight, be single forever….
On and on and on it goes. Until I can’t see anything but worry ahead of me anymore. Until I can’t breathe, feeling like an elephant is sitting on my chest. Until the simple joys in my life are smothered with the ridiculous questions and worries that can do nothing but aid in my inability to function properly.
Maybe I do have anxiety. Maybe I am overly stressed out. Maybe I have a combination of both.
Maybe I am just living a normal life like everyone else. Maybe I am not alone. Maybe our world is churning out a generation of nervous, worried moms laden with the pressures of motherhood womanhood, and lives that circle around the things we have to do instead of the things we should enjoy.
Maybe I am more normal than abnormal. Maybe my box is more crowded than I think.
Maybe I should let it all go. Change my focus. Try to be more positive. Relish in my accomplishments. Write my good’s down every day.
But them I worry I may not be able to come up with enough to be proud of.
Thus feeding my anxiety…