This is a continuation of Beginner’s Guide Part 1/?: Anxiety. Take a look at this post before reading this one!
I have definitely experienced irritability, and for the longest time, I thought it was exclusive to my sensory sensitivities, or that I was just really bad at controlling it. But it was only until very recently that I figured it was also coming from anxiety. This was before I even knew I had it. I only figured it out in 2018, after graduating college. Seems so long ago now.
Misophonia, my neurological sensory sensitivity, is likely the main culprit of my development of anxiety. If you don’t know what misophonia is, please read about it here. But the main thing about this was how irritable I’d get when hearing a trigger sound. Fight/flight/freeze would kick in and I’d feel so much rage and feel irritable most of the day afterwards. I thought for the longest time that irritability and rage came from exclusively that. Now that I have a better understanding of where it’s also coming from, I’m better able to treat it. Medication is one method, and journalling is another. There’s no official medication or treatment for misophonia, so treating anxiety and depression is what I’m doing.
I didn’t know my muscles were tense, or that I looked tense, until my fiance pointed it out. If I was anxious about something, he pointed out that I clench up, play with my hands, and my shoulders are stiff. When I’m relaxed, I’m more talkative, playful, and flirty around him. I am more physical as well. I now practice ways to loosen my muscles. Even if I’m not anxious, I marvel at how tense I can be. I used to do stretches everyday and just general exercise, so I think I’ll take that up again. What I do currently is consciously notice my muscles. I intentionally tighten them, then let them relax. If it’s my neck that feels tense, I do neck stretches. This helps me feel more relaxed.
Trouble Falling or Staying Asleep
Falling asleep takes awhile for me. My mind is prone to wandering, about everything that stresses me out, to past memories that weren’t so pleasant. Additionally, my mind likes to make up scenarios that would likely never happen and create awful scenes in my mind. My house burning down, my fiance getting killed, a particular family member giving me massive anxiety over something specific. I wake up in the middle of the night a lot and have trouble getting back to sleep. Or I wake up ridiculously early.
I’ve noticed that when I’m very anxious about something, my body wakes me up early. I was like this for the longest time. thinking I was an early bird, but nope. Just anxious. About everything. It’s a lot better now, even though falling asleep is still a little difficult. Naps are difficult too at times. I took one today and I was twitching! This happened a few times and I wasn’t able to nap very well. I hope this doesn’t become a regular thing.
The dreaded panic attacks. These used to be so, so frequent. I would be thinking about something that was worrying me, feel my chest get tight, and I’d have the intense urge to scream and cry. This would happen mostly at night, but sometimes it would persist for a day. Sometimes longer. I’d be talking to my fiance–boyfriend at the time–about something that was bothering me, and sometimes he wouldn’t understand or get frustrated. And then I’d break down, and he’d soften up and help me feel better. There were times he’d do everything right and I’d still break down. We both got better; me with medication and him with remedying his frustration and impatience.
While on medication (the lowest dose at the time), I experienced three days of hardly any sleep and ongoing panic because I was trying to change my sleep schedule for a long day of working the polls for election day. I saw my psychiatrist the day before I was supposed to go in, and he upped my dose, saying I shouldn’t be experiencing that due to a sleep schedule change. My dose has been upped again since that last visit as well. My fiance and I still have much to learn about each other. As I continue medication, there may be new side effects, behavioral or physical at first. If I ever decide I don’t need the medication anymore, there will likely be side effects to that too, and we’ll have to work through them together. But damn, the progress we’ve made still astounds me.
Avoiding Social Situations
Trigger warning: Sexual HARASSMENT; please skip this section if you feel the need.
I only participate in social situations if I’m with a group of friends. Even when I’m with friends, I still get very anxious about speaking. Growing up, I was convinced no one cared about me or what I had to say. This was mostly due to bullying and people from school saying I was stupid, slutty, a religious freak, sexually/verbally harrassing me online, and what-have-you. My main friend circle was bullied too. Why speak and engage with these people if they’re going to talk about me like this, right? “Are most people like this?”, I thought to myself, and I’d just resort to staying quiet. Guess that’s why I’m a good listener.
I became convinced people were judging me the minute I left home. Saying nothing didn’t spare me from perceived judgement either. I had trust issues growing up and only engaged with a few friends from school. I mostly had friends who went to other schools. I met my best friend in a theater camp. We clicked immediately. She was the only person I felt I could be myself with.
I’m a lot better now. I still avoid most old classmates like the plague, but the constant voices in my head saying I was being judged are at a minimum. Like I mentioned before though, even amongst friends, it’s still hard to speak up and just…be social. A lot of it has to do with my introverted nature, but it’s also anxiety. Though the voices are not as bad anymore, that fear of being judged for what I say is still there. I’m going to a weekly bible study on Zoom these days and we all participate and share our thoughts. This has helped me greatly, but, I still have work to do.
This ties into the way my mind wanders when I’m ready to fall asleep. I’ll suddenly go down this rabbit hole of irrational fears and the adrenaline keeps me awake. Suddenly I’m on my phone until 3am, at which point I finally try harder to fall asleep.
I also have several phobias. I have a phobia of all insects and spiders. Yes, even pretty ones like butterflies and ladybugs. I also have situational phobias like airplane or other modes of transportation failing, resulting in my death. I have a phobia of needles, so getting my blood drawn is very anxiety inducing, which causes muscle tension, which makes it harder for the blood to be drawn, which makes it hurt more, which makes me panic more.
I also don’t like being in large crowds. My anxiety will skyrocket. I found this out when, every time I went to the local fair, or other amusement park, I would not be having fun. I didn’t know why at the time. It started in my teen years and I thought I was weird and tried to push through it. Especially with my best friend. Additionally, my then-boyfriend at the time (I’m not talking about my fiance here) loved it. The crazy roller coasters, the games; he couldn’t get enough. Meanwhile I’m just done and want to go home. My fiance doesn’t like large crowds either, but not for anxiety reasons. He just prefers less crowded areas. I have come to accept this about myself as well, and I don’t force myself to try and enjoy what I used to as a kid.
We’ve come to end of this beginner’s guide on anxiety, Hope you learned something. I will put together another guide soon on how I deal with these.
Also, I think I will be taking advantage of Sunday as a day off from blogging. Good? Good.
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