Did I display much outward anger…no. Was I was internally conflicted…very much so. This could be a more dangerous situation because the outside world did not see what was inside me. If I had lashed out at others or began exhibiting signs that something was wrong, then I may have sought help earlier. I felt that anxiety was my personal problem and that it shouldn’t be discussed, but the real reason was fear stopping me from telling people.
Why would someone growing up in a loving, middle class family with an active social and sports life be internally conflicted? Anxiety challenges and depression do not discriminate on gender, race, income, or religion. It can feel overwhelming and when those feelings become unbearable and help is not received, can lead to tragic results.
So where did my internal conflict come from? Reflecting back on my experiences, it was clear. I was having frequent panic attacks and when I wasn’t having one, I was “living” in fear that another one would strike at any moment. I put living in quotations because I don’t consider living in a constant anxious state as living, it felt more like surviving, hoping that the attacks wouldn’t be as frequent and that they wouldn’t be too severe today.
So where was the anger coming from?
I was constantly under attack from my mind as I would feel physical sensations and have negative thoughts that led me to think I was going to die. This was uncomfortable to state it mildly and I was frustrated because I didn’t know what was actually happening when this happened, I had no tools to fight back when it did. This created a feeling of helplessness as I was a victim to my mind by not knowing what was happening or what I could do about it, and thinking that I was the only person experiencing these feelings. The combination of helplessness, isolation, and fear of telling others is what created the internal conflict which manifested as anger.
The anger didn’t always remain internal and I did lash out at others when the frustration became strong. I was very sensitive to criticism and suggestions, especially when someone suggested areas to improve my hockey goal tending. It was ego and frustration reacting and I did not mean what I said, but was lashing out because I was upset with my inability to control my anxiety. I would have admitted it, but that would have meant moving away from being a victim, the place I resided for many years because it was comfortable and it became my version of “normal.”
This set up a negative spiral as I felt a lot of shame and embarrassment about living this way, but those same feelings made it difficult for me to admit. When I hit my bottom, it was clear that this was not a healthy condition and change was needed. When I began telling people, there was no shame or ridicule from them, only support and understanding. Many people now felt comfortable to share their own anxiety experiences with me because they were struggling for answers and felt alone. Everyday I meet more people that have anxiety challenges and feeling isolated, the question of “how can I be the only one?” cannot be farther from the truth. It’s a very common challenge, if you tell a trusted person about your challenge, you will likely be surprised that they may have a similar challenge or know someone that does.
Always remember that You Are Not Alone, when these thoughts come around, ask around, google the challenge, look for resources, you will find countless others that share the same challenge.