Fear and anxiety are 2 very powerful feelings. Although they seem different, they are also very similar in how they can affect a person. If you’ve never faced a fear that you couldn’t conquer (or you’ve never experienced anxiety), count your blessings. Both fear and anxiety are paralyzing at times, if you aren’t willing to face them or be honest about what they stem from. Anxiety triggers fear and vice versa. Anxiety in particular can affect a completely seemingly normal-functioning adult in a way that completely halts them in certain aspects of their life. For me personally, they go hand-in-hand together though. I am terrified of heights. Sometimes I can do something that I never thought that I would, and I can get to a certain comfort level (like riding in elevators, looking out glass windows down several stories of a building, indoor skydiving or riding a ski lift). I can say that although I can do these things, it’s not 100% because I want to necessarily. Sometimes it’s because I just want to overcome the fear… but most of the time it’s an unavoidable circumstance. Other times, I face something and it only intensifies the fear and anxiety even more. Although fear is not a fun experience most of the time (with the exception of adrenaline that comes from doing something adventurous), anxiety is never fun. If you’ve never experience a panic attack: Picture your chest tightening, sweating, breathing uncontrollably, heart racing and you can’t physically control your thoughts or your words and sometimes your actions. It’s like an adrenaline rush, but way less fun and you can’t always escape it… or it takes an incredibly long time before your heart rate slows down and your breathing goes back to normal. Fear is similar, but in my opinion way easier to control at times. Anxiety is harder. I have certain triggers or memories from my past that cause anxiety. It’s more the fear of the anxiety than just shear fear that prevents me from going to certain places and causes me to avoid certain people and situations. Sometimes, it’s easier to just avoid a situation altogether than to deal with the emotions and anxiety that is triggered. I’m not afraid of actual physical harm necessarily… I am fearful of dealing with the anxiety. It’s scary at times because when I experience anxiety, it’s like I am having an OOBE (out-of-body experience). My body’s own fight or flight response to stressful situation is to go into an anxiety attack. People with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) experience it at times too… some more strongly than others. It may not show up immediately or constantly for everyone, but it can be triggered by a sound, a smell or something visual… and it can sneak up on you… in fact, it usually does. It isn’t always logical. It can be triggered by a simple thought of “Traffic is bad today.” or “My husband usually picks up his phone on the 2nd ring.” Then, that turns into, “I hope there isn’t a wreck.” to “Oh my God, he’s probably been in an accident!” Then, panic sets in and you become irrational. You call the person 10 times in an hour or you just avoid going out and driving alone. Fear of the unknown, the what if’s and the endless possibilities and scenarios play out in your mind and it can get out of control and start to effect your life.
Fear and anxiety can be controlled in different ways. Some people go the route of things like drugs or alcohol or even mild anxiety medications. Others go the route of exposure therapy. Some people never get it completely under control, but they adapt by avoiding the things that could cause fear or anxiety altogether. I prefer a combination of medication when it’s really, really bad… talking about it out loud to someone, so I can “talk myself off the ledge”, so to speak, and then occasionally, I face my fear and anxiety and do something at a “happy medium”, where I still pushed myself out my comfort zone, but not to the point of an anxiety attack.
Most people that just see me out and about would never immediately know that I experience debilitating anxiety some days, but I do. When that happens, I confide in someone I trust and talk it out and eventually carry on with my life. Trust me, my close friends have experienced it with me. I’m terrible with change. As adaptable as I am with the physical limitations that I have, the emotional stress, fear and anxiety definitely affects my day-to-day life way more in a negative way. It’s hard to even openly admit all of this… and trust me, it’s miserable to deal with for everyone involved in the process. I don’t want to be seen as weak, but I have to remind myself of where my anxiety comes from and that it’s not my fault that I experience it… but, I also need to constantly continue working through it to be better and that’s OKAY!
In case you didn’t notice… my first paragraph is much longer than the rest so far… That’s anxiety. I went into this fearful and with very strong anxiety. Anxiety and fear of being judged for not being perfect or for possibly not wording something quite right and I probably even went in circles about the subject before really getting into it. That was what I personally call “cycling” or “processing”. After I’ve worked through the initial anxiety of thinking about what I’m about to write, then I start thinking about the direction of the blog or the message I want to share. When I finally sit down to actually write these blogs, I don’t think… I just start writing and THEN I go back in and think about how I can make a sentence sound better. But that first paragraph is literally my reaction to just the anxiety and fear of writing about anxiety and fear.
Although anxiety and fear seem negative… they can SOMETIMES be a good thing too. They both cause you to think about things, the pros and cons and the effects or your actions. Fear and anxiety can even sometimes protect you from negative things (although for me, I call that God giving me a sign). The good news in all of this is that you can work through some of these fears and anxieties you experience, but you have to be ready to deal with the reality and to be willing take the course of action that will help you through it. You aren’t crazy and you aren’t a bad person because of your fear or anxiety. You are just dealing with and processing things differently than other people. Be willing to discuss your fears and anxieties with people. You never know who might be able to help you through some of it… and even better, you might help someone else work through some of their own fear and anxiety. We are all human. We all have a past. We all make mistakes and we all have things we want to improve on. The ups and downs in life is MEANT TO BE enjoyed and to help us grow. Do everything you can to make that journey a smooth one. Reach out to someone when you’re struggling, be honest, address the anxiety and fear and really think about where it comes from. Remember to BREATHE (I always forget that one personally- LOL)… and keep on going! If you can do all of this, you will be fine.