I have been anxious for as long as I can remember. I grew from an awkward and anxious child to an awkward and anxious adult. As a teenager I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression, but it was only as an adult that I learned more about what it actually means to be anxious.
Having anxiety doesn’t just mean being nervous or worrying. When my mind starts racing and I can’t decide which thing to think about, that’s anxiety. When my chest feels like it’s going to explode from pressure, that’s anxiety. When I snap at a co-worker for no reason at all, or I am inexplicably moody, that’s anxiety. When I spend the entire weekend wondering if I’ll be fired for something I said on Friday, that’s anxiety. When I randomly start crying, or laughing, or jumping up and down, that’s anxiety. When I flake on plans at the last minute, you can bet it’s because of anxiety.
Anxiety presents in lots of ways that may not be obvious. Unfortunately for me, most of the time mine presents as anger. What does that mean? It means when I feel anxious on the inside, it manifests itself on the outside as me being pissed off. So when I was a kid and my sister was comforted for being upset, I was scolded for losing my temper. Not that I hold anything against my parents, because I really was a little shit. Back then my anger-anxiety looked like me losing my temper all the time. When I lost a video game, I would throw the controller. When my sister teased me, I would hit her. Tiny triggers were huge triggers, and my level of anger-anxiety varied from moment to moment.
Now, with the help of medication, my anger-anxiety is more subtle, but still debilitating at times. Anxiety makes me snap a response without thinking and what I say sounds way different in my head than it did coming out of my mouth so I think about it constantly for several days, but I am also too anxious to correct what I said in the first place. It’s a snowball effect that can get out of control. When I talk negatively, complain, or rant, that’s usually anxiety7. Even as I type this, my chest feels like it is being stepped on by a stiletto heel. That’s anxiety.