" Anxiety is knowing however much you plan ahead, you still expect the worst to happen."
What is the first thing that springs to mind when you hear the word 'anxiety?'
Attacks? Stress? Sweaty palms? Nervousness? For me, its the meticulous planning that comes with living a life around social anxiety. Lets say I need to go to the supermarket for a weekly shop. Before even stepping out of the door, I would need to plan for how I get there, if the shop is going to be busy, queues at the checkouts etc. Planning helps provide a little peace of mind in the lead up to the event, but at the same time increases anxiety - because you are thinking of all the bad things that could happen and trying to account for them.
Last weekend I went to a local beer festival. I'd been looking forward to it for AGES - as many of you will know, beer is my one true love. As excited as I was, I just could not shake this feeling of anxiousness. I spent most of the week before planning, looking at the itinerary trying to figure out the exits. The rational part of me constantly berating the irrational side with the same question - "why?" It was only a 20 minute drive from home, and yet I was anxious about driving with my (long-suffering) girlfriend in the car with me. Everything just seemed to pile up.
We got there, parked up and went into the site but, try as I may, I just couldn't let go. There's two things I really struggle with: too many people, and queues. The festival was packed, and it was a 5-7 minute queue for a drink.
Inside, I was screaming.
The 'Wild Beer Co' Beer Festival
"It feels like your brain got switched from 40 mph to 140 mph and your body can’t keep up. You can’t breathe or think or run away."
It's hard to describe the physical and mental rush of symptoms when you trigger. Something seemingly insignificant can cause you to go from fine to a quivering wreck in a matter of seconds. When it hits, it's as if you are frozen to the spot, trapped in an invisible prison with your mind the only guard. You tell yourself over and over "I'm ok. It's fine," but the symptoms do not relent. For me, it's at this point I have to physically get up and move out of the situation - be it at a doctors appointment, out for a meal with friends, or at a beer festival.
Luckily for me, my partner is super understanding. She knows when I'm fighting and will often make the decision to move, simply so that I don't have to feel guilty about making it myself. Needless to say, I'm a little disappointed I wasn't able to see this one through, especially after looking forward to it as much as I did.
The thing with anxiety is that it has its highs and its lows. Your emotional state may peak for a while, and the symptoms will be rough, but eventually it will level out and the anxiety begin to decrease. Your body simply cannot keep it up for too long - it's exhausting. Exposure therapy revolves around this, each time you stay in the triggering situation that little bit longer, waiting for your body to tire and the anxiousness to decrease.
This time around, I let it beat me. But I didn't go home and wallow in self-pity. I took myself straight back out into another triggering situation because I wanted to take something positive away from the day. Keep pushing yourself and you'll get there. One day at a time.