#Fearless Family Writer
I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder seven years ago when I was a freshman in college. I have lived side by side with it and have seen its every ugly angle. Anxiety can make my hands tremble, quicken my breath, turbo-spin my thoughts, and make tears sting my eyes.
This is the anxiety that I studied in school. But, my anxiety doesn’t always look like that.
It isn’t always an anxiety attack, or worried thoughts, or shaky hands. Sometimes, anxiety is the pounding of my heart when I’m in a crowd; other times, its the voices in my head saying “I’m not deserving”.
But, at its worst, its the anger that transforms me into a different person.
My anxiety can come out as wrath. All-consuming anger that blinds me and turns me into another person. I don’t like that person. I’m afraid of her. She’s uncontrollable, mean, and hateful. She’s ugly, broken and cruel. But behind all of the anger and mean words, my anxiety is lurking in the background. The anger is anxiety that has peaked and activated a fight or flight response within me; and I never choose flight.
But once the anger has dissipated, I’m drained, exhausted and left feeling guilty and horrible. “I deserve to feel thisway. I’m the cause!” I’m left with the memories of fear and sadness on my fiancé’s face; anger and disgust on my mother’s. This version of me isn’t the person they know.
She isn’t the person they love and want to be around. She’s the person that told her mother she hated her, because she felt trapped. She’s the person that snapped at her fiancé who was keeping her out of trouble because she felt controlled. She’s the person that threw a book across the room out of frustration and pent up anger.
She’s not the kind, smart, loving woman that everyone sees. She’s the horrible darkness I keep hidden behind closed doors.
I can remember having these “anger attacks” throughout my life. They happen about once every three to four months or so. I used to think I was just reacting to things in my environment: unfair treatment from my parents, rude comments from friends or lack of freedom. But when I took a deeper look, I saw the anxiety lurking inside. I thought the anxiety was only in the aftermath of my wrath, but really it was the cause of it all.
The anger builds up slowly over time. I collect pieces from my worried thoughts: “you’re trapped,” “you’re never going to be happy,” “it’s always going to be this way”. Sometimes I’m able to silence them and call them out in being lies, but other times they just hide somewhere in the back of my mind waiting for an opportunity to be released. The anger gives my anxious thoughts their release and expression. The anxiety has been silenced for so long that it relishes its chance to be heard. The longer I’m allowed to be angry the more the monster takes over and I am overwhelmed. I completely lose control of myself and my emotions and spiral deeper and deeper into the anger.
While the anger attack lashes out at those around me, harming them with my words and malice, the aftermath is my punishment. I refuse to eat, move, or allow myself to be comforted by others. I have been horrible to everyone and I don’t deserve to eat or feel kindness. I haven’t earned it and I refuse to accept it. I stay in this weepy, self-loathing state until someone else pulls me out of it or until I feel like I have been punished enough.
I wish I could say that I have found some magical cure for all of this; wise words of wisdom, a prolific formula so we would never have to experience these problems again, but I don’t. I am a work in progress and controlling anxiety takes a lot of work. I can, however, tell you things that help to ease my anxiety and will hopefully help control the anger if practiced.
- Soak it out. Never underestimate the power of a warm bath or shower! Anxiety and anger doesn’t just effect us mentally and emotionally, but also physically. It causes muscle tension (especially in my neck and shoulders) and can cause low back pain. A hot bath eases these symptoms and calms us down. Add bath salts with lavender or eucalyptus to make your bath even more relaxing.
- Inhale, Exhale. Breathing exercises help to calm us and bring us back to neutral. One exercise that helps me breathing in fours. Breathe in deeply through your mouth for four counts, hold for four counts, breathe out of your mouth for four counts, hold for four counts. Lather, rinse, repeat. When I’m angry it helps my to visualize the air I’m breathing in as a peaceful blue color and the air I’m breathing out as a dark red color. It’s like I’m inhaling peace and releasing all of my negative energy out.
- Pray. Looking to God for spiritual wisdom is one thing that always calms me down. It helps me to feel centered and connected. I lean on God to help me control the things I feel I cannot. I depend on His biblical promises to calm my frayed nerves. I ask God to forgive my behaviors because I know they are displeasing to Him and I look at the person that God wants me to become and try my best to act in that way. If you aren’t Christian I encourage you to speak to someone you trust who is. Listen to what they have to say, read what the Bible has to say about anxiety and decide for yourself to trust God. I know this is one key way that God has worked in my own life.
- Activate flight. Anxiety activates the body’s fight or flight response. Our bodies believe that we are in danger and so for some of us we fight. Those of us who are fighters have to activate our flight response. I don’t mean to run away from your problems or down the road. What I mean is we need to give ourselves some space. Take some time alone to get away from all the external factors and calm down. Practice the breathing exercises, drink a glass of water, take a nap or a bath if you are able to. You can talk it out and apologize later, but when we continue to engage with people or things that are making us angrier we are only elevating the situation and making it worse.
I know that I am not alone in this expression of anxiety. Approximately 18.1 percent of people in the US experience an anxiety disorder. That is around 40 million people! So I know that someone reading this has experienced the same thing and I hope my experience can help you. For those of you reading that do not experience anxiety or were unfamiliar with this expression of anxiety I hope I have helped to educate you. We have to learn that we are in control of our own bodies and actions. We can not allow anxiety to control us. But with time and practice I think that we can learn to control the monster within.
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