Anxiety in Adults
Anxiety can happen to anyone. Anxiety and feeling anxious are two separate feelings, at least from my perspective. It’s fairly normal for all of us to feel anxious: anxious about a new job; anxious about a presentation. But anxiety is more than feeling anxious; it’s a disorder. As I find myself becoming more of an adult each day (my mom would beg to differ!), I find that my anxiety is better at times and worse at other times. I’m finding I have more control; I’m able to prevent panic attacks and counteract situations that might trigger my anxiety. But I also know that it will never completely go away. I can do as much as possible to learn how to deal with it, but like I said it’s a disorder. But what do we think about when we hear the word “disorder”? Is it a good word? Is it a positive word?
One thing that bothers me as I feel more comfortable speaking about my anxiety is that people give me a strange look when I discuss it. It’s as if I can see right into their eyes the judgement and the questions that they are too afraid to ask because they are assuming something ridiculous. “She must be crazy; she has an anxiety disorder…” No I’m not crazy (but I can get a little angry when I watch the Eagles lose!). If I’m going to continue to speak about who I am and all of my flaws, strengths, and personality traits, I’m also going to be open about my anxiety. I want the world to stop looking at me like my anxiety defines who I am. It’s just another piece to the “Lauren Puzzle,” if you will.
I’m only twenty five and have many more amazing years ahead of me. I’m recently engaged and have already seen my anxiety flare up as we scramble around to plan our wedding. There are big moments in life where anxiety will be inevitable. For me, I’m assuming it will be my wedding, my first child, moving to a new home, trying to afford to move to a new home (haha)… For any adult as they navigate themselves from thirty to forty to fifty to sixty, they are going to run into changes that literally change their life. For someone with anxiety, that is also where they can see flare-ups: finding out about new health conditions, retirement, death of a loved one, feeling alone when the children move out… “You lose your identity, which brings up feelings of insecurity and a lack of self-worth,” says Dr. Friedemann Schaub, author of The Fear & Anxiety Solution.
Maybe a common theme for your anxiety as you get older is literally the fear of getting older, because getting older means change. You get married. You have children. Your kids move out. Your body looks different. Your body feels different; maybe it hurts; maybe you developed new injuries. You must eventually plan for retirement. How is your retirement plan? These stages are VERY VERY overwhelming for numerous reasons. What will happen once you retire? What will you do with all that time? You will have to create a new schedule with new hobbies. I think this feeling might be similar to when you first left your parents’ house. At least for me, I was freaking out once I arrived at college and realized all the responsibilities I was taking on. What would my schedule be? What would I do with all the random time in between classes? I was thrown into a situation where I had to create a new schedule with new hobbies. And I did. It took time, but I did. And what helped me was knowing I wasn’t alone. I think if we all remind ourselves that firstly, we are not alone in having an anxiety disorder, and secondly, we are not alone in having anxiety about being an adult [and an elder-adult] (if that makes sense?).
How can we aid ourselves in these feelings of anxiety? Use what you know. What do you normally do when you are feeling anxious? Are you just fueling the cycle, or are you trying to face your anxiety? Sometimes we brush our anxious feelings under the rug and hope they go away. When you get into an argument with someone, and see them the following day, did the argument go away during the 13 hours of non-communication? Unfortunately, probably not. Similarly, our anxiety won’t just go away when ignored. I know when I’m trying to down-play my anxiety, especially in public, everyone knows something is wrong. And three hours later when I’m home trying to go to bed, my mind is fully alert, thinking about 1000 different things. It doesn’t just go away.
I make sure to see a professional when I feel like things are over my head and too much to handle on my own. But I also know I can handle the little anxiety spurts that can occur once in a while. I’m aware what feeds my feelings of anxiety and try my best to control the situations I put myself in. But we can’t control everything. We can’t control life. We can’t always do it on our own. I think the sooner we can feel comfortable asking for help, and the sooner people accept not just anxiety but all other disorders openly, the easier communication will be about anxiety and changes in life.