The Physical Toll of Anxiety

This past week has been brutal for me, emotionally and physically.

Emotionally I’ve been sailing on choppy waves. There’s been a reprieve between rocking and rolling, but barely.

What always surprises me, though, is how anxiety can take such a physical toll. Before my trip to see Dad, I couldn’t sleep, I was weepy, and I was constantly grinding my teeth.

Last night, after we got home, I crashed. Because I no longer felt like I had to be on guard, my body just kind of…gave up. I ended up going to bed at 9 p.m. and slept until 9 this morning.

Today, I still feel rundown. I got out of the house to run some errands, but for the most part I was tired, and my body hurt all over. I don’t think I’m coming down with anything. It’s just that I’m not in “fight or flight” mode, like I have been for the past week.

It seems like the more I let myself get worked up over something, the worse I feel afterward.

I hope I can work on reducing anticipatory anxiety so that I can feel energized, rather than exhausted, and be able to enjoy more that life has to offer.

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The Closet

Whenever one is faced with a justifiable threat, that person experiences fight-or-flight symptoms. Say you’re walking along a path and you encounter a bear. My first instinct would be to flee.

Even when there’s no justifiable threat, I sometimes have the urge to run away. But sometimes there’s nowhere to run to.

Except for the closet.

I have holed myself up in a closet a few times. It’s not because I wanted to be in a small, enclosed space. It’s only because that was the only place I could escape to.

Both times I remember happened at college. The first time was at my freshman orientation. My mom was in a hotel nearby, but I couldn’t stay with her. I had to stay in the dorm. With another person sleeping in the room.

Growing up as an only child, I didn’t sleep with anyone else in the room. The only time I was in that situation was if I had or went to a slumber party, or I went on a camping trip with my dad.

So being in new surroundings with a stranger made it harder for me to fall asleep. The “What If” thoughts ran through my head, and I struggled with wanting to run away.

Instead, I went into the closet with a pillow, a blanket, and my headphones. I stayed up all night.

In the morning, the other girl’s mother came to pick her up and I remember her saying, “She’s been in the closet all night.” I felt ashamed, but I stayed in the closet until they left. I don’t remember if I told mom what I did, but I can picture that night vividly.

The second instance happened during my first few days in college. I wanted a private dorm room, but one wasn’t available yet, so I had a roommate. She was very nice and, other than adjusting to sleeping with another person in the room, I didn’t mind living with another person.

I was nervous about going to one of my classes. K and her boyfriend were hanging out in the room, and the urge to flee hit me so hard I didn’t know what to do. I said, “Excuse me” and went into the closet with my headphones. I’m sure K thought I was mental, but she never said a word and for that I am grateful.

I got a private room shortly after and didn’t have to resort to the closet again.

It may happen again, where I feel like I have to get away, but I’m hoping that I will be able to deal with my anxiety instead of hiding away.