Understanding and Recognizing the Signs of Anxiety

Admitting that you need help is hard. REALLY HARD. Even harder is confession of something that exposes your weaknesses and leaves you feeling vulnerable and uncertain. For me… that painful confession was admitting I needed help with my anxiety. I had all the signs of anxiety. I just didn’t recognize them in myself.

Several years ago, a friend of mine confided in me that she was struggling with anxiety. She shared feelings of inadequacies, of how it was affecting her marriage and her children. We shared tears and stories.

Many of her feelings and situations paralleled the life I was living. She had come to the right person for support. Oh, I was going to be a great encourager, confidante, and prayer partner.

Some of her experiences and feelings were a little too relatable though. And finally, one day she said to me, “Maybe you should talk to someone too.”

Just to clarify, the “someone” my friend was referring to was a psychologist.

Ha! I don’t have anxiety. I don’t need help! I can’t believe she would think that. I’m fine.

I really thought I was fine. I was just overly emotional, overly sensitive, moody, and angry. And I had inherited one hell of an attitude from my dad’s side of the family… it was just the family’s “personality”. It was how we were.

No, my behavioral pattern and emotional struggles were not the same as hers. I. DID. NOT. have anxiety. And I definitely didn’t need help.

Or did I?

Understanding and Recognizing Anxiety

Her comment echoed over and over in my mind. It haunted my thoughts after every emotional outburst. It made my heart ache with the painstaking realization that she was not wrong.

How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? Matt 7:4

It took me two years of mulling over the idea that I ‘may’ have anxiety, two friends’ sharing their stories of anxiety with me, and one of my children displaying the same emotional struggles before I could finally accept the fact I needed help.

If I didn’t have anxiety before, I sure did now after all this contemplation. In retrospect, it was silly of me to have waited to have the hard talk. It was silly of me not addressing a long standing issue that I was aware of sooner. I wasted 2 years that I could have been rebuilding a mentally healthier, happier me.

Friends, I don’t want to you to make the same mistake. Let’s face it, we’ve all experienced anxiety to some degree… sweaty pits and pounding heart when making a presentation, nervousness approaching the boss in hopes of a promotion or raise.

A certain amount of anxiety is healthy and natural. But if you’re questioning the health status of your anxious feelings, ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I constantly tense, worried or on edge?
  • Is my worry excessive?
  • Do I worry more days than not?
  • Have I had any fears that I know are irrational, but that I’ve been unable to shake?
  • Is it hard for me to control my worry?
  • Does my worry or anxiety interfere with work, school or family responsibilities?
  • Have I been avoiding any everyday situations or activities because they make me anxious?
  • Have I been watching for signs of danger?
  • Have I had any of the following physical and/or emotional symptoms?
    • Feelings of apprehension or dread
    • Anticipating the worst
    • Feeling tense, jumpy or overly cautious of danger
    • Sudden, unexpected attacks of pounding heart
    • Restlessness
    • Sweating
    • Headaches
    • Dizziness
    • Frequent bathroom issues
    • Shortness of breath
    • Feeling tired easily
    • Trouble concentrating
    • Irritability
    • Muscle tension or twitches
    • Shaking or trembling
    • Trouble sleeping or insomnia
  • Have I been experiencing anxiousness or worry for the past 6 months?

 

Do you know how many of those answers were a YES for me? MANY.

I was angry and irritated an incredibly large portion of my time. To the point those around me walked on eggshells so as not to provoke and enrage my internal beast.

The fear of danger that my parents instilled and overly cautioned me about as a child raged to life with my own children. Even despite the illogicality of those fears.

I had irrational visions of my oldest child spilling a pot of boiling water on his face and being burnt to an extreme degree. And in fear of this, I would yell at my boys to stay completely clear of the stove if there was something cooking.

My heart raced and my blood felt hot running through my veins when a friend asked for me to volunteer in children’s church. And I would avoid her because of it. She didn’t understand that the chaos with kids triggered my anxiety to the point that although I would hold it together there, I would come home and lose my crap with my own kids and husband.

I often thought that my kids and husband would be happier without me, without someone nagging and nitpicking and criticizing them.

Friends, do you see the warning signs? These were just a few of them. But there I was, thinking I didn’t have anxiety. I’m happy to say that admitting I needed help with these emotions was the best thing I ever did. For the first time in my life, I gained control of myself instead of trying to control everything around me to sooth my overwhelmed emotional state. Acknowledging my weaknesses has given me strength. It has given me understanding and a whole new perspective.

I’m far from perfect. There are still days when a big “Warning: Stay Away from this One” sign should be plastered to my forehead. But overall, life is really darn good. And I wouldn’t trade that hard, heart-wrenching “I think I may have anxiety” talk with my doctor for anything.

If you think this may be you, please ask for help. Anxiety disorders are manageable and curable with the right treatment and therapy. You are not stuck in this state.

Acknowledging is powerful. Asking for help is the boldest and best step you’ll ever take. Accepting that you don’t have control over everything will free you from anxiety’s grip.

You, my dear, are amazing and you’ve got this!

Alisha

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