Life in the Cycle of Anxiety

Have you ever been so afraid of tripping that you couldn’t take a flight of stairs, even though something like that would never happen? This is the stage setting for my anxiety disorder. I have written about my bipolar disorder a lot of times, but my anxiety didn’t let me write about my anxiety. I stand in front of the staircase, unnerved, not being able to move an inch because I am afraid I would trip and fall.  

I have given up a lot of things because I am constantly anxious about the outcome. Half of these things are made up in my mind; half of the things that make me paranoid will never happen.  

I have given up escalators because I think I might miss the step. I am distressed at the thought of entering an elevator because I fear I might suffocate if it stops midway. In between the escalator and the elevator, I really have no choice but the stairs. And when it comes to stairs, I am afraid of them, too.  

Imagine living like this for the rest of your life. This is my life. 

This is paranoia. This is what triggers anxiety, and anxiety is what triggers more paranoia. There is really no escape from this monster that hovers over my head all day and night, every day of my life. Yes, I do have medicines, but they don’t help all the time. The medicines are mostly effective when I am having a panic attack.  

Let’s take a moment to understand panic attacks. Imagine writing a blog post on a topic that is very close to your heart. For me, it was writing about my bipolar disorder. Imagine, while writing it, all you can think of is how this is going to affect your life, how it is going to be perceived by people — people who don’t even matter to you. “How” this, “how” that. And suddenly you feel like your heart will explode inside your chest. Your hands and feet go cold, and you start sweating in spite of the chill you feel in your bones. And now you cannot breathe anymore, you are suffocating. Some invisible entity is choking you. You’re helpless, your hands and feet are numb and shaky. All you need to do is take the prescribed medication, but you can’t even manage that.  

Even if you do manage to take the medicine, it takes ages to breathe again. Those few minutes — just before you can calm down and regain some of your strength — feel like a lifetime of pain.  

This is what a panic attack feels like to me. I can say this for every person who goes through this: Panic attacks are worse than anything anyone ever feels, because all of it happens in your head. When I first told my doctor about the panic attacks, she told me there would be no physical repercussions from it. However, it cannot be cured. I have to try and control it, take the medication when I experience a panic episode. Do meditation, do yoga. Relax, breathe slowly, in and out.  

She knows that none of this is going to help me when it comes to anxiety disorder and panic attacks, but she has done the duty of a good doctor. 

I have tried it too. Every time I tried meditation, my racing thoughts would disrupt my concentration. Every time I thought of doing Yoga, my depression wouldn’t let me get out of bed. Every time I tried to relax and breathe, my anxiety would knock me out cold. I am trapped in this never-ending contradictory cycle of hopelessness.  

With my already rattling bipolar disorder, anxiety gets worse. It gets worse when I am manic, pointing out everything that could ever go wrong with my plans, giving me a panic attack. It gets worse when I am depressed, making me feel guilty about not being able to live life normally. 

My only hope is to find a window in between where I can at least be at peace for a moment. I am yet to find that little miraculous window. 

To everyone taking their time to read this post, thank you for trying to understand. And to everyone who is battling anxiety like I am, I just want to say you all are brave and amazing fighters. 

Read more of Tannika’s writing at her Hope is Good page, and read her other posts for IBPF here. 

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