I was first told by a doctor that I had anxiety last year, and it was like a light went off inside my head. Suddenly so many things made sense. I always blamed my fear of pretty much everything on having a strict mother who enforced the thought that everything in life is extremely dangerous, but I never thought about the psychological damage that being raised that way had on me. Since that doctor's trip, I have managed to understand so much about myself and my mind, and why I think and act the way that I do.
Most people in my life know by now that I have anxiety - and, if they don't, they'll most likely read this and think ohh, that's why she can't do this and that - but they don't know that a lot of other issues that I have are actually side effects of my anxiety, which is why I'm going to talk about them today.
It's thanks to this horrible thing that I go through that I even know I have anxiety. I first talked about this in my Homemade Heart-Shaped Gumdrops post, which is my most popular blog post to date (my To Those Without Mothers on Mother's Day post is second - you guys really seem to enjoy more serious topics!). Basically, I have these episodes where I hallucinate and then go into a trance-like state in which I have no recollection of afterwards.
Sometimes during these episodes I am aware that I am dissociating, and am able to make myself sit down and relax, but other times I can be confused and not know who or where I am. It's absolutely terrifying, but I need to talk about it so the people in my life are aware of it in case it happens when they're around. I honestly still don't quite understand it, or even know how to deal with. I am so scared that it's going to get worse as I get older, and that one day I won't come out of an episode - which is the scariest part of this entire anxiety ordeal.
I have said "sorry, I have a bad memory" at least 300 times in my life. It's more likely into the thousands. As it's something that nearly every single person says, I thought it was a common thing. Of course, it is common to forget things because we all have such busy lives it's impossible to remember everything, but over the last few years I have realised that my memory problems are not some cliche or over-used saying. They are really, really bad and affect my day-to-day life. I don't remember the majority of my life, and it sucks.
Daniel has an amazing memory and is always saying things like, "Remember that time..." and I hardly ever do remember what he is talking about. I have completely forgotten big events in my life, days out with friends, even things that were once recurring events - they are all completely gone from my memory. It breaks to heart to think that there are so many wonderful memories that I have been apart of and forgotten. It's one of the main reasons I started this blog, so I would have a little archive of the moments in life that made me happy to look back on when I inevitably forget them all.
This is also a reason why I simply won't have people in my life who try to make me feel guilty for taking photos of everything - or, even worse, try to stop me from taking photos of everything. Don't you realise I am just trying to remember this moment? In a few weeks, it will have left my mind, and I would like a photo to be able to look back on. I really don't think that should be such a big deal.
Insomnia & Nightmares
My sleeping issues are yet another thing that I accepted early on as part of my personality. Yeah, I lie awake for hours at a time! I basically run on no sleep at all! I have joked all my life, but as I get older and have more responsibilities, getting practically no sleep is slowly running me into the ground.
My nightmares come in waves; I'll go without any for a few months, and then all of a sudden I'll have three each night. Imagine finally falling asleep after hours, then having a horrible nightmare and waking back up again. Now, imagine doing that two or three times a night. When this occurs, I am a wreck the next day and not prepared to face the world at all.
Even when I'm not suffering from nightmares, I still wake up at least three times a night for no reason at all. It's usually worse on weeknights, which I have chalked up to me being super worried that I'll sleep through my alarm and be late for work. It's never happened, but I'm still terrified that it will.
Fits of Rage
This is one that not many people will know about since it doesn't happen very often anymore - thankfully. At one point, my fits of rage were so common I was really scared that I was going to grow up to be an angry and violent person like my mother, but I've really managed to take control of it as I've gotten older. Well, not so much take control; I just react to situations differently now. Instead of getting angry, now I just get sad or scared. Once upon a time, nothing could make me cry - which I definitely think contributed to all my built-up anger, as I had no outlet for my feelings - and now I cry almost daily. That sounds horrible, but it's not always sad tears. In fact, it's usually over a cute animal or a sweet video I saw on the Internet!
When I was younger, though, fits of rage and anger were very common. They were always triggered by the smallest things. Someone could say something and I would snap and yell at them, or I would be met with the smallest inconvenience, and it would push me way over the edge. I call them "fits" of rage because they're usually very short-lived. When they were really bad, I would just get really mad, turn red, and yell, swear or hit something, and then it would pass. I'm very happy to say that, even though I sometimes still snap at people and say something snarky or angrily, I don't swear or hit things anymore. I still get very frustrated with myself a lot, but that usually just results in tears - and I'd much rather cry when I'm frustrated instead of getting angry.
The more research I do into anxiety, the more I realise how much it is engrained into my life. Sugar cravings, back aches, headaches, frequent urination (TMI, I know, but sharing this information may help others realise that they might be suffering from side effects of anxiety too!), feeling exhausted, and subconsciously pulling out my hair and eyelashes are all known side effects of anxiety, and are all things that I have to deal with daily. It honestly makes me think that I am nothing without my anxiety as every little thing about me seems to be as a result of my mental health, and that's not a fun thought to live with.
I know that anxiety will always be a part of my life, and that's just something that I have to deal with. I already believe I've come a long way since that first doctor's appointment, and hopefully I'll continue to grow and get better with time. I am very lucky to have such a supportive and understanding partner who does everything he can to help me through the things that cause me anxiety, and never makes me feel like I'm a nuisance.
I hope that someone reading this has learnt something new today. If you suffer from any of these things, it might be worth looking into anxiety and seeing if the other side effects relate to your life as well. I honestly can't believe that I spent most of my life thinking that these things were all completely normal and common.
I went 20 years before I realised that feeling scared all the time, forgetting everything, and never being able to sleep are not normal parts of life. They are side effects of poor mental health, and there are ways to help you live with them. There may not be a definitive or quick cure for anxiety, but with the right steps, you can learn how to live a happy life with it. I wish you all the best.
Until next time,