I feel many people have misconceptions about anxiety. I cringe internally when people at work say “ooh, I nearly had a panic attack”. But I can’t blame them. Before I was diagnosed I knew very little about anxiety. I had heard of people having panic attacks on occasion, but that was about it. But now I can’t bear to see how anxiety is shown in the media. The examples given most often are introverted teenagers in hoodies avoiding social situations. It also always seems to be mentioned in the same breath as depression, and is seen as the less serious sister of the former – because everyone worries, right?
But it isn’t just worrying a lot. It isn’t being an introvert, or being shy. You can lead a perfectly happy, functional life, with a job and friends. But suddenly, out of nowhere, this unknown force inside of you, “anxiety” plunges you into a different world. You feel dread without knowing why. You feel sick, scared and want to curl up in a ball. You have no idea why you feel like this, but you convince yourself there must be a reason, something bad must have happened, or will happen, because otherwise why would you feel this way? You can’t understand how you can go from self-assured and confident one moment, to feeling like everything is spinning out of control the next. The world is surreal – it is happening around you but you aren’t a part of it. You are looking at everything from behind glass. You are trapped in a nightmare.
Anxiety isn’t just “worrying too much” and a panic attack is much more than having to breathe into a paper bag. It is something much, much more than that.