What does it feel like to have anxiety? Beyond the symptoms

What does it feel like to have anxiety? Beyond the symptoms

Google the term anxiety, and you’ll find no shortage of symptoms. But, what does it feel like to have anxiety; to live with it everyday? If you’ve never experienced an anxiety disorder, reading the symptoms alone may not give you a true insight into the way they impact people’s lives. That’s where I come in. My aim is to inform you how these symptoms can manifest and become crippling.

Picture the scene.

You are waiting for an interview. Your heart is racing. Perhaps your palms become sweaty. There are butterflies in your stomach. You’ve been rehearsing what you want to say in your head over and over. You’re nervous. Then, the interview is over and done with, and you feel fine again. Most people would think that’s a logical response to a stressful situation.

Now, imagine feeling like that for no reason at all.

Imagine feeling like that all the time, without a sense of relief at any point.

Sound fun?

No?

You’re right. It’s not.

Before I began taking medication to help with anxiety, that was my life. I would lie in bed at night and feel terrified. I would worry about what felt like a thousand things at once. These things could be completely illogical. I would worry about needing to use public transport, even though I walked to work. That would lead to me stressing about the fact I could hit by a car on my way to work.

Sometimes, I would think about the fact that everybody I know will someday die; that I wouldn’t be here eventually, and I would cry. Who wants to think about that before they’re going to sleep? Actually, who wants to think like that at all? I didn’t, but I couldn’t stop it. No reason or logic could calm me down. Other times, I would feel scared and not know why. At best, I could distract myself by listening to music or talk to my boyfriend, but it was still lurking.

During my shifts at work, I would constantly feel on edge because I felt like an obstruction. I would feel like I was in the way of customers, even when I was nowhere near them. Some days, it was too much, and I would go and hide in the toilets, or find an excuse to go to the stockroom. I had been working in retail for seven years, so why did I suddenly feel like this? Admittedly, this was a busier shop than where I’d worked in the past, but it wasn’t busy enough for me to feel like the world was closing in on me. Regardless, that’s exactly how it felt. Every day.

While you’d only maybe need to rehearse your lines for an interview, I’d have to do it with everything. If I went out to a restaurant, I would sit and practice my order over and over in my head. If I couldn’t pronounce something I wanted, forget it. I can live without it. On particularly bad days, I wouldn’t order at all – I’d tell my boyfriend that I couldn’t do it. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to, I genuinely felt like I couldn’t. The words were not going to make it out of my mouth. Before going to the shop, I would try to prepare for every possible conversation I could have. Before I did anything, I would think of every possible bad scenario that could take place. I felt scared of everything.

How did anxiety impact my life?

General

I didn’t go out as much because I didn’t want everybody looking at me. I couldn’t get to grips with the fact that people were probably too busy with their own lives to notice me. They were going to stare at me, and I couldn’t have that. Usually, I have no issue going to get food shopping, and I love going for walks. All of that stopped. On my days off work, I’d stay safe inside and watch TV. I would do my food shopping online, or order takeaways. Whatever it took to stay inside, I did it.

Phone calls are not something I enjoy as a rule, but they became a nightmare. When it came to contacting my GP to make an appointment to discuss how I’d been feeling, it took me around 4 hours to make the call. I paced around the room, cried a little and tried everything to calm myself down. Nothing seemed to work. Worse still, the first time I called, I was told that the only upcoming appointment was a phone one, or on a day when I wasn’t available. I turned both down, hung up and burst into tears about the prospect of having to make the same call at a later date. I managed it, but did I have to go through the whole 4-hour process of gearing myself up to do it? Absolutely.

I felt like I was in everybody’s way all the time, but I felt tiny and insignificant, too. The world seemed so big and terrifying, yet so small. Small enough that, wherever I went, I felt like I was taking too much space. I didn’t deserve my place on this Earth. I convinced myself I was an inconvenience to everyone around me.

Social

In social situations, I would barely say anything at all. I have always been shy, but this was different. The thought of seeing other people would sometimes reduce me to tears. What if my words came out in the wrong order? What if everyone laughed at me? I didn’t want to be around other people because there were too many opportunities to make a fool out of myself. If I happened to make a mistake, I would torture myself about it for days. One little slip up could lead to hours of internal torment; a never-ending cycle of “what an idiot, I can’t even string a sentence together.”

I would obsess over what I needed to wear because I believed people were going to judge me. I was terrified of what they would think. This often resulted in me climbing back into bed, pulling the duvet over my head and trying desperately to catch my breath.

Work

I eventually left my job because I couldn’t handle getting up, going to work and feeling that intense anxiety during every shift. Not only that, but I felt like none of my colleagues liked me, so I convinced myself it wouldn’t matter if I left. They had never done anything to give me that impression, but it meant that I would turn up and barely say anything because I believed no one was interested. I felt short-tempered and irritable. Even when they kindly offered to have a leaving party for me, I refused, because it was another social situation that I couldn’t face.

I do still experience some of these feelings sometimes, but I believe that’s a touch of anxiety paired with the fact I’m chronically shy. Struggling with social situations isn’t new to me, but they became nearly impossible. While they’re still daunting for me, I believe it’s something I can continue working on, rather than thinking my best option is to never see anyone again. Through the help of my doctor, I am slowly starting to feel more in control.

So, what’s my point?

According to Anxiety UK, more than 1 in 10 people are likely to have a ‘disabling anxiety disorder’ at some stage in their life. The thing is, not everybody knows how to express what they’re going through, or don’t feel like they should.

I had two intentions with this post. The first was to give those fortunate enough to have avoided anxiety an insight into how it feels. I hope it makes us all a little more compassionate. The smallest task can become the biggest hurdle. People with anxiety are not consciously choosing to avoid certain things; they feel incapable of doing them. What’s easy for you can become impossible for us. So, don’t try to tell us to “push ourselves harder” or “just go for it.” We are trying to fight against it with everything we have, but we feel like it’s so much stronger than we are.

The fact is that I want to be able to contribute to a conversation without analysing every word I say or is said to me. There’s nothing I’d like more than to go out and not feel like my chest is in knots. If you think we are passively accepting what we are experiencing, you are wrong. Unfortunately, we have an illness which convinces us that everything is terrifying, so we feel like our best option is to not do them. I have spent hours torturing myself over why I can’t do things that other people can manage so easily. It wasn’t until I was diagnosed that I realised there’s a reason why I am finding it so difficult. Now, I’m working on it and it’s getting better.

My second was to share my experiences because I hope that somebody will read this, relate to it and understand the importance of getting help if they haven’t already. However, I know how difficult it is to ask for help. When you already don’t want to leave the house, why would you want to make an appointment where you’ll have to go and see a doctor? I hope you’ll be able to do it when you’re ready. I understand the courage it takes to make that decision, but you’re more than capable of it. It does make a difference, even if initially the only difference is helping you to understand the reason behind your emotions.

Although you probably don’t realise it right now, I want you to know that if you start today, in a few weeks, you’ll look back and thank yourself. You can and you will overcome this, but you can’t just wait for it to go away, or expect to do it by yourself. You are not alone. There are people out there who can help you if you let them. You deserve to be able to live your life without being plagued by such uncomfortable feelings. There’s nothing to be ashamed of.

If talking to a healthcare professional seems like too big a jump, try talking to someone who you’re close to. I did this, and one of the most helpful things my boyfriend did was offer to call the doctor for me and go with me to the appointments. I didn’t want to cause him any trouble, so I tried to do it myself. It doesn’t always work like that, and that’s okay. If somebody offers to do things like that and you feel it will be beneficial, take them up on it. Whatever it takes to put you in a better place, do it.

What does it feel like to have anxiety

My life with anxiety - beyond the symptoms
What does it really feel like to have anxiety? Here's an insight into my life with anxiety

I am, and always will be, very open about the things I experience so if you want to ask me any questions, contact me.

27 Comments

  1. 16th May 2018 / 12:25 pm

    It is truly awful! Thank you so much for opening up even more and sharing this, I feel like it gives such a realistic view of what it is like! Great post Ruth! Much love, you’ve got this girl!
    Neve x | https://lifewithneve.wordpress.com

    • ruthinrevolt
      Author
      16th May 2018 / 12:26 pm

      Thank you so much, lovely! As always, your support means the world to me! xx

  2. 16th May 2018 / 1:43 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story Ruth, you’re a wonderful person and i’m really glad you felt like you could open up to inform people about MH issues. I’m sorry that you have had these experiences, but you are really helping others by describing how you feel and letting others know they aren’t alone!

    • ruthinrevolt
      Author
      16th May 2018 / 1:45 pm

      Thank you so much! That’s such a lovely comment, and I really do appreciate it.

  3. 16th May 2018 / 8:54 pm

    This is such a great post and as someone who deals with anxiety and depression, I could not have worded this better! You have perfectly described everything, so much so that as I read the old feelings of anxiety were lurking in my head causing me to breathe a little faster than normal. I felt like I was reading this and identifying with everything you said. I would worry so much that I worried about worrying, an intense fear of everything and nothing for all and no reasons at once. Thank goodness for a diagnosis, support and medication! Thanks for sharing lovely xx

    Shevy
    http://moonsomia.com

    • ruthinrevolt
      Author
      16th May 2018 / 8:59 pm

      Oh no, I’m sorry I caused that! Even though I know you meant it as a compliment haha. Thank you so much for your lovely comment. I’m glad you felt I did a good job with it, especially as it’s something you live with, too! xx

  4. 16th May 2018 / 9:25 pm

    This is a brilliant post. For those of us who (luckily) don’t suffer from anxiety on a daily basis, it can be hard to understand what it’s like for someone who does. Thank you so much for sharing your story, I think it’s going to help so many people x

    Lisa | http://www.lisasnotebook.com

    • ruthinrevolt
      Author
      16th May 2018 / 9:34 pm

      Aww, thank you, Lisa. You are always so kind. I really hope I can help others understand that it’s okay to feel this way and that it doesn’t last forever. x

  5. 16th May 2018 / 9:25 pm

    I so often think about the fact I’ll one day die and wonder what will happen when I’m gone, I dont think I’ve seen anyone say this publicly before so I thought it was just me!
    Another great post a little difficult for me to read in some places because so much of what you said found a home in my own experience and I’m nowhere near out of the woods yet.
    Depression has almost always been the tuler in my life but the past 2 years anxiety took over I still can’t eat out in public where as before me and King would eat out 5 nights a week – this is just one example

    • ruthinrevolt
      Author
      16th May 2018 / 9:36 pm

      It’s something which has bothered me for a very long time but, like you, I don’t see many people talking about it. However, it’s probably one of the hardest things for me to deal with.

      I have a lot of trouble eating in public some days, too. I won’t even go into places if I think they are too busy. It stresses me out more because it makes me feel sorry for my boyfriend – there are lots of places we would probably try if I could manage to go in them!

      I apologise that it was difficult to read in places! If you need to talk, you know you are welcome to message me on Twitter. x

      • 17th May 2018 / 8:27 pm

        Sorry I didn’t reply to this sooner, my emails dont seem to be notifying of when you reply.

        There is a pub across from work that sell carverys and if I go on my own I will sit in and eat because I can distract myself with reading or writing but if my friend wants to get one I tell her I can’t eat in we’ll have to get it to take out. I used to love the cinema too but that gives me worse chest cramps and palpatations than eating out.

        Please don’t apologise. It was difficult to read because I could relate so much but that means it’ll be a good read for others who might have less of an understanding!

  6. 18th May 2018 / 3:41 pm

    You managed to encapsulate anxiety SPOT ON. Many people don’t realise they have it either but it’s alarming how it can take over within mere moments. Thank you Ruth for highlighting something that strongly resonates with myself. I am adoring your blogging journey babe, you’re a natural! X

    • ruthinrevolt
      Author
      18th May 2018 / 4:24 pm

      Thank you so much, lovely!

  7. 21st May 2018 / 3:20 pm

    This is truly insightful and for me, I got to know a lot more about what anxiety really feels like. I feel a little bit of it sometimes but not on a daily basis. You are a wonderful person and thank you for sharing this 💝

    Tyas | wepsgallery.wordpress.com

    • ruthinrevolt
      Author
      21st May 2018 / 3:46 pm

      Aww thank you, both for the compliment and for taking time to read and comment on this post. I’m glad you found it interesting! X

  8. 28th May 2018 / 11:06 pm

    Ruth you have described this so perfectly and in such detail that many people will realise they are not alone in their feelings, so will benefit from reading your post. I am glad that you are in a better place than you have been in the past but I know it is something that will never go completely. Thank you for sharing and being so open x

    • ruthinrevolt
      Author
      28th May 2018 / 11:12 pm

      Aww, thank you for such a kind comment, lovely! That’s all I really want people to know – that they’re not alone, and the things they’re feeling are real, but don’t have to stop them from living their life. There’s always help available. 🙂 x

  9. 29th May 2018 / 5:33 am

    Great post, Ruth! I can relate on SO MANY LEVELS. Social anxiety is no joke for me, so bad to the point were my stomach would become knotted and I’d be in bathroom all day just THINKING about a social event coming up. Thankfully I’m not as bad as I used to be, but still struggle. I also stutter around new people, and that was enough to never make new friends. It’s affected my job as well. I’m so glad you’ve found treatment that works for you, it’s so important! Thank you for sharing!

    • ruthinrevolt
      Author
      29th May 2018 / 10:03 am

      Aww, I’m sorry to hear you have such a difficult time with it, but I’m glad to know you’re doing a bit better now! It’s such an awful thing to have to live with, but I’m sure you’re doing even better than you give yourself credit for. 🙂

      Thank YOU for reading and commenting!

  10. 29th May 2018 / 8:02 am

    Thank you for sharing your story, Ruth! I feel the same as you, I struggle with my anxiety too and sometimes it’s just too much! You described everything so well and I think that people can relate to what you’ve written or can just learn more about anxiety! Lovely blog post, Ruth!😊

    Xoxo
    Shirley | https://shirleycuypers.blogspot.be

    • ruthinrevolt
      Author
      29th May 2018 / 10:12 am

      Thank you so much, Shirley! It really is so hard to live with it sometimes, and I wish more people understood just how badly it can affect your life. I think there’s still very much the mentality of “getting over it” but it feels impossible some days! x

  11. 29th May 2018 / 9:59 pm

    This is such a fab post, I really felt every word that you said. Whilst my anxiety has been specifically over one topic and not as generalised, it definitely resonated with me. Amazing insight! I love your writing style xx

    • ruthinrevolt
      Author
      29th May 2018 / 10:04 pm

      Sorry to hear you struggle with it, too. Thank you so much for your lovely comment! x

  12. 2nd July 2018 / 3:00 pm

    This is so well written and so relatable for me personally. I’m at the stage now where I’ve been living with low-level anxiety for as long as I can remember, and so I’m used to just rehearsing things over and over again etc and have those coping mechanisms, but the times when it gets worse are just so awful, and so debilitating. Thank you for sharing your story, and I hope the future is a much brighter one!

    Cordelia || cordeliamoor.squarespace.com

    • ruthinrevolt
      Author
      2nd July 2018 / 9:14 pm

      I’m sorry to hear you have been struggling with this, too. I truly hope you are able to access some form of help and can start to feel better. 🙂

  13. 28th July 2018 / 3:08 pm

    Thank you for being so brave, open and honest. I suffer too. I don’t often talk about it much because I’m quite a proud person. But this is truly inspiring. Xxxx

    • ruthinrevolt
      Author
      28th July 2018 / 7:25 pm

      Awwww, thank you, love!

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