Inside the mind of an anxious person
What I think about every day and how to cope.
**WARNING: This could trigger some people. Read at your own risk**
I remember my fiance once asked, “What goes through your mind when you have anxiety?” Oh boy, did I throw him for a loop? This was a couple of years ago back when I smoked (sorry, Mom. I quit, I promise). Here’s the answer I gave him:
“One time, I finished a cigarette while I was driving, and I was about to throw it out the window when I thought about how it could fly up into the hood of the car right behind me and blow it up since it’s still lit. So I held onto it, even though it was the middle of winter and I was freezing.”
Irrational? Yes. Did knowing that help me let go of it? Hell no.
Daily, my mind is running a mile a minute. But ever since the incident, the run has become a sprint. And, just like a runner, if I’m not careful, I can careen out of control. That talk with my fiance got me thinking that there are people probably don’t understand what goes through the mind of an anxious person. Keep in mind that I also suffer from PTSD, and every person is different.
These are the five things I think about. Every. Single. Day.
Is that person following me?
It doesn’t matter if I am with someone, or by myself; I am always looking over my shoulder. If someone is behind me, I keep track of how long the person has been following, if the distance between us has fluctuated, and which side they are on so I know which elbow to use, just in case.
What is the best escape route in case of an emergency?
At every place I’m in, I automatically look at where the exits are and the best plan of action to get there. At home, I know that a jump from the second story window won’t seriously hurt. I don’t do this because I think that everyone is out to get me. I do this because when the shooting happened, I didn’t know what to do. It’s always nice to have a backup plan.
Do they hate me?
I think about this all the time, and it is truly exhausting. Besides having normal human emotions, I also have the obsessive ability to overthink. I remember the first time I took medication, and when it kicked in, it was almost like I was high. My mind slowed down, and it was the most rest I had gotten in three years.
That sounded stupid.
This is my black hole, and what has probably prevented me from making friendships, contributing to conversations, and creating thoughtful explanations of my ideas. I cannot count the times I have wanted to take back something that I have said in a group setting. This is also the reason why I don’t share my story very often. Even now, I have debated on whether to post this blog, whether anyone will care, or if it’s too invasive. I’m trying not to listen to myself.
There’s someone in the backseat of my car.
Ok, this one is totally my PTSD. This thought started right after the shooting but in my home setting. I would come home, turn on all the lights, and look in every room (even the closets) before I could relax. After a month of counseling, I started to become more relaxed at home, but my paranoia transitioned to my car. My fiance and I were long-distance at the time, so those two-hour car rides back and forth were agonizing. Even though I would understand no one was in the car when I started driving, after an hour I would convince myself that someone was in the back. Now I just do a walk around the car, looking in the windows to make sure nobody got in there.
What is my point?
My point is, the mind plays tricks on people all the time, but when you have anxiety, it’s amplified by a hundred. My mind doesn’t work like the average person’s anymore, and I had to learn how to deal with these thoughts that would run rampant in my brain.
One way I deal with it is to ask myself, “Is this real, or is this my anxiety?” Then I would logically go through each thought, step by step, to understand what was bothering me. Once I got to the root of the problem, I would then ask, “Is this something I can change or not?” If I can, then I would try to fix it. If I can’t, I would try to accept it. I wasn’t very good at this tactic at first, but I’m getting better at it.
Another way is doing breathing exercises to calm me down. My favorite, “boxed breathing,” has helped me focus my mind on something I can control. And it’s easy to learn. Take your finger and start to make a box. Breathe on the downward and upward strokes and hold your breath on the cross strokes. It takes concentration so your mind will refocus.
Above all, it’s essential to have a support team, be it, family, friends, or a combination. My fiance is so understanding and probably gets texts at least once a week from me about my thoughts. My sister is always willing to talk through anything, as are my parents. I am so thankful for them because I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.
To whoever is reading this, I hope that you find some comfort knowing you are not alone. I hope that you learned some new tricks to handle your thoughts. And I hope that you have a support team that you can talk to. If not… hi, my name is Kaitie, and I support you.