Trapped. Suffocated. Debilitated. Alone.
Some of these words may have come up for you when thinking or talking about your anxiety. If so, I first want to say you are free ~breathe~ you are beyond capable, and you are so NOT alone, I promise.
Anxiety disorders affect over 40 million people just in the U.S. and of varying ages from young teens to people in their 60's and 70's. If you are reading this I'm guessing either you yourself are struggling with anxiety or someone close to you is. Whatever the case may be, it's important to remember that anxiety at its core purpose is a primitive aspect that most sentient beings can experience to some degree.
An actually useful chemical response
What do I mean by that? I mean that anxiety is a chemical response programmed in the body commonly known as
'fight or flight' and when humans and animals sense they are in danger, this concoction of chemicals is released within the body. The common chemicals are norepinephrine (adrenaline), epinephrine, and cortisol. Once these are released we can experience increased heart rate, shallow fast breathing, shaking, the urge to vomit, urinate or defecate, dry mouth, inability to swallow, and the (rational) mind can often go blank.
I also want to take a moment to mention the less known mechanism called 'freeze or fawn'. This response seen in nature is when you see a tiger get a gazelle and within a second the gazelle just freezes and submits, no fight, completely limp to the traumatic situation at hand. This response happens to humans as well during high anxiety moments and traumatic times. And often you may experience first 'fight or flight' so severely that your body uses the 'freeze or fawn' chemicals to calm the body down. This, in a nutshell, is much of what I dealt with through my extreme bouts of anxiety.
There are many reasons that cause someone to have anxiety or panic attacks and those triggers can be very different from person to person. One person's ideas and feelings of perceived danger and trauma is potentially going to be very different than another person's idea and feelings. One thing that the anxiety will have in common is the same chemicals that are produced in the body.
Riding the Highs and Lows
Now I didn't even think of it until years after experiencing these extreme fluctuations of ups and downs from these chemical responses, but like many chemicals humans ingest such as prescription drugs and illegal drugs, chemicals can be very very addictive. Highs and lows can also be very addictive and more often than not as humans, we are out chasing the 'highs' and sometimes enjoy the subdued-ness of the 'lows'. I say "I didn't think of it" because I didn't, a psychologist with a background in biology and neuroscience brought it to my attention during a session a few years back.
It then became clear to me that I had become subconsciously and biologically quite addicted to the chemical rush of the adrenaline high to the crashing, immobilized low of my panic attacks. And I began to treat myself a bit more like an addict of sorts to work through this in my meditations and self-reflections as I noticed the moments before an attack was coming on. This cycle ingrained itself so deeply in my body that soon I was living my life like an addict as well. I was always chasing relationship highs, letting them crash and nearly basking in the subdued lows after. I would chase after really high achievements in my job life and school work that were completely unrealistic in that moment and surely enough, wallow in the crumbling.
My life became a huge cycle of extreme pendulum swinging, and the harder I would swing in one direction the farther I would swing in the opposite. This pattern owned my life for sometime. I eventually wasn't accomplishing anything, I couldn't have healthy relationships, I was unable to focus on my school work, I absolutely loathed going to my job, and most of the time could barely enjoy hanging out with my friends. I had allowed my anxiety to create a
prison in which I lived in and for a long while, where I felt I couldn't get out...
All I wanted was to be happy like how so many others seemed, I wanted to be "normal". Not only was I sabotaging my my personal life, I was also sabotaging my body. The stress chemicals and hormones were exhausting my adrenals, kidneys, heart, lungs, digestive system, and pretty much everything else in my body and mind. It took many years of hard work, research, therapy sessions - group and one-on-one, regimented exercise and diets, meditation, and a lot of crying!
You hold the Master Key
It took me making a promise to myself that I would dedicate time and energy into healing this destruction I had so unknowingly done to my body and mind. But once I knew, I couldn't go back. The awareness was the first key that unlocked many more prison gates finally allowing me to step out of my cell, breathe in fresh air, look at myself and say "you did it, you set yourself free".
I will say, I still have my bouts of anxiety from time to time but I know myself now and I made that promise to take care of myself and love myself. We all make our variety of prisons that debilitate us and inhibit our happiness, but just remember when you're feeling trapped and confined, you created the prison and you have the Master key.
Commit to loving yourself and freeing yourself, you are beyond worth it! ~Om Shanti~