Anybody who suffers from Anxiety will know what I mean when I say it can feel like something has overcome us and taken control of our insides. The sharp stabbing feeling in the chest, the tight knotting of the stomach, the dry mouth and a tight jaw. That’s just a few of the common symptoms of Anxiety I suffer with but there are many more depending on how prolonged or intense the episode is.
Since entering Sobriety I’ve enjoyed less frequent Anxiety but it still exists and each time it returns I get a reminder of the old days when it was medicated with alcohol (usually Whisky) and the warm yet harsh taste of the Single Malt gave me some immediate respite from the attack. Of course, it was doing nothing other than delaying an even worse return of the Anxiety come the next day!
I’ve just noticed I’m capitalising the word Anxiety every time I write it. I don’t profess to be a great writer so I have no idea if I should be doing it but maybe I’m giving it an undeserved and subconscious nod of how big of an impact it has had on my life. Recent years in sobriety have allowed me to take the upper hand a lot of the time which has further cemented my distain towards alcohol as it’s no coincidence my anxious struggles were tougher in my drinking days.
Depression, unlike Anxiety is the slow burner for me and it creeps up a few times per year but then hangs around like a bad smell for much longer than I’d care to have it in my company. I generally manage my depressive episodes quite well now that alcohol isn’t throwing umpteen curve balls and I can’t stress how important my medication is. I’m still on 40mg of Citalopram each day (the same dosage I was increased to whilst in the Psychiatric Hospital) and I don’t seem to have any obvious side effects to this other than the grinding of my teeth which happens a lot in my sleep according to the Dentist I see every six months. My array of coping mechanisms such as reading, running and yoga certainly help with fighting the depression which is why I constantly tell people to find appropriate feel good tools to keep in their well-being ‘toolkit’. We have removed alcohol from our life so there is this gaping hole to be filled because in the past Alcohol was seen as the ultimate tool to fix everything.
I digress. Back to Anxiety if I may?!
I’ve come to accept that I will live with Anxiety for the rest of my life. I have already demonstrated that by making healthy life choices we can reduce the frequency and severity of the condition but it’s rare to completely overcome it. In my own case I’ve been suffering with generalised anxiety since I was a teenager still in Secondary School (High school for the North American readers) and I never addressed this with Doctors until I was already into my twenties (and by that time, a binge drinker). This is the first time in my life where I’ve got a diagnosed condition which I manage with non-intrusive substances, although some people would challenge me on that with regards to my Anti-Depressants and Coffee intake.
I talk quite a lot about my Addictive Voice (the Beast) and how it talks to my consciousness in an effort to get me to consume alcohol. Whilst I don’t exactly describe Anxiety as another voice I do consider it to be a separate entity within me that uses my being as a home and it’ll travel to various parts of my body such as my stomach, chest, mouth, etc.
Anxiety is a normal feeling of fear or panic. When we face stressful situations, it can set off our brain’s alarm system, which tells us something isn’t right. Our brain wants the difficult situation to go away, so it makes us feel more alert, stops us thinking about other things, and even pumps more blood to parts of the body needed in that scenario – imagine the “Fight or Flight” situation where for example, somebody tries to attack you. You may stand and fight or you may run but both are using the same principle.
Most of us worry sometimes – about the usual things in life like relationships, work, money, school, etc. and we will become anxious if the stress intensifies but generally after the event or period of worry we calm down and the symptoms we have experienced completely disappear.
That’s not how an Anxiety disorder plays out though. Sure, I get anxious at times like I described above but my condition is prolonged and is not driven solely by events. I can be having a great week at work and home yet still find myself having a panic or anxiety attack out of nowhere. This is the problem – there can be no warning and no obvious cause which further fuels the fire and makes it even worse.
So yeah, I do consider it to be something that lives inside of me which will hibernate from time to time but it’s also very sensitive to almost any change within me and will let me know about it by becoming busy in my stomach, my chest or my head. Unfortunately for me once it awakens it takes a long time to settle back down again.