things you might not think are anxiety

2021, mental health

Hello,

I’ve not written a post for a week or two and for someone who attempts to maintain a two-post-a-week schedule, it’s not what I was hoping for.

I thought I was run down from work, a bit uninspired and prioritising playing video games with my fiancé but after a little reflection, I’m recognising that my anxiety is worse at the moment and I have less energy and most of that is going on work – work, eat and sleep is pretty much all I’ve been doing at the moment and I’m slowly learning that this is okay; it’s all I’ve got energy for and I have to reserve the energy I have for what’s most important, which right now is getting through my last few weeks in my current job.

Taking this time to self reflect and realise how my anxiety is impacting me in ways I didn’t consciously realise, I thought I’d collate a list of a few symptoms of anxiety that aren’t always super obvious, even to the person suffering them. I always try to disclaim when I write about mental health – I’m not a medical professional and I can only describe my own experiences, so read with a pinch of salt I suppose.

Not being able to shower

Sounds gross, but it genuinely isn’t a choice. Lying in bed before another day of working from home and trying to find the energy to get out of bed early enough to have a shower feels ridiculous – I lie there thinking about how there are no physical limitations of me going for a shower; I can get out of bed, turn on the shower and do it, but then the mental barrier becomes a physical barrier and it’s impossible. It’s hard to describe but it’s like my body and mind are too heavy to get out of bed until I absolutely have to (i.e. something with consequences, like not going to work). That’s another thing…

Not getting out of bed or not moving off the sofa

It’s not about laziness or comfort, often it isn’t comfortable at all – when I’m lying in bed or on the sofa it feels like I’m physically trapped; the thought of moving and doing something productive or useful (like showering) makes my chest ache and sometimes I feel like I could burst into tears because it’s just so much.

But then there’s the cycle of feeling so ridiculous – for something as simple as standing up and doing something else makes it hard to breathe? Rationally, it sounds so stupid but it’s not – anxiety makes mental barriers become physical and the choice or intent of the person is another thing to fight.

Being tired all the time

A phrase (metaphor?) in the disability community is not having enough spoons – in it’s simplest terms, say everyone has a set number of spoons to get through the day, for someone without anxiety or a disability etc, it’s one spoon to get out of bed, one spoon to shower, one spoon to make breakfast and so on, but for some it takes three spoons to get out of bed, five spoons to shower, and then all the spoons are gone. So we have to choose how we spend our spoons wisely because we don’t have many.

So you can either look at it that we have less spoons to work with or everything takes more spoons, hence very little energy and being careful about what we use our precious spoons for.

Not having the energy to cook

Cooking a full on meal can take be a source of relaxing, winding down at the end of the day, but it can also be a massive chore and require more brain power than I have. This can either look like ordering too many take outs, only ever eating frozen food or something simple like pasta with cheese that takes minimal effort.

This is a really nice one to help with if you notice a friend in need – whether it’s getting some nice easy ready meals that might be a bit healthier or going round (if they want company) and cooking for them, having a nice experience of cooking together and a bit of social interaction and love may really help!

Stomach aches, acid reflux, dietary problems

One thing that is barely talked about with anxiety is the physical symptoms – the anxiety stomach pain, the headaches, the way your food just doesn’t seem to agree with you in any way, the nausea – it’s a lot. It can increase anxiety around food which it a never ending cycle of making it worse.

As anxiety ebbs and waves, these symptoms often get better or worse with no pattern or cause, but if you know someone who’s suffered from anxiety and ‘appears fine’ but mentions stomach pain, needs to go to the toilet more frequently or is hesitant around food, be mindful of them.

Not being able to sit still, feeling achy and restless

More physical symptoms, though I’m not 100% sure this one is anxiety or just my grandma joints. My fiancé calls me the Fidget Queen because I can’t lie the same way in bed for more than about 10 minutes, I’m always having to change how I’m sitting on the sofa and more recently with working from home, I have to get up and move just to stop my knees from aching under my desk all day.

I don’t know if it is anxiety, but the restlessness seems to match feelings of uncertainty and I wouldn’t be surprised if not being able to sit still was a part of that.

But it might just be my creaky knees. The point still stands I guess?

There is a lot of stereotyping around anxiety – which on the one hand isn’t a bad thing because it means a lot more people are aware of the biggest symptoms, can look out for their friends and be mindful and knowledgable about how to help if they can. But there’s so much that isn’t talked about.

Anxiety is mental illness, but that doesn’t mean all it’s symptoms are emotional – I think generally if someone thinks of a person with anxiety they think panic attacks, struggling in social situations and trembling hands, but I think those are more representative of a person in anxiety crisis than day to day living with anxiety.

The thing with anxiety, as it was anything, is to just be mindful – check in on the ones you love when you have the mental capacity, share your spoons where you can and be considerate; being human is hard, but we’re all doing it together.

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

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