Anxiety is not always accompanied by sadness, and sometimes anxiety just is. It's not always triggered or brought on by some awful event. Sometimes, it just appears. Like your body thinks it's walking up to the high dive, but you're actually just sitting at home reading a pleasant book and you're all, "Whoa body, chill."
In the past, I have not been so open about my struggles with anxiety and depression because I didn't know it was so bad, and it was embarrassing. Now, when I talk about my anxiety,I am consciously breaking out of my shell and saying, "I'm imperfect and have these issues and they actually effect my life in these big ways, but I'm learning how to be better." Please good lord don't pity the person with anxiety or depression. I don't want pity, I need empathy. And I need to feel like I am enough. I don't feel like that yet, but I'm trying. That doesn't make me sad, because I accept that I'm human and it's more of an emotional shrug, Oh well. Someday I will feel that I am enough.
In the past I thought my anxiety was laziness. I really did. I was told often as a child that I was lazy, and so I've always believed I was lazy. But then I'd have days where I'd work my ass off for school or at work, or I'd have a really great day and tackle a million responsibilities and feel energized and optimistic and actually have fun doing it, and I'd think, wait a minute, I'm not lazy. I am not lazy.
(Just say no to labeling children.)
Anxiety for me, today, is this: I am sitting up to my neck in molasses, and my chest throbs and writhes... the kind of hurt where you're on the very edge of a cliff and your arms are spinning, trying to find balance so you don't topple into nothingness. It's the exact feeling of fear, only I'm not actually scared. The feeling of being on the verge of tears, only I'm not actually sad. And every time I move, my chest tightens more and my heart starts thumping like I've just run a mile. My throat catches and all of a sudden I can't take a full breath, my nerves feel like the visual sound waves in Disney's Fantasia, reacting to every single noise. I am a cup filling up with water, and every move, every sound, every time I try to get up and do something, the cup fills up a little bit more, until it threatens overflow. And the overflow is the break down. So I sit. Because I don't want to break.
I used to think this was sadness, but it's different. In the past couple years, I feel almost separated from myself as I'm experiencing these things; as if my logical mind is sitting beside myself, patting me on the shoulder, chin up buttercup. It can certainly lead to sadness, because I feel apathetic, guilty, stuck, without wanting to be stuck. Imagine having the physical feeling of fear without the actual fear -- it would still effect you, and might actually trick you into thinking you are very, very afraid. It feels a lot like fear, and while most of the time it's not, sometimes I am overtaken by illogical fears -- fear over losing my children, fear of my home being broken into, fear of being outside at night, fear of getting into an accident -- what makes it illogical is that in those moments, it is encompassing and paralyzing. But mostly, at this stage in my life, it's annoying.
The thing is, I've tried to make myself do things when I'm struggling with anxiety, and it took me probably years to realize it just doesn't work like that. I will overflow. My heart will thump, my chest will hurt, and it's not a race to beat the overflow, it is the overflow. My actions create the result, which is usually in the form of screaming at my children or shutting myself in the bathroom, crying, with the lights off.
Because of this, I avoid a lot of things. I avoid commitments, replying to messages, answering the phone, going to church, taking my kids to the park, making dinner, having people over. It effects me several times a week, and I am really growing tired of it. I don't feel like that is me... that's not who I am! Who I really am is someone who loves being with people, someone who wants to be creative and share my talents, someone who gets up in the morning ready to tackle what needs to be done.
But I am only that person maybe half the time, and the other 50% of the time, I am stuck on my couch, neck-deep in molasses, with sound waves piercing the flesh between the ribs in my chest and squeezing my lungs.