23 Mar 2016

This Is My Body On Anxiety


After recently going through a rough patch with my anxiety I wrote this post and published it on my Facebook, for my friends to be aware of what had been going on with me recently. And so I thought to share it on here too. I'm not posting this to gain any sympathy - I'm actually feeling a lot better than I was when I originally wrote this. But instead my main aim is to raise awareness and understanding about anxiety, by posting descriptions of my recent experiences with it.

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Note: A lot of the things I experience anxiety-wise (as is with a lot of mental illness cases) cannot be described in words. And that's because there are no words in the dictionary for them and the sensations aren’t comparable to anything. Attempting it would be similar to trying to describe colour to the blind - there isn’t a way to convey it. So those instances are simply omitted in this post. 
Anxiety is also so broad and can be experienced in a million unique ways - I've simply described how it's most prominently been manifesting for me recently. 

I chose to talk about anxiety as if it were a drug because I currently view it as something that is inside my body, effecting it adversely.


This is my body on Anxiety. After years and years of anxious breathing my body is now in a state of chronic hyperventilation. The last two years I've been trying to retrain my body with physiotherapy to breathe correctly again as my physiology has been stuck in an incorrect breathing pattern, which my body perceives as correct and the default.. Due to my incorrect breathing my blood oxygen levels are imbalanced prompting chronic symptoms of breathlessness, the feeling of suffocation and restricted breathing, the tightening of my airways, along with other non breathing related symptoms. When I practice correct breathing my body identifies it as incorrect so tricks me into feeling like I can't breathe even more so when I attempt it. I can't wear restrictive clothing (hundreds of pounds of pretty dresses are sitting in my closet going to waste), I can't over eat, and I can't always exert myself. Because my nervous system is messed up my body has also been in a state of continuous allergic reaction for the past 2 years which I fend off by taking multiple antihistamines every day. 

This is my body on Anxiety. The natural reaction of the brain to suffocation is anxiety, so as I feel suffocated often my body reacts with anxiety to the perceived threat. But the anxiety makes my breathing worse and so begins the vicious cycle of panicking and then my symptoms getting worse because of the panic, and then panicking even more so at my worsening symptoms.            
                                                                                         
This is my body on Anxiety. This vicious cycle is now building and building in an acute episode, and does so until I reach a state of blood alkalosis. When this happens my breathing is so bad I cannot speak and I feel so weak and fatigued that I have to lie down in a fixed position, and the movement of simply turning my head is too much and I feel as if I'm going to pass out. I can be in this state for hours at a time.

This is my body on Anxiety. My nervous system is out of whack, my body is not in sync, my body is not cooperating with itself. This is not an acute attack, this is my anxiety riddled body at 'rest'. I can't eat because my body won't let me swallow properly. If I attempt to eat the food will likely get stuck in my nasal passage or maybe stuck in my throat. If it does manage to go down properly I will be choking and coughing and breathless for up to an hour afterwards. I become scared to eat. I often even choke on water. This pattern goes on for days/weeks. 

This is my body on Anxiety. I have woken up bolt right in the middle of the night. My heart is racing so fast that it has almost become one singular beat. I'm sure it's going to stop at any second, because how can my heart cope with that? Even when I finally calm my mind my heart won't stop racing, it has a mind of its own. My legs are shaking, I'm shivering, my arms are numb, I can't move my hands - they're stiffened into claws- I have chest pains, shooting pains. I’m having a panic attack and a panic attack mimics a heart attack or a stroke, but I can't afford to believe that I’m experiencing a medical emergency or else it will reaffirm the vicious circle that is my health anxiety. So I have to simply curl up and hope that I am not actually dying and wait for the symptoms to pass, until I'm satisfied that I’m okay. 

This is my body on Anxiety. I am trying to relax by watching YouTube, but all of a sudden I can't concentrate on or connect with what’s going on on screen. Everything seems distant, the faces on the screen seem to be morphing. I look around and everything is becoming unreal and hazy and I feel out of touch with reality. I become overly aware of physical sensations and they make me more scared. My body is so weak now that I can't move an inch and I cannot see clearly. I feel like I'm dying. Though part of me knows that if I go to the hospital they will find that nothing is wrong and the visit will affirm my health anxiety in the long run. It is 3 AM and there is no one to talk to or help me.

This is my body on Anxiety. There are thoughts I can't get out of my head. I think about how many people die every day and realise I could die any second too and by any cause. I don't feel safe, even my body could let me down at any second. I'm imagining all the horrific ways I could die in my head and I can't get rid of the intrusive thoughts. It's late at night but I can't sleep. The thought of going out the next day is suddenly terrifying. I can't sleep because I'm hyper aware of how fragile I am as a human. I am aware of all my body sensations which I’m perceiving as dangerous and which are getting worse because of my anxiety. I stay awake all night because I'm too scared to fall asleep in case I don't wake up. 

This is my body on Anxiety. I don’t feel safe in my own mind and I don't feel safe in my own body.

This is my body on Anxiety. When I have a panic attack it's my body/brain incorrectly reacting to a perceived threat to my life, meaning my mind and body actually believe I am about to die. And the panic attack itself mimics a life-threatening event. So in those moments I am 100% convinced I am dying. Thus I am experiencing dying every single day, but with no death.

This is my body on Anxiety. I feel trapped and constantly in fear of my next attack. I feel debilitated, knowing that I'm not free and I can't do everything that I want to do without experiencing major discomfort and/or terror. I am becoming depressed because I don't know how much longer I can cope with this. And because I'm not free to live the life that I want to, and to do all the things that I wish I could do (in the same way I observe everyone else doing with ease). Not as long as this anxiety is living inside my body.  



Amani x
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