Yesterday I finished a Buzzfeed roundup of 24 comics about anxiety, and then I started worrying that maybe I don't really HAVE anxiety, because almost none of them seem familiar to my own experience at all, but then I thought maybe being anxious over whether you're really anxious or not is one of those paradox deals that cancels itself out. Or... something.
Even so, it still seems most of the comics I've seen online (and it's weird to describe them as "comics," given the subject matter) describe a kind of social anxiety I don't generally feel. In fact, the only common experience I found in that roundup was all the physical symptoms:
(Although they left out the near-certainty of impending death - that's a big one.)
And the difficulty in getting non-sufferers to understand my limitations:
So now I'm curious: tell me, fellow anxiety peeps, are you mostly only afflicted in social situations, or while thinking about social situations? You know, parties, group interaction, self-doubt, over-analyzing past conversations, that kind of thing? Or basically everything described in that roundup?
Because me, I seem to be struck by panic more from excessive stimulation (like watching a movie in the theater), situations I can't easily and immediately escape from (Disney rides, public transportation), or - though incredibly rare these days - random no-reason-whatsoevers while I'm relaxing at home (sudden heart palpitations.) I guess you could say my anxiety isn't very people-oriented, while it seems from these comics most other peoples' anxiety is.
I do tend to over-think things, I guess, and I dislike parties as much as the next introvert, but I never associated any of that with anxiety before - maybe because my "over-thinking sessions" have never led to a panic attack or panic-like symptoms. (And why do I feel like I should knock on wood right now? Ha!)
There is no "better" or "worse" form of anxiety, of course, so please don't think I'm trying to qualify it in any way. I'm just genuinely curious if social anxiety is really the most common, or if maybe it's just the most easily identified - and easiest to identify with, since I'd guess we've all experienced bouts of self-doubt and awkward social situations and whatnot, even if not to the extreme degree other anxiety-sufferers do.
And while we're on the subject, I've been wanting to share this ABC News article Felicia Day tweeted ever since I got back. Apparently some studies have found a (perhaps tenous) link between mental health disorders - like anxiety - and your gut health, which strongly correlates with my own experience. Often times anxiety and GI problems are a chicken-or-the-egg thing, with most people assuming the anxiety comes first. In my experience, though, the GI issues did, since I was first diagnosed with a "nervous stomach" in my pre-teens, followed by everything from mild ulcers to GERD to IBS since, but I only started having panic attacks - literally overnight - about six years ago.
I've been managing my anxiety pretty well these last two years by avoiding triggers, regular trips to the chiropractor, and a little mental jujutsu I picked up from the book Hope and Help for Your Nerves. Even so, I'm fascinated by the possibility of a gut connection.
Plus, the reason I'm so excited about sharing that article with you guys is because the potential "fix" is ridiculously easy, and good for you either way: just take a daily high-quality probiotic.
I'd been taking cheap probiotics from Wal-Mart for a while - the ones with only a single type of whatsits in them - but since reading that article I switched to the nicer, more expensive blends (I change brands every month), which have made a noticeable difference for my gut, at least.
(Keep in mind I have almost every stomach problem imaginable, though, so unless you're uncomfortable most days the change might not be as dramatic for you. I've also taken up veggie juicing a few times a week, which I'm sure could also be helping. And even then I'm still often in pain, because my stomach really is the devil.)
As for my anxiety, well, since I was already doing pretty well I can't say for sure if this is helping. I've been paying closer attention, though, and have noticed several seemingly direct connections between that general anxious unease and extra-bad GI days. (Suffice to say that once the spirit moves, the spirit immediately feels MUCH better.)
So, yeah, I think I'll be staying on the nicer probiotics. It would be wonderful if this was the final piece in managing my anxiety puzzle, but of course only time will tell. (Not to mention having a GI track that isn't actively seeking my demise would be a nice side-benefit.)
SO, while you guys are telling me if you're anxious more about social situations or more stimulation-and-escape-centric like me, could you also tell me about your guts? :D Again, I'm just curious here, but it'd be nice to know if anyone else out there is a similar basketcase of happy funtimes.
Oh, and are any of you gluten intolerant? And if so, did cutting gluten help your anxiety? I've heard that could be key, but darned if I have the self-will to try the diet for long enough to tell if it helps. :/ (I do realize I have most of the symptoms for it, yes. BUT GOSH DARN IT I LIKE MY OREOS.) If I hear enough success stories, though, that MIGHT convince me to try again. Maybe. Possibly.
Ok, I've yammered on long enough. Your turn.