This Is Anxiety

The intent of Ayurveda is to put the body and mind back in balance after disease and to maintain this balance toward health and longevity. The idea is to activate and distribute prana, the life force, Chi, in Chinese medicine to maintain health in the mind and body.

In the midst of all of this I found love on the Internet and am in a committed domestic partnership with a loving and supportive woman.

Bob Katrin
Southern Pines, North Carolina

I didn't sleep for more than three hours per night for months. I was so afraid that something terrible would happen when I slept. I was always afraid that something terrible would happen to the people I loved. That was the crux of my anxiety, something that started with a tiny thought that became a full-blown obsession, a repetition that forced its way into my consciousness every minute of every day. "What if something is wrong? What if you lose them?"

There's a lot of stigma against anxiety. It tends to be dismissed as just a transient feeling, a disorder that isn't real, something that you can get over if you try hard enough. None of that is true. If it were an imaginary illness, I would not have lost sleep, I would not have hurt myself, I would not have scared everyone I knew and driven away others who couldn't deal with it.

Yes, those feelings I had that drove me into the ground were caused by faulty wiring in my brain, by terrible patterns of thought, but they were very real.

Cristina Barletta
Mahopac, New York

A Kenmore Two-Door Elite refrigerator is my arch nemesis. Not just any old Kenmore. Our Kenmore. The one that lives in the kitchen shared by my husband, our two kids, and me. That bright white behemoth scares the metaphorical pants off me... More often than is reasonable, Kenmore defeats me—I lose the courage to open him up and take inventory of his inscrutable interior. This makes no sense, as I am armed with several higher degrees and opposable thumbs. But you never know what spore colonies may lurk inside him, and as it happens, I am also morbidly frightened of mold. I know this is illogical. I know that if I don't eat it, mold can't hurt me. But still, it scares the crap out of me.

When we are reduced to eating crackers and dry cereal for dinner because I cannot look into Kenmore's dark belly, [my husband] performs an angry fridge intervention, throwing out deceased vegetables and solidified dairy products and liquefied/petrified foodstuffs of indeterminate provenance, all the while giving me his two cents about wasted food.

Deborah Vlock

Inaudible biological blows had borne down tracks of endless harpoons that had punctured my tangible skin, pierced my Roma eyes and carved this once wild-waking and organic psyche into corridors and angles. The better angels had been slumbering whilst violent geometry goose stepped what little soul of man was left into corners of perdition. Nature, riven from its awe remained upended: alone within a matrix of obdurate distrust and disconnect from daylight and discussion.

Lorraine Valenzuela
United Kingdom

Vacations are the worst. You would think that they would be times of relaxation; but with unstructured routines and circumstances prime for being alone, vacations are situations where I bask not in sunshine, but in my own unsettled thoughts. Vacations bring on a plethora of anxieties that cram every moment of the 10-12 hour wakeful day of every supposedly "vacation" day with worries, fears, hand tremblings, heart palpitations, and head aches.

It is as if my over-energetic and creative brain is searching out for the next reason to be anxious or nervous. And yet, I sometimes don't even have the energy or drive to get out of the house or change my daily routine and do something that will help alleviate the burden of this condition. My family has had enough of me; they are tired of the panicked calls and anxious dramas. If I hint my worries to friends, they either deny my feelings or keep me at a safe distance. It is a burden to them, as it is to me.

Cold, hard facts are helpful. I search the Internet to find answers. Answers about the flu (I am sure I will catch it and die), cancer (I am sure that spot is cancer), heart attack (I am sure that pain in my side is a warning), Dengue Fever (I am sure the bug bite on my grandson is from a mosquito carrying the disease), unhealthy food, water, environment. The list goes on and on. I read constantly about healthy habits and how to avoid unhealthy ones, to avoid those situations that may trigger another panic attack concerning my health or the health of my family.

I go to counseling; this doc says that it is a situation where I have identified anxiety as me, I have allowed it to become my personality. Fine, but I still tremble and fret.

I refuse meds; totally unhealthy. The strong phobia after effect is more enduring than the current panic.

I hope that a religion will resonate with me so I search the faiths to find a truth that will allow me to let go of the anxieties. But then I need to summon my meager stores of energy to get dressed formally and travel outward to the faith center to socialize alone in a new and foreign situation; and it is so easy for me to create an excuse to remain where I am safe in my own home.

Thank goodness for my passion for teaching students with dyslexia. I can relate to the daily struggles that these children endure to engage in the “simple” acts of reading and/or writing. I can leave my home, and with complete engagement, sit down and dig in to the laborious, challenging, sometimes frustratingly slow, work of educating a student as to how to read and write. And I am thrilled with each and every small step of progress that they make. And it is bittersweet when the time comes when they say thank you and they leave me, with skills, abilities and confidence, to fly on their own.

Gosh I wish I had someone to do that with and for me, to help me overcome my anxiety.

South Carolina

I have to say, my life has gotten a bit better since I started taking pills and talking to a therapist. I take Zoloft, an SSRI. I don't know if it does anything for me, and I don't think psychiatry actually knows why it would do anything. But in any case, it's nice to have that sense of control, however illusory, and I take Zoloft every night as part of my bedtime routine.

Anxiety (as well as its physical manifestations) are also routine; what Billie Joe Armstrong described in a 90s pop-punk song as a constant worry about nothing and everything all at once. Its effects are so embedded in my life that on one level it defines me and on another has become entirely mundane. On a daily basis, I feel tension, like an aching desire to move or stretch, all over my body, but especially in my jaw. Consequently, I take a lot of walks and frequently chew gum. 

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James Hamblin, MD, is a senior editor at The AtlanticHe is the host of If Our Bodies Could Talk.


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